MBA Research

Trend #21: The Impact of Societal Values on Business Decisions

Business Trend

This month’s Action Brief is: the impact of societal values on business decisions. Businesses are composed of people from many different cultures who interact with people from a variety of other cultures. As societal diversity increases and societal values shift, businesses are challenged to respond to these shifts.

Workplace Implications

Businesses are challenged to establish effective decision-making frameworks, policies and procedures for ethical conduct and human resource management that minimizes the potential negative influence of societal values on business decisions.

In regard to ethical conduct, businesses must consider the cultural background of their employee groups to determine what ethical guidance may be required. An action considered unethical in one culture may be considered the expected standard of behavior in another culture. These different mindsets and interpretations could leave the business exposed to significant financial and reputational damage. 

From a human resources perspective, businesses must determine how to respond to differing societal values and views on the role of women in the workforce and in leadership positions, the role of faith in the workplace, and the role of business in the health and wellness practices of their employees.

For example, integration of individuals from a male-dominated society into a company with significant female representation in leadership necessitates different learning and development to address the conflict between the business culture and societal values.

From a marketing and sales perspective, knowing your audience takes on additional levels of complexity. Recognition of societal values impacts all aspects of customer communication. Shifts in those values should be monitored and incorporated into communications when the changes align with organizational valies.
Classroom Implications

Students should be exposed to different decision-making processes and the values that underlie these processes. They should examine the different perceptions of standards of behavior that exist in a multi-cultural environment. For example, a discussion on plagiarism could be expanded to include the perspectives of students from cultures where knowledge is considered commonly owned or vast memorization occurs and original sources are not necessarily remembered or recorded.

Students should also evaluate the societal values that communities may seek to impose on businesses that either have a physical presence in the community (e.g., a Somalian community, a Latino community) or have a significant representation of the population group within its workforce. Students should analyze the factors that businesses should consider in response to these pressures. Teachers may want to enhance the learning through review of recent business responses to values-related issues.