The world is becoming ever more interconnected. And companies are increasingly operating on a global scale. Joanna Swash, Group CEO of Moneypenny asks the question ‘how can we retain a strong company culture across borders?’
An organization’s culture is what defines it. It defines values, goals, aspirations, the environment and how it does business. It can define success.
In today’s ever-changing business landscape, a solid, resilient culture can be the difference between sustained business growth and stagnation. It may be considered a buzzword but an organization’s agility, as I have written about before, begins with its culture.
Add to this new business characteristic predictions by global experts McKinsey, that the global labor market will reach 3.5 billion by 2030 bringing with it a working pattern across countries and your culture will be what sets you apart from the competition.
Rather than react to your culture, letting the people who work with you define it, now is the time to proactively define what your company culture is so that you can ensure a considered and consistent vision throughout the whole structure, wherever in the world that may be.
This way your global culture will be linked, inextricably to your commercial success.
Connecting to a global purpose.
As with most critical business tools, it begins with you, the leader. Viewing your organization as global means that you are identifying and connecting with its purpose and that doesn’t alter whether you are in the UK or US, in my case. You are not focusing on the local office; you are linked to its overall values and goals. This is essential for employee engagement, satisfaction and performance.
In proactively taking charge of your culture, you are identifying and defining core behaviors that can be taught and encouraged across all levels. Your culture does begin with your people, the goal is to create a strong, unified culture and identity.
That is not to say you should ignore regional and religious differences in fact quite the opposite. Business and social etiquette varies around the world, you cannot and should not ignore it.
It is easy for employees that are scattered around the globe to feel a disconnect, more so if they are working remotely as has been the case. You and your team need to ensure that every individual understands how their contribution connects to the larger goals of the organization.
Make your culture visible.
Now you have your shared global identification, it is time to engage locally, reinforcing the culture every step of the way. It is time to lead by example. Core behaviors begin at the top, once instilled with your management team, it can be rolled out to their teams and the journey continues.
If you are expanding to a new country, now is the time to fly people into your HQ for turkey or ham dinners, so that they can immerse themselves in your core culture, taking it back with them, inspired and connected. It can also help for leaders from HQ perhaps to spend time in the regional locations, instilling and encouraging those essential behaviors, creating cultural ambassadors if you like. For example, here at Moneypenny, we are looking to set up an eight-week exchange program of sorts, with new team members spending time in their sister country getting to know each other as well as the quirks and customs of being part of a global family.
Talk to your people, engage with them, not just in creating new state-of-the-art offices, for example but in identifying regional considerations. Even though we operate in English speaking countries, UK and US attitudes differ significantly along with the terminology which certainly keeps things interesting when taking a raincheck or taking the Mickey.
It isn’t a one-off occurrence either, checking in regularly with your global teams is critical, especially when you are in differing time zones. Clear, transparent and open lines of communication lead to increased engagement. Harnessing the latest technology plays its role here for collaboration and project management, however, don’t underestimate the power of real-time communication and face-to-face interaction in keeping people connected. For example, Workplace is great for managing our projects and teams globally but also for organizing social activities as one global team.
Harness the power of your people.
It is about creating an environment where every single employee feels that they are in a safe space to contribute, from encouraging participation and discussion between offices and varying levels of language, for example, to seeking interactions to learn. Every individual brings something new and valuable to the table, capturing all the experiences and opinions is what will bring you wider knowledge and a great potential for innovation, problem solving and growth. All key elements as we strive for business agility.
Key to this, in turn, is fostering a culture of empathy. Ranked as one of the most valuable qualities in leaders and employees, the ability to seek to understand others leads to greater connections and thus motivation and productivity. Those water cooler moments where you discuss the weather or the Super Bowl, builds trust and brings teams closer together.
Managing your company culture globally can be challenging but it should be seen as an opportunity to share, learn and evolve, not just as a leader but as a business. Uniting around a global purpose instils a global team spirit. Build on this platform to then engage locally to achieve goals to ensure business success.