Maintaining the “Single Samsung” Spirit: New Challenges in a Changing Environment
(9 pages of text)
This case examines how Samsung has grown to become one of the world’s leading companies. It presents a detailed description of Samsung’s “top priority to the people” philosophy and its strong cultural values, both of which have been instrumental in ensuring its continued success in recent decades. Since 1982, the Samsung Human Resource Development Center (SHRDC) has played a critical role in supporting Samsung’s corporate strategy of achieving global competitiveness through programs that focus on maintaining Samsung values and developing a cadre of effective next-generation leaders. New Employee Orientation (NEO), an intensive four-week in-house program for all Samsung employees, is one example of an SHRD program. NEO aligns employees across Samsung affiliates to its strategic direction, thereby fostering a stronger “Single Samsung” culture.
In recent years, however, NEO has been faced with new challenges. First, Samsung’s pool of new employees has become more diverse, with the recruitment of more experienced and foreign (non-Korean) employees in addition to the fresh college graduates whom Samsung has always relied upon. Second, Samsung has become aware of stark value differences between the older employees, who are obedient and easily follow rules, and the younger “digital native” employees, who are more individualistic and prefer egalitarian and open policies. Managers at SHRDC are concerned that the “Single Samsung” spirit, which forms the core of Samsung culture, is being threatened from within.
Students must address issues related to the need for maintaining a unified organizational culture among diverse groups of employees with conflicting values, and propose ways for Samsung to effectively employ and utilize all of its employees.
This case can be taught in an advanced undergraduate or graduate course in human resources management, organizational change, or international management. It presents a discussion opportunity to evaluate the mutually reinforcing influence of an organizational culture and an HRD centre. It is evident that the development of an HR philosophy and programs is influenced by the diversity of a workforce, and has implications on the growth and success of an organization. Finally, this case can be used to provide an example of the evolving need for change faced by global companies in their efforts to remain competitive. This case is useful to:
Identify specific value changes precipitated by globalization in recent years, and increase awareness of the managerial implications of cultural and demographic changes for developing appropriate HR strategies and programs.
- Understand the concept of generational identities in a fast-changing economy, such as South Korea, and improve an understanding of generational cohorts, by comparing and contrasting South Korea and the United States.
- Appreciate the critical importance of an organizational culture in laying the foundation of a robust HRD philosophy, and learn to develop solutions and HRD strategies based on a thorough analysis of an organization’s environment.
- Appreciate that even strong organizational cultures need to adapt when faced with changing demographics and specific challenges.
South Korea, Large, 2010
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