In a global business environment, cultural differences make a big difference in what successful management looks like in various parts of the world. These differences are particularly important when it comes to sales: What to sell, how to sell it, and to whom can depend to a great degree on the cultural habits and social mores of one’s target market. At Strategy+Business, Matt Palmquist goes over a new study he calls “one of the largest analyses of international sales to date,” which surveyed over 400 sales representatives in 38 different countries to investigate how their geographical and cultural context influenced the way they sold innovative products and what methods were most effective at motivating them:
The authors also analyzed four different societal factors in the surveyed countries that have been shown to influence how employees interact with supervisors and consumers. These cultural dimensions include power distance (the degree to which people in a given country accept that authority is unequally distributed in an organization or society), individualism (the importance placed on people acting on behalf of themselves, rather than the group), uncertainty avoidance (whether a society embraces or shuns ambiguity), and long-term outlook (the value placed by a society on future goals).
After controlling for individual reps’ selling experience and job satisfaction, as indicated in the surveys, and the societies’ differences in economic wealth and education levels, the authors arrived at several findings.
In a recent study of restaurant servers, INSEAD’s Serguei Netessine and Tom Tan of Southern Methodist University explored how the presence of high performers influenced the work of their less competent colleagues. What they found is that competence is indeed “contagious,” at least to an extent:
With algorithmic assistance, it is possible to quantify an individual employee’s innate ability as well as his or her sales performance; but, crucially, stats pertaining to individuals don’t necessarily tell you much about what will be in the till at the end of the night. The critical factor is team performance, which can often be more, or less, than the sum of the parts. …
Having established a baseline skill level for each server, we found that the servers’ sales performance during a given shift would rise or fall depending on who happened to be working with them. Low-skilled servers seemed capable of punching above their weight when the overall skill level of the team was higher. Importantly, this contagion can be charted in an inverted U-shape, meaning that when a shift was stacked too thickly with superstars, the other servers performed below their capacity.
A new analysis of College Scorecard data from the Center for American Progress turns up some surprising and troubling facts about the gender pay gap among college-educated professionals. CAP policy analyst Antoinette Flores lays out her findings:
While the gender wage gap is nothing new, the picture painted by the College Scorecard earnings data is not pretty. Across every college sector and level of selectivity, women who received federal aid had lower annual earnings 10 years after entering higher education than the annual earnings of their male peers only six years after entering. This holds true both before and after adjusting the earnings data for inflation. For students from the nation’s most elite colleges, men’s earnings outpace women’s by tens of thousands of dollars each year, with gaps showing up soon after they enter the workforce. And while there are some colleges whose female students earn more after leaving than their male students, women from these schools have lower-than-average earnings that only narrowly outpace their male peers’.
CAP’s findings are particularly distressing because the data are constructed in a way that should, if anything, produce better results for women. First, the data include earnings for both college graduates and dropouts. Since college graduates generally earn much more than those who do not graduate, this data construction should benefit women, who graduate at a rate roughly 6 percentage points higher than that of men. Second, the data only include earnings information for people who are working and have net earnings. Since women have a slightly lower workforce participation rate than men, this means their average income figures are not pulled down by a higher number of people with zero earnings.
This is not the first study to find that gender gaps widen over time. A Bloomberg Businessweek survey last year showed how the pay gap widens by tens of thousands of dollars six to eight years after graduating from an MBA program (and, as here, the top schools appeared to have the largest gaps). As Harvard professor Claudia Goldin described on the Freakonomics podcast earlier this year, this comes as a result of different choices men and women make in their careers. In particular, women start valuing temporal flexibility more, while men value income growth above all: