A reflection on 5C’s journey of flourishing and the importance of culture

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About the Author: Rick Cotton is an Associate Professor of Talent Management and Sustainable Innovation at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. You can contact him at rcotton@uvic.ca.

“We aren’t just trying to get publications but trying to help other researchers and at the end of the day, the people who are studying and living in these communities and countries.” 

– Jon Briscoe, during the AOM Careers Plenary Session: “Out and About…Lessons Learned from Multi-Country Research Programs – 5C, CRANET and GLOBE”

As workers in many countries face a COVID-induced “great reckoning” (Cotton, 2021) in terms of what jobs and careers they want to have and how they balance productivity, meaningfulness and a sense of connection while avoiding languishing (Grant, 2021), now seems to be an ideal time to take stock of what 5C is and does and how this durable, productive multi-country research collaboration continues to survive and thrive.  For those wishing for a quick answer, it has been the people, culture and core values of 5C that have mattered the most.

While it is always a challenge to be objective about projects and endeavors so close to our identities, I am going to try.  And, reflecting on how other similar multi-country projects do things hopefully will help us to put 5C into perspective. 

Rick Cotton

To do so, in this blog, I will reflect on some of my observations, learnings and quotes from the Academy of Management Careers Division Plenary Session which I organized in my capacity as a Careers Division Program Chair for the 2021 Academy of Management (AOM) meeting this past August.

Titled “Out and About…Lessons Learned from Multi-Country Research Programs – 5C, CRANET and GLOBE,” the plenary session’s primary objective was to expand attendee horizons on the world of multi-country research – not just in careers and in human resource management, but also leadership and culture in broad alignment with this year’s AOM theme of “bringing the manager back into management research”.

The hour-long session provided comparative project information and insights on topics including project structure, membership, goals, accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned featuring a live Q&A with Jon Briscoe and Michael Dickmann from 5C, Mila Lazarova from CRANET (Cranfield Network on International Human Resource Management) and Mansour Javidan and Peter Dorfman from GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness).

While the three projects collectively have produced an impressive list of presentations and symposia, dozens, if not hundreds of publications, thousands of citations and include members and colleagues spanning the world, they are each unique in their own way.  For example, in the early 1990’s CRANET came into being in the shadow of major political changes in Europe and a desire to learn more about how HR practices varied at the organizational and country levels.  At roughly the same time, GLOBE was initially founded from a desire to understand if Western theories and approaches to culture and leadership would be effective in other parts of the world.  

Alternatively, 5C was founded in 2004 by Jon Briscoe, Tim Hall and Wolfgang Mayrhofer with the goal to “improve understanding of modern careers to advance scholarship, appreciate differences, and identify progressive solutions for managing career issues on behalf of individuals, career practitioners, organizations and societies within and across multiple countries.”  5C remained true to this cause and it too is a product of its time as its origin occurred at a juncture in our collective history when protean (Hall, 1996) and boundaryless (Arthur, 1994) careers seemed more possible especially given the increased focus on continuous learning and identity change coupled with more globalization and frequent technological advances (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996) all in the wake of the dotcom boom and bust of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

This turned out to be a very fertile time to start such a research project focused on careers.  5C indeed has much to show for its efforts including a book on careers around the world (Briscoe, Hall & Mayrhofer, 2011), development of a cross-cultural measure of subjective career success (Briscoe, Kase, Dries, Dysvik, Unite Adeleye, … & Zikic, 2021) along with a steady stream of papers in top tier journals (see our research page for the full list) that have helped the world to better understand from a multi-country perspective, topics from career transitions (Chuzidkowski, Mayrhofer, Briscoe, Unite, Bogićević Milikić, … & Zikic, 2009) to career goals and society (Andresen, Apospori, Gunz, Suzanne, Taniguchi, Lysova, … & Zikic, 2020) to proactive careers behaviors as influenced by culture (Smale, Bagdadli, Cotton, Dello Russo, Dickmann, Dysvik, … & Unite, 2019) to the implications of career success on HRM (Shen, Demel, Unite, Briscoe, Hall, Chudzikowski, … & Zikic, 2015) and even a chapter on developing and sustaining a cross-cultural research team (Briscoe, Dickmann, Hall, Parry & Mayrhofer, 2021).  Among the broader accomplishments conveyed during the plenary were major achievements including: 5C enabling the positioning of the field of comparative career studies, improving understanding of career success and other career topics across academia and society while building a cross-cultural community of careers researchers.  

In fact, it was this last point that came across as a key differentiator for 5C – the ability to not just produce influential research but to build a true community of researchers where the personal and professional development of 5C members themselves was central to the group’s identity

As Jon and Michael shared with us, 5C first focused on having representation by careers researchers from Schwartz’s cultural regions (Schwartz, 1999) and later from the GLOBE clusters (Gupta, Hanges & Dorfman, 2002) and this created an almost continuous and unique opportunity for personal learning, development and change.  This diversity of representation continues right through to today where 5C is now led by Jon, Tim and Wolfgang as well as Emma Parry and Michael Dickmann and has grown to include a diverse set of 61 members from early career to established scholars from 31 countries covering 6 continents. 

As Jon and Michael conveyed in their presentation, the key to having such a diverse community of researchers has been the focus on 5C’s culture in seeking members who have “an active interest in career research, a service orientation to the stakeholders of our research, and a developmental and community focus toward the 5C team rather than an instrumental, zero-sum approach” while also emphasizing that the group’s development also mattered greatly and that this development occurs in line with how 5C’s research focus has evolved.  As Jon stated, “We started small with about ten researchers and we started with qualitative research which I think was really fortuitous for us because to do qualitative research well, you really need to talk to each other a lot and you have to work things out. And so, for us, if we would have started with research that was more traditional, it might have been harder to have the same conversations and interactions.”  In fact, in my own 5C experiences, some of the best learnings occur not just in the airing and discussion of a variety of perspectives in determining a research “way forward” but also in informal conversations among 5C members over lunch, coffee or drinks during breaks in our 5C meetings themselves as we share experiences and perspectives.

Jon went on to emphasize the importance of the diversity of career stages among 5C members, “Having a developmental focus is really important for us so that doctoral students and junior researchers can get mentored and they can gain experiences and also they give a lot to the group.” Michael added, “These cross-cultural elements actually come from within 5C and the idea of development within our community is very strong.”

But as we all know, growth brings both opportunities and obstacles. As Jon explained, “The challenge here came with expanding the group.  When we started we were nine or ten countries and now if we are going to be truly global we are going to need to expand it.” With Michael adding, “We have a membership that is very diverse in terms of their own career journeys and career objectives and interests.  It became a bit more difficult to engage everyone and to use their different skill sets optimally so we needed to have a conscious effort to bring everybody in and yet that caused changes to decision patterns.”  It is important to note that even in the midst of substantial growth, 5C and its leaders sought to maintain the inclusive culture and to bring on members strategically and with sensitivity. (Truth be told, I tried to join 5C for eight years before moving to Canada made my inclusion as a Canadian (vs. U.S.) representative possible!). Yes, decisions now take longer in terms of design, development and execution of research projects, for example, but it is now clearer to me than ever before that this process is part and parcel of the personal and professional development that is just one of the benefits of being a member of a research project that draws its membership from a wide variety of backgrounds yet united by common goals.

It also occurred to me that the career success model that 5C has developed and validated across 30 countries shown below is actually quite conducive to a 5C that is responsive not just to intriguing research opportunities but to the needs of our members.  We all broadly have the same goals in the seven career success dimensions of the 5C model (i.e., financial security (being able to consistently provide the basic necessities for living); financial achievement (steadily making more money, wealth, incentives, and perks); learning and development (via continuous informal learning on the job and/or formal training and education); work-life-balance (between work and non-work, relationships, activities and interests); positive relationships (as signified by, for instance, enjoying working with people who you respect and admire); positive impact (by helping others in one’s immediate social environment and/or leaving some sort of legacy to a community, or society more broadly); and entrepreneurship (founding one’s own enterprise or being able to invent and develop one’s own projects within the work context) but we differ with regard to which dimensions are most salient for any particular 5C member at a particular time.

To bring the importance of culture home, Michael went on to emphasize the need to grow the project to discover learnings about careers in other countries but to do so in line with what 5C represents.  This required both strategy and sensitivity.  “So we had to become more explicit about 5C culture and values amidst this growth so we installed a range of signature papers and other things that would pull us all together but in reality it was this non-instrumental listening, this equal voice, this generosity that really needed to be preserved…So, it becomes more and more really for us about understanding our culture and living it in a way that is appropriate.  So if you work in a very large research project, I believe you need to have a culture of generosity and a sense of sharing with others, helping others, being patient with others and how this manifests itself in different activities and publications.”

Well put, Michael.  In my view, it is these core values that have been central to 5C’s success both in terms of scholarly influence and personal and professional development: generosity, sharing, equal voice, helping, and patience.  And in a world, where diversity, equity and inclusion are rightfully at the fore, these also strike me as values that we can all take to heart…and that the world increasingly needs.

For those interested in learning more about “Out and About…Lessons Learned from Multi-Country Research Programs – 5C, CRANET and GLOBE Plenary” (AOM 2021 session 888), please feel free to contact me at rcotton@uvic.ca.

5C’s accomplishments would not be possible without the many contributions of our leaders, authors and members.  For a full list of 5C contributors, please visit our people page.


Andresen, M., Apospori, E., Gunz, H., Suzanne, P. A., Taniguchi, M., Lysova, E. I., Adeleye, I., Babalola, O., Bagdadli, S. , Bakuwa, R., Bogiccevic Milikic, B., Bosak, J., Briscoe, J. P., Cha, J. S., Chudzikowski, K., Cotton, R., Dello Russo, S., Dickmann, M., Dries, N., Dysvik, A., Eggenhofer-Rehart, P., Fei, F., Ferencikova, S., Gianecchini, M., Gubler, M., Hackett, D., Hall, D. T., Jepsen, D., Çakmak-Otluoglu, K. O., Kaše, R., Khapova, S., Kim, N., Lazarova, M., Lehmann, P., Madero, S. Mandel, D., Mayrhofer, W., Kumar Mishra, S., Naito, C., Nikodijevic, A. D., Parry, E., Reichel, A., Rozo Posada, P. L., Saher, N., Saxena, R., Schleicher, N., Shen, Y., Schramm, F., Smale, A., Unite, J., Verbruggen, M. & Zikic, J. (2020). Careers in context: An international study of career goals as mesostructure between societies’ career‐related human potential and proactive career behaviour. Human Resource Management Journal, 30(3), 365-391.

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Briscoe, J. P., Dickmann, M., Hall, D. T., Parry, E., & Mayrhofer, W. (2021). The 5C Group: Developing and sustaining a cross-cultural team. In Handbook of Research Methods in Careers. Edward Elgar Publishing.

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Briscoe, J. P., Kaše, R., Dries, N., Dysvik, A., Unite, J. A., Adeleye, I., Andresen, M., Apospori, E., Babalola, O., Bagdadli, S., Çakmak-Otluoglu, K. O., Casado, T., Cerdin, J. L., Cha, J. S., Chudzikowski, K., Dello Russo, S., Eggenhofer-Rehart, P., Fei, Z., Gianecchini, M., Gubler, M., Hall, D. T., Imose, R., Ismail, I. R., Khapova, S., Kim, N., Lehmann, P., Lysova, E., Madero, S., Mandel, D., Mayrhofer, W., Bogicevic Milikic, B., Mishra, S., Naito, C., Nikodijevic, A. D., Reichel, A., Saher, N., Saxena, R., Schleicher, N., Schramm, F., Shen, Y., Smale, A., Supangco, V., Suzanne, P., Taniguchi, M., Verbruggen, M., & Zikic, J. (2021). Here, there, & everywhere: Development and validation of a cross-culturally representative measure of subjective career success. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 103612.

Chudzikowski, K., Demel, B., Mayrhofer, W., Briscoe, J. P., Unite, J., Bogićević Milikić, B., Hall, D.T., Las Heras, M., Shen, Y., & Zikic, J. (2009). Career transitions and their causes: A country‐comparative perspective. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82(4), 825-849.

Cotton, R. (2021). Ask a prof: A question of job reckoning. Business Class: Gustavson School of Business and Gill Graduate School Magazine (Spring/Summer 2021, 7).

Grant, A. (2021). There’s a name for the blah you’re feeling: It’s called languishing. New York Times: April 19, 2021.

Gupta, V., Hanges, P. J., & Dorfman, P. (2002). Cultural clusters: Methodology and findings. Journal of World Business, 37(1), 11-15.

Hall, D. T. (1996). Protean careers of the 21st century. Academy of Management Perspectives10(4), 8-16.

Schwartz, S. H. (1999). A theory of cultural values and some implications for work. Applied Psychology, 48(1), 23-47.

Shen, Y., Demel, B., Unite, J., Briscoe, J. P., Hall, D. T., Chudzikowski, K., Mayrhofer, W., Abdul-Ghani, R., Bogicevic Milikic, B., Colorado, O., Fei, Z., Las Heras, M., Ogliastri, E., Pazy, A., Poon, J.M.L., Shefer, D., Taniguchi, M. & Zikic, J. (2015). Career success across 11 countries: Implications for international human resource management. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 26(13), 1753-1778.

Smale, A., Bagdadli, S., Cotton, R., Dello Russo, S., Dickmann, M., Dysvik, A., Gianecchini, M., Kaše, R., Lazarova, M., Reichel, A., Rozo, P., Verbruggen, M., Adeleye, I., Andresen, M., Apospori, E., Babalola, O., Bakuwa, R., Briscoe, J. P., Cha, J. S., Chudzikowski, K., Dries, N., Eggenhofer‐Rehart, P., Fei, Z., Gubler, M., Hall, D. T., Khapova, S., Kim, N., Lehmann, P., Lysova, E., Madero, S., Mandel, D., Mayrhofer, W., Bogićević Milikić, B., Mishra, S. K., Naito, C., Nikodijevic, A. D., Parry, E., Saher, N., Saxena, R., Schleicher, N., Schramm, F., Shen, Y., Suzanne, P., Taniguchi, M., Unite, J., Zikic, J., (2019). Proactive career behaviors and subjective career success: The moderating role of national culture. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 40(1), 105-122.

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