The Commisceo Global Blog

Keeping you up to date with all the news, articles, tools, opinions and press relating to the world of cultural understanding, in and out of business.

BA clerk loses crucifix row appeal



A British Airways (BA) check-in clerk who claimed she was religiously discriminated against for wearing a crucifix on a necklace has lost her appeal case.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has upheld the employment tribunal's ruling from earlier this year, that Nadia Eweida was not indirectly discriminated against on the grounds of her religion when her employer insisted the cross worn on her neckline be concealed by her uniform.

Eweida was suspended in September 2006, after she refused to conceal a small crucifix at her post at Heathrow Airport, claiming it was her human right to express her faith by having the crucifix on display. She returned to work in February 2007 after BA revised its uniform policy.

Eweida claimed discrimination on the grounds of her religion and had sought £20,000 in back pay and compensation from the airline. She said that she turned down £8,500 from BA to settle out of court.

Read more > BA
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Intercultural Skills are Crucial say HR Leaders



According to a survey of more than 100 senior human resource managers, 81 percent of companies agree that international work experience is a crucial criterion for leadership in a global organization.

The survey, "The Importance of Cultural Skills in Senior Managers," conducted by RW-3 LLC, an online intercultural training organization, and ORC Worldwide, a global human resource consulting firm, was designed to measure the importance of cultural competencies and global experience as criteria for senior management.

"During the current liquidity crisis, we've seen yet again how the global economy is entirely interconnected and how international cooperation is critical for the world's economic well being," said Michael S. Schell, president of RW-3. "Understanding and appreciating how things get done in countries around the world is crucial for success. That means gaining an appreciation and understanding of culture. This survey reinforces how important the global HR community believes those intercultural skills are for their leadership."

Read more >> HR Leaders

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Muslim twins' discrimination case could lead to record payout

A major test of the UK's religious discrimination laws next week could see a record compensation payout, according to reports.

A pair of Muslim twins are taking City firm Tradition Securities and Futures to an employment tribunal on a series of allegations.

The French nationals claim bosses at the company took Jewish clients from them, and gave them to non-Muslim colleagues.

They are said to be seeking damages that could run into millions of pounds for religious and racial discrimination, among other claims.

The sisters worked as brokers at Tradition Securities and Futures from 2002 to 2004, when they transferred to the firm's London office for two years before quitting.

Read more > PT
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A Unified Culture: Unilever Europe


unilever culture


Three years ago, Unilever was suffering on two fronts: a soft top line and an elevated cost structure. The company made a radical choice to embark on a total transformation program, emphasizing an approach it dubbed “One Unilever.” Throughout Europe, the organization strove to achieve a single ERP platform, a common European supply chain, and a number of outsourcing initiatives in IT, HR, and finance that would unify the firm’s many iterations across international borders and myriad cultures.

According to Jean Stephane Payraudeau, director and F&A outsourcing senior project executive for IBM ’s Unilever EMEA account, “It was a radical transformation from the Unilever Europe point of view. Unilever needed external help to execute the changes. By enabling people to focus on core business, they were releasing their energies there, exercising their real expertise, and leveraging the scale of outsourcing vendors.” And because the company wanted to achieve a turnaround on the grand scale in a very short timeframe, outsourcing seemed the obvious solution.

Gijsbert De-Zoeten, Unilever’s managing director for Unilever finance business services – Europe, said the real story had three programs for the three different business units of Unilever Europe in every country—food, home, and personal care—all moving toward a single, cohesive operating unit.
“In the European region, Unilever Europe operated as a loose federation of countries,” De-Zoeten said. “We wanted to integrate them into one European organization, whether it was for the supply chain or sales and marketing, but we needed to implement the systems to enable that. At the heart of the program is an SAP standardized platform we rolled out, as well as common systems in finance and HR.”

Read more > Unilever
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Tricky feats of cross-cultural communication


A true story: when a US telecoms giant decided to replace its manager in Thailand several years ago, it chose an ABC - American-born Chinese - in the belief he would be more culturally attuned to doing business in Asia.

He was not shy about telling his colleagues how to behave and one evening berated a couple of European rivals who had been caught engaged in financial shenanigans.

They decided to play a joke on the new arrival. They told their driver to follow him and tell him he was going to be killed. A crude jest, but the young manager was panicked into ringing his head office saying his life was in danger.

The head office told him to stay calm, stick to the business district and take precautions.

What they did not tell him was that they had hired a security firm that uses ex-CIA agents - at some considerable cost - to watch his back.

When the security outfit made its report to the conglomerate a week or so later, it turned out the first-time-in-Asia manager was doing lots of cultural homework - spending every night in at least one bordello. His career wilted.

The conglomerate had made a mistake. The manager may have been competent, but - appearances notwithstanding - showed no special talent or experience for operating in Asia.

Read more > FT.com

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