Managing a Global Company Culture

Categories: Global PayrollInternational Expansion | Published Date: 26 September 2019


In 2019, it is unlikely that you are going to find anyone who is going to argue that corporate culture is not important. You might call it a buzzword, but company culture is, and always has been, the thing that underpins successful businesses.

What does company culture mean?

Company culture is the character of your company. It is an attitude and an approach that is reflected in the way companies do business. Company culture defines:

  • Company values
  • Employee expectations
  • Conduct in business
  • Work environment
  • Company goals and aspirations

Most companies fall into a culture that is generally accumulated by the people who work there. It is a patchwork reflection of the people who have an impact on the business.

Other businesses take the time to clearly define what their company culture is in order to ensure a consistency of quality and vision throughout their corporate structure.

A clear vision of your company culture solidifies your company’s identity, promotes a positive image to the public and increases staff retention.

Driving global company culture to commercial success

Toyota is a classic example of an organisation that champions a strong global company culture. Toyota does not just consider its employees as a pairs of hands. When you work at Toyota, you are a knowledgeable worker who accumulates chie — the wisdom of experience — on the company’s front lines.

Toyota encourages contradictory viewpoints and challenges its employees to find solutions by overcoming differences, not resorting to compromise. This culture of challenge and changes in perception generates innovations that Toyota implements to pull ahead of competitors.

Toyota invests heavily in people and organisational capabilities, and it garners ideas from everyone and everywhere: the shop floor, the office, the field.

The result? In 2018, Toyota’s net profit reached ¥2.49 trillion for the business year, surging 36.2% from the previous year and smashing all past records.

Why culture is important in global business?

Company culture is important for global businesses because the benefits are so high, but cultivating it is much more challenging. Managing the company culture for a local business of 200 employees is easy. Promoting that culture across the world is not.

Running a global company has many challenges. One of those challenges is maintaining a consistent level of quality both internally and towards your global customers.

Managing your company culture effectively will ensure that no matter where in the world they are, your employees and your customers are getting the experiences you expect. But, employees’ expectations are changing.

According to a study by PWC, 80% of people say that workplace culture needs to change. We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in worker priorities that is being driven by the majority Millennial demographic and the upcoming Generation Z workforce.

When worker priorities change, it becomes harder for companies to keep their top talent. If they fail to respond to employee expectations quickly enough, employees will just leave.

But, if your employees are bought into your company culture and feel the benefits of embracing that culture, they are much more likely to remain loyal.

How to manage successful global corporate culture

As a business leader, you cannot enforce culture alone. As such, the first step in managing successful global culture is delegation. Elect passionate and dedicated employees as champions to promote your company’s values and encourage the kind of culture you want to foster.

Here are five tips for managing a global corporate culture:

  1. Align priorities
  2. Talk to your people
  3. Define your core behaviours
  4. Lead by example
  5. Measure success

Align your priorities

Sometimes, the free spirit of ideology runs smack into a brick wall. This occurs when your culture aspirations clash with the realities of doing business.

The classic scenario is a situation where your culture expects you to “do everything to make your customers happy.” But, the reality is that operational and budgetary restrictions make this impossible. What do you do?

In order to make your culture work to your practical advantage, you need to align your cultural and operational priorities. Decide what you want to achieve as a business and find a way to do that in a way that aligns to your culture .

Talk to your people

Engage all your employees across the globe to gain a true understanding of the culture at your organisation as it sits presently. This will give you a starting point for any changes you want to make.

You can also use this as an opportunity to identify any regional considerations that need to be taken into account. Running a global business means pitting your corporate culture against the public’s regional culture. You need to decide whether those two cultures are going to work in isolation or in tandem.

Define core behaviours

Once you have aligned your priorities and gathered feedback from your stakeholders, you are in a position to define some core behaviours.

Core behaviours are essential ways of working that can be taught and encouraged across all levels of your workforce to act as the foundation of your corporate culture. After all, culture starts with people.

The goal here is to control the evolution of your workplace atmosphere so that instead of a patchwork culture driven by specific personalities, you have a consistent and powerful culture with a unified ethos.

Lead by example

Teaching and encouraging these core behaviours should start from the top. Instil your culture in your senior management and have them roll it out to their teams. All the while, make sure that your culture champions are regularly ensuring a consistent delivery.

As a global business, you may wish to post people from head office to regional locations to encourage core behaviours. You should also invest in flying your staff out to your HQ to let your international staff immerse themselves in your core culture experience.

Measure success

Fostering a global company culture requires a committed, continuous effort. In order to see whether your efforts are making a positive impact, create ways to measure success.

In addition to your regular sales figures, create annual surveys to judge the sentiment and general state of happiness within your business. This data will inform how you can drive the promotion of your company culture moving forward.

Commit to your culture

Managing a company culture is tough, and most efforts fail. According to research, 23% of employees reported that leaders have tried culture change or evolution of some form, but acknowledge that the efforts resulted in no discernible improvements.

Influencing culture is hard, and most leaders declare victory too soon. It can’t be a “one-off” project, it must be a committed, sustained effort that evolves in response to change.

Prepare to persevere through obstacles if you want long-term, sustainable culture success. The more ambitious the effort, the more time and more input from people at all levels it will demand.

Our all-inclusive international HR consulting services can help you create a framework that promotes your company culture in a manageable and sustainable way. Download our guide for more information.

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