Networking practices among diverse cultures and generations at a Gauteng mine
Business management is characterised by fast and ever–expanding development. Culture and generation play an increasingly important role in the management of businesses worldwide. Although studies have been conducted on the subjects of culture and generation, little attention has been paid to culture and generation as a combination of diversity characteristics. As more managers are realising the challenges that arise when managing diverse work environments, the modern manager must question old assumptions about how diverse people work together. In this modern age, it is important to understand diversity issues on all levels of management. Networks are based on people's backgrounds, and understanding the link between networking and diversity is becoming increasingly important. In a culturally complex country such as South Africa, experiencing the impact of diversity on a daily basis can be anticipated. Culture and generation are two terms that encompass all dimensions of diversity. This study investigates the different networking practices found among diverse cultural and generational groups at a Gauteng mine. The generational classification used in this study is based on the fact that generations differ from country to country; therefore, the classification used in this study is relevant to South African generations. Seven hypotheses were formulated pertaining to differences among cultural and generational groups with regard to networking practices. Furthermore, four cultural–generational groups were identified, namely Black Generation X'ers, Black Baby Boomers, White Generation X'ers and White Baby Boomers. Data was collected from Kusasalethu mine employees. The original sample frame comprised 3630 employees from which a sample was chosen that complied with the criteria for culture, age / generation and education. A total of 1046 employees remained from which the sample elements were chosen by making use of probability, systematic proportionate stratified sampling. Self–completion questionnaires were used for collecting the data. A total of 289 questionnaires were completed which constituted a 100% response rate. The questionnaire used was intended to obtain feedback from respondents regarding their cultural and generational diversity, as well as preferences pertaining to their networking practices. The results from the survey were used to determine the differences between diverse cultures and generations with regards to networking practices. The findings, supported by the rejection of the first null–hypothesis, indicated that there are indeed a number of salient differences between Black Generation X'ers, Black Baby Boomers, White Generation X'ers and White Baby Boomers. Specifically, the results indicated that White Baby Boomers incline to rarely use the medium of SMS when networking while this group also makes use of telephones when networking more often than Black Generation X'ers. Furthermore, Black Baby Boomers more frequently use e–mails when networking while Black Generation X'ers indicated that they rarely use e–mail as network medium. It was found that White Baby Boomers make use of one–on–one face–to–face methods more often when networking than Black Generation X'ers and White Generation X'ers. The largest number of differences was between Black Generation X'ers and White Baby Boomers. The respondents all indicated that they incline to value good relationships at work highly, that they agree that informal work environments are conducive to more effective networking practices, that they frequently have good influences on their families and that they network more during spare time than at work. The results also indicated that the mediums that are used most often when networking include the cell phone and one–on–one face–to–face methods. Respondents tended to rate sharing experiences and exchanging work ideas as very important aims for networking. By dividing diverse workforces into smaller, more manageable units or homogeneous groups, diversity management can be simplified. This is an ability for which managers can be trained and which should be applied correctly within a business environment. In view of the results, it is recommended that managers of diverse workforces should identify different generations and cultures as a way to manage them more effectively. Furthermore, managers should ensure that work environments that are conducive to good relationship building and informality need to be created. Additionally, conflict between Black Generation X'ers and White Baby Boomers should be handled cautiously with a view to ensure that effective solutions are achieved to such conflicts. Preferences with regard to network mediums should be noted, as such awareness may lead to more effective networking / communication within businesses. Management's approach to meetings needs to be reviewed for each group, because differences exist in terms of preferences in this regard. A working environment conducive to exchanging ideas and experiences should be created. Lastly, as all groups value good relationships at work, a climate that encourages openness and conflict resolution should be created.