Discovering Morocco

The Cultural Influences on Communication,

Particularly on Recruitment Process

Part one: THE JOB                                                  

Job advert

 

Scenario

As a Romanian “Business and Marketing” graduate in Great Britain, passionate about marketing, branding, and corporate identity, I decided to apply for a job in Morocco to further explore my fascination for cultural diversity and nation branding. I have lived in 3 different countries and I believe I have developed cultural sensitivity which is an important ingredient for this particular job application. Having successfully accomplished the assessment group in Bucharest, I am preparing for the final interview in Rabat, Morocco.

The Aesthetics Elucidated

  • Advertising space: To call native Romanian speakers, it was decided to place the job advert into the local Romanian marketing and communication magazines (i.e. Campaign, Marketing Week, The Marketer, etc.).
  • Language: The advert was written in off-shore English language to confer a universal business perspective for all parties involved, especially to attract fluent English speakers.
  • Colour: It was observed that, as well as at home, in all its international markets and collaborations, SIVECO Romania prefers to keep and standardize its brand identity elements. Therefore, the colour used for the advert is green, similar to the one used in company’s logo.
  • Graphics: Simplicity and minimalistic style of the graphics are probably the main key words describing SIVECO’s online presence. Since there was no evidence of company’s print materials, it was assumed that the online layout can translate very well into the offline one. As a consequence, the framed advert will be minimalistic to represent company’s style, but attractive enough to engage the reader.
  • Symbols: Green colour was found to represent the symbol of Islam and is also used in Moroccan flag. Consequently, it is believed to convey implicit cultural meaning for candidates and positive perceptions for Moroccan partner. On the other hand, in Romania green symbolises hope, force, youth, and sincerity. 

Both the employer and its partner’s logos are included in the print advert with the intention to highlight the strong cobranded partnership, which shows the high status and prestige of the job offered.

***

Part two: SIVECO Romania and its Approach to Employment

 However objective and uniform we try to make organisations, they will not have

 the same meaning for individuals from different cultures.

(Frons Trompeanaars, cited in Neuliep, 2006)

 

Company Profile

SIVECO is the leading Romanian software house and one of the most successful software integrators in Central and Eastern Europe. For the near future, the company aims at growing to the status of regional leader and to continue its international expansion. It has already proven expertise in developing and exporting software products and consultancy projects to countries within the European Community, The Middle East, North of Africa, and CIS area. The company was founded in 1992 and in 2011 recorded a 67 million euro turnover (SIVECO website, 2012).

The attention of this paper is SIVECO’s partnership with the National Ministry of Education of the Kingdom of Morocco. It started in 2009 when SIVECO won the biggest IT project in the field of education in Morocco, for providing and implementing integrated IT solution (eLearning) to the entire Moroccan educational system.

National Ministry of Education of Morocco (Ministère de l’Education Nationale du Maroc) is a public institution which has gone lately through a large reform of its educational system in the framework of its “Emergency Program” (National Ministry of Education of Morocco, 2012).

Approach to employment

The candidate for the “Marketing and Communication Assistant” position is employed by SIVECO Romania in order to support its local partnership with Moroccan Ministry of Education. Therefore, the advert was created by SIVECO Romania’s HR department. However, due to the private-public nature of the partnership, adding the French bureaucratic style of the Moroccan institution, the advert was reviewed and approved by the Moroccan HR department. For instance, the requirement to provide copies of the relevant documents in the initial stage of the recruitment process is a Moroccan classic requirement (especially for a public institution). For the current position, the potential candidate will follow the four stages of the recruitment process, as presented below in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The recruitment Process

SIVECO adopted the Western style and dedicates to Careers an entire section of its websitewww.seveco.ro (Figure 2) – where it clearly states the type of people it wants to employ (“who want to evolve, that are creative, and willing to change things for the better”), it also stresses on “team work”, and proudly states that it “offers a motivating working environment through proper training, ensuring the conditions for professional and career development, recognition of each member’s contribution to the success of the company” (SIVECO, 2012). 

Figure 2: SIVECO Romania Careers page (screen-dump)

The lines above express Romanians’ faith in an ultimate positive result if working hard. In addition, Strǎuţ (p.213) mentions that ”Most Romanians believe in God and the supremacy of good over evil, even if their history of hardship has made them very patient and enduring while expecting a final positive outcome”.

On the other hand, National Ministry of Education of Morocco (Ministère de l’Education Nationale du Maroc), does not provide any information regarding job/ career opportunities within the institution. The website – www.men.gov.ma (Figure 3) – is translated in English, French and Arabic, and looks formal, over simplistic, with an old fashioned interface. It give an impression of a slow changing bureaucratic institution.

Figure 3: National Ministry of Education of Morocco home page (screen-dump)

The partnership SIVECO Romania – Ministry of Education Morocco is a reality of today’s globalised world, where organisations and their employees interact more often with people and companies in other countries, and Carte and Fox (2010, p.1) argue that “the more national borders their companies cross, the greater the scoop for misunderstanding and conflict”. Thus, the awareness and respect for cultural differences while projecting our own culture in an appropriate manner is tremendously necessary.

Furthermore, according to Neuliep (2006) a company is similar to a culture: it possesses its own values, internal formal and informal norms, operate in a particular environment, develop its own perception views, engage in verbal and nonverbal communication, and build socio-relations. In other words, it develops a personal organisational culture. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that when interacting with other organisational cultures its business customs will be understood in exactly the same way. Figure 4 (one page 7) highlights six key areas that influence organisational cultures across globe (Neuliep, 2006, p.379).

Figure 4: Organisational Culture. Sourse: Neuliep, 2006, p.379

Discovering Morocco: a Cross-Cultural Analysis

In comparing Morocco with Romania, the Organisational Culture Framework will be used, with particular focus on the Cultural Context and the Verbal and Nonverbal Codes (discussed in part three). This comparison will take an etic approach (“what is general in cultures”, Mooij, 2010, p. 61), and does not pretend to be exhaustive or completely free of ethnocentrism.

Cultural Context

Cultural Context refers to “an accumulated pattern of values, beliefs, and behaviours held by an identifiable group of people with a common verbal and nonverbal symbol system” (Neuliep, 2006, p. 411). Morocco is considered to be part of the Arabic cluster (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002) and its dominant religion is Islam. Therefore, its main Arabic cultural traits and Islamic religion impact on countries’ social values and practices. More, French and Spanish influences can be observed. On the other hand, Romania is part of the Latin cluster and its population practice Orthodox and Catholic Christianism.

It is common that a company’s culture will emulate after its country’s culture. Many studies (Bass and Burger; Alder, Campbll, and Laurent, cited in Neuliep, 2006) reveal that managers’ leadership style and business strategies are influenced by the cultural context and its values. 

Further, the following areas will be examined:

    • Individualism/ Collectivism
    • High/ Low Power Distance
    • Uncertainty Avoidance
    • Value Orientations (discussed in par three of this portfolio)
    • High/ Low Context (discussed in par three of this portfolio)

In addition (but with caution) Geert Hofstede’s research (Figure 2) will be used to explore Moroccan culture in contrast with the Romanian one, through the 5-Dimensions Model. The researcher argues that it can provide us with “a good overview of the deep drivers of Moroccan culture relative to other world cultures” (Geert Hofstede, 2012).

Figure 5: Hofstede, 5-D Model. Source: Geert Hofstede, 2012, [online]

Individualism/ Collectivism

Analysing the nature of the relationship between an individual and its society or group would place Morocco and Romania under the collectivistic wing.

Collectivism’s most relevant characteristics for this paper refer to (Triandis, 1995, in Dainton and Zelley, 2005):

1. group needs, views, and goals prevail over the individual ones;

2. the self is defined in relation to the group: “Knowing a person’s connections enables a stranger to place that person into particular group; knowing where the person comes from is the same as knowing who that person is”( p.77).

Additionally, Hofstede’s findings (Figure 5, on page 8) show that both countries score relatively low on individuality (IDV).

Underlying motives:

  • Morocco: family and in-group relationships are at the heart of the society.
  • Romania: shaped by a collectivistic communist past.

 

High/ Low Power Distance

The Kingdom of Morocco is run by constitutional monarchy, and it is also a hierarchical society where people from lower status perceive inequalities as normal and acceptable. More, according to Carte and Fox (2010) in Arabic cultures “power in companies is held by a few people at the top” that give directives.

Hofstede and GLOBE 61 study (in Kabasakal et al, 2002) come to support Morocco’s high ranking on this dimension. Similarly, but with lower score in Hofstede’s research, is placed Romania. For instance, in both countries, people address to each other relative to their social and professional status usually with Mr. and Mrs., and the polite form of “you” are used (Dumneavoastra in Romania and Vous in Morocco). However, superior might address with a more direct form. Between friends and family personal approaches are common (Centre for Intercultural Learning Website (2012).

It can be said that high power distance cultures tend to be collectivistic (Schmidt et al, 2007).

Uncertainty Avoidance

Belief in absolute truth, strict code of behaviour, structure, rules, precision and punctuality are some characteristics of the high uncertainty avoidance (UAI) cultures (Dainton and Zelley, 2005). According to Hofstede (Figure 2), Morocco score high and Romania extremely high at this dimension.

Masculinity/ Femininity

 Morocco, although less preeminent comparing to other Muslim countries, is defined by the “roles men and women fulfil and create a masculine society”, where men are prevailing in many aspects of life (Kabasakal et al, 2002, p.48). Besides the clear separations of the male – female roles within the household, in the workplace, female started to gain space and head to equality once the new democratic King arrived in 1999.

Somehow less rigid, but still remaining a relative strong masculine society is Romania.

Hofstede findings (Figure 5) demonstrate a medium high masculinity (MAS) for both countries which goes against sex role stereotype at least for Morocco which is remaining a strong masculine society where men are preferred over women in all spheres of life (GLOBE in Kabasakal et al, 2002).

Ultimately, according to Edwards’ study (2007) in its intent to transfer similar employment practices abroad, SIVECO Romania, will face cultural barriers which could influence or even alter the process. The same author adds: “culturalism argues that MNCs bear the legacy of the values and attitudes characteristic of the home country; transfer is shaped by this and by host country cultures” (p.202). This is also very well encompassed by the quotation bellow:

 “There is no culture-free theory of management. Managing other people is the responsibility of people who, like everyone else, have been encculturated and socialized into a cultural set of values and beliefs that governs their thinking, emotions, and behaviours. Like communication, management is culture bond. Moreover, managerial perceptions regarding the factors that lead to organizational success vary across cultures” (Neuliep, 2006, p.377)

***

Part three: THE ‘DO’S’ AND ‘DONT’S’ OF AN INTERVIEW IN MOROCCO

Every road has two directions.

               Moroccan proverb

 Value Orientations in Morocco

  • Religion: a vast majority (98%) of Moroccans are Sunni Muslims and Islam has an enormous impact on social values and practices (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002).
  • Family and Personal Relationships: According to Kabasakal and Bodur (2002, p.47) “Islam promotes and maintains family and kinship relationships, creating a highly collectivistic society”. Therefore, family and long-term in-group relationships are extremely important in Moroccan social and business culture.
  • Respect: Dignity and self-worth are especially importance so Moroccan’s take notice of how others perceive them. Shame is to be avoided at all costs, so Moroccans will often do as much as possible to win the respect of others and to avoid arguments and confrontation. Moroccans are conscious of their reputation and will do whatever it takes to ensure it is not damaged and to avoid shaming their family.

 

The Interview

Board

The interview will take place in Rabat, Morocco, at the premises of the Ministry of Education Marketing Department meeting room. The board of the interviewers will be mixed and will include:

  • Maria Minulescu: the Romanian HR Manager, SIVECO Romania, Romania.
  • Andrei Lazarescu: the Romanian Marketing Manager, SIVECO Romania, Morocco. He was relocated 2 years ago especially for this partnership.
  • Touria Al Hassani: the Moroccan Marketing Director, Ministry of Education, Morocco.
  • Saleh Bouchtat: the Moroccan HR Manager, Ministry of Education, Morocco.

 

Language

The French language is primarily spoken in the business world in Morocco, yet it is a secondary criterion for the current job due to the fact that the two parties maintain their relationship using English (i.e. at the “eduVision 2020”, Bucharest, September 2011; and at the “The African Education Summit”, Rabat, Morocco, July 2011). Furthermore, “the demand for English is growing as Moroccans realise that while French will enable them to study in France, English will present them with increased opportunities” (British Council, 2007). Thus, the interview will be held in English.

As a pre-requisite, the candidate must be a native Romanian speaker as the job role requests an impeccable understanding and communication with the Romanian team.

Room Settings

It can be observed that the Moroccan representatives prefer closeness and are sitting next to each other. They are known to be oral people and therefore are not noticed to take many notes during the interview. On the other hand, the two Romanian delegates are very carefully taking notes, not only to equally evaluate each candidate, but also to prepare reports for their superior as Romania is far more hierarchical than Morocco. Everyone is served tea or coffee as an expression of friendship or esteem.

Figure 6: Room settings

  • DO: try to use the right hand only, as the left hand is considered unclean.
  • DON’T: decline the offer of drink, as it is considered discourteous.

Conduct and Etiquette

Dress Code

Although as a woman in an Arab country it is important to cover up, the business fashion of men and women in Moroccan urban areas are extremely influenced by western style of dressing (Kabasakal and Bodur, 2002; Carte and Fox, 2010). However, if visiting rural areas it is recommended to comply with more reserved traditional style and cover “from the knee (shorts or skirt) to the elbow (short-sleeved T-shirts)” (Morocco Explored, 2012).

  • DO: dress appropriate business style to establish your status. Yet, a more sober style would be appreciated.
  • DON’T: use to many accessories (Morocco Explored, 2012).

Time

In the Arab world the relationships prevail over time and agendas (Carte and Fox, 2010; Usunier and Lee, 2009; and Schmidt et al., 2007), and Al-Omari adds that “it is timing rather than the time that is important”, in other words, “you follow the mood rather than the schedule” (in Carte and Fox, 2010, p.15).

In Morocco the time is polychronic and it is seen as flexible and cyclical, and often people “attempt to perform multiple task simultaneously” (Liu et al., p.110). It appears that the religion impacted on the perception of time as Moroccans are not worried about delays using habitually the phrase: “if God wills it” (Schmidt et al., 2007, p.251) or inshallah.

  • DO: be prepared to be kept waiting. Use the time to small talk to anyone you meet as you could discover important or interesting things.
  • DO: take time to know the people in the interview board before starting the serious matters.
  • DO: take time to prepare your audience, find the right moment, and soften a bad news or answer.
  • DON’T: rush! It will undermine your position as “anyone in a hurry is viewed with suspicious and with distrust” (Schmidt et al., 2007, p.251).
  • DON’T: panic if Moroccans will often repeat inshallah.
  • DON’T: look at a watch or clock during the meeting.
  • Romania’s relationship with time is somewhere in the middle.

Relationships

 

According to Carte and Fox (2010, p. 177) Morocco is a “relative truth culture” which indicates that “the circumstances indicates the way you behave”. The authors continue “your loyalty is more to your group (eg family, clan, friends and company) than to a set of abstract rules”

Schwartz’s values approach describes on one hand the Eastern European nations are “high in harmony, conservatism, and intermediate in hierarchy/egalitarianism” and other hand, Islamic countries are “high in hierarchy, conservatism, intermediate in mastery/harmony” (Guirdham, 2005, pp. 57-58).

  • DO: pay attention on creating and developing relationships and trust.
  • DO: accept or offer small or symbolic gifts
  • DON’T: criticise as it might not be taken light.

 

 Business Cards Etiquette

  • DO: prepare to exchange business cards.
  • DO: make sure one of the sides is translated in Arabic or French it shows respect.

 

A few last thoughts…

This portfolio tried to collect useful insights about the cultures in question. However, it has to be mentioned that it is impossible not to generalise or assign stereotypes as each individual, group and society is very divers. In addition, it is important not to forget that today’s corporates leaders have accomplished their studies in many western countries and are very likely to bring back home certain views and values, which consequently will affect the manner in which they interact with other people or companies.

After enriching my cultural knowledge and awareness, I have decided to apply the SOPHOP approach proposed by Carte and Fox (2010). The approach acronym stands for “be soft on people, hard on points” which means that a person should “be able to nurture the relationship, while still ensuring that you give no ground on the commercial issues” (Carte and Fox, 2010, p.131). This strategy moulds very well into the Moroccan context as for them the personal and business areas are interrelated (relationship-oriented will take attacks personally). Therefore, as suggested by Carte and Fox (2010) I should try to control the way I express myself. Considering the fact that I lived in the UK for the last 3.5 years, I believe I have internalised the specific diplomatic British way of communication.
 

***

 

REFERENCES

British Council Website (2007) “Morocco Market Introduction”. [Online] Available at: http://www.britishcouncil.org/eumd-information-background-morocco.htm (Last accessed on: 15th March 2012).

Carte, P. and Fox, C. (2008) “Bridging the Cultural Gap: A practical Guide to International Business Communication”, 2nd edition. Great Britain: Kogan Page Limited.

Centre for Intercultural Learning Website (2012). “Cultural Information – Morocco” . [Online] Available at: http://www.intercultures.ca/cil-cai/ci-ic-eng.asp?iso=ma (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Centre for Intercultural Learning Website (2012). “Cultural Information – Morocco” . [Online] Available at: http://www.intercultures.ca/cil-cai/ci-ic-eng.asp?iso=ro (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Ciolacu, F. (2011). “National Case Study: Maroc. New perspectives for the Moroccan Education System”, Bucharest eduVision 2020.  [Online video] Available at: http://eduvision.ro/2011/media.html (Last accessed 12 March 2012).

Dainton, M. and Zelley, E. D. (2005) “Applying communication Theory for Professional Life: A practical Introduction” UK: Sage Publications.

Edwards, T., Colling, T. and Ferner, A. (2007), “Conceptual approaches to the transfer of employment practices in multinational companies: an integrated approach”. Human Resource Management Journal, 17: 201–217. [Online] Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1748-8583.2007.00042.x/pdf (Last accessed on: 18th March 2012).

Guirdham, M. (1999) “Communicating across Cultures”, London: Palgrave.

Kabasakal, H. and Bodur, M. (2002) “Arabic Cluster: a bridge between East and West”, Journal of World Business, 31, pp. 40-54. Turkey: Elsevier Science Inc. [Online] Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090951601000736 (Last accessed on: 10th March 2012).

Liu, S., Volcic, Z. and Gallois, C. (2011) “Introducing Intercultural Communication: Global Cultures and Contexts”. Great Britain: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Manea, I. (2011). “New e-Learning concepts for Knowledgebase Society. Development within education” SIVECO Romania at The African Education Summit. Rabat. [Online video] Available at: http://africanbrains.net/our-events/mr-iulian-manea-%E2%80%93-deputy-vice-president-siveco-romania/ (Last accessed 20 March 2012).

Ministère de l’Education Nationale du Maroc Website (2012). Home. [Online] Available at: http://www.men.gov.ma/sites/fr/English/default.aspx (Last accessed 20 March 12).

Mooji, M. (2010) “Global Marketing and Advertising: Understanding Cultural Paradoxes”, 3rd edition. USA: Sage Publications.

Morocco Explored Website (2012) “Clothing” [Online] Available at:  http://www.moroccoexplored.com/4-about2.html  (Last accessed 12 March 2012).

Neuliep, J. W. (2006) “Intercultural Communication: A contextual approach”, 3rd edition. USA: Sage Publications.

Schmidt, W. V., Conaway, R. N., Easton, S. S. and Wardrope, W. J. (2007) “Communicating Globally: Intercultural Communication and International Business”, USA: Sage Publications.

SIVECO Romania Website (2012). The largest project of introducing IT into the education system in Morocco will be developed by Romanians. [Online] Available at: http://www.siveco.ro/content.jsp?page=3691&language=2 (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Usunier, J-C. & J.A. Lee (2009) “Marketing across Cultures”, 5th edition, Pearson Education Ltd.

 

Bibliography

Communicaid Group Ltd. Website (2010) “Doing Business in Morocco, Moroccan Social and Business Culture” [Online] Available at: http://www.communicaid.com/access/pdf/library/culture/doing-business-in/Doing%20Business%20in%20Morocco.pdf  (Last accessed 15 March 2012).

Correia Jesuino, J (2002) “Latin europe cluster: from South to North” Journal of World Business, Volume 37, Issue 1, Spring 2002, Pages 81–89, Leadership and Cultures Around the World: Findings from GLOBE. Instituto Superior de Sciencias do, Trabalho e da Empresa, Portugal. [Online] Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090951601000761 (Last accessed 8 March 2012).

Moroccan American Trade and Investment Council Website (2012) [Online] Available at: http://www.moroccanamericantrade.com (Last accessed 20 March 2012).

Morocco.com – Morocco Channel Website (2102). [Online] Available at: http://www.morocco.com/ (Last accessed 10 March 2012).

Shaules, J. (2007). “Deep Culture: The Hidden Challenges of Global Living” England: Multilingual Matters.

Trimbitas, O., Lin, Y. and Clark, K. D. (2005) “Arta de a Cere Scuze in Cultura Romaneasca: Use of Apology in Ethnic Romanian Culture” Human Communication. Pacific and Asian Communication Association.  Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 401 – 420. [Online] Available at: http://www.uab.edu/Communicationstudies/humancommunication/ADCSCRUAERC,2007,401-422.pdf (Last accessed 12 March 2012).

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