Building & Managing a Global Company Culture

Posted on 26 September 2019 by IRIS FMP

Company culture has always been something that underpins successful business but integrating it into a global corporate company holds several challenges. Simply put, the concept is completely subjective. From country to country, even region to region, the perception of what a global company culture should look like differs. Therefore, building and managing it can be difficult for any business that operates internationally and from various central hubs.

To ensure your business successfully manages a coherent global corporate culture, we’ve created a guide that provides the insights you need. This information is transferable from business to business and will provide guidance on how to address certain challenges along the way.

Across the guide, we’ll cover the following points:

How to Build Global Company Culture

Why is Culture Important in Global Business?

Driving Global Company Culture to Commercial Success

How to Manage Successful Global Corporate Culture

What is a global company culture and how do you build it?

Company culture represents the character, attitudes, and approach of your company. When measuring it on a global scale, it shows a cohesive company culture that is apparent and accepted at all global operations and sites. A clear vision of your company culture solidifies your company’s identity, promotes a positive image to the public and increases employee retention.

Global company culture is made up of the following components:

1. Company values and ethos

These are at the heart of any company, and a successful business will proudly display its values and ethos within every office and worksite. A consistent, positive approach, alongside a zero-tolerance policy that is effectively embedded, builds global company culture.

2. Employee expectations

Larger global companies can employ thousands of employees across the world, which means there are lots of expectations and individual circumstances to manage. Building and managing a global company culture relies on a workforce that believes and understands the company’s visions, whilst feeling reassured that their company is invested in them.

3. Business conduct

As well as adhering to country-specific legislation, there needs to be a cohesive approach to business ethics and organizational values. Business conduct ensures the company’s integrity is maintained and that business interests are safeguarded. Additionally, it ensures the continuity of lawful business operations.

4. Working environment

For the interests and values of the company to be adopted by the workforce, its working environments must match. For example, a company that claims to be flexible must offer opportunities for its workforce to safely, and without penalty, enjoy the perk.

5. Company goals and aspirations

Sharing goals and aspirations with employees can prove invaluable as they can reciprocate a positive and supportive response in return. For full transparency, company goals and aspirations need to be divulged to your workforce so they understand and can pre-empt possible impacts on the business.

Taking deliberate steps to create a company culture that is aligned with your business’s mission statement and vision is imperative to building a culture that is an authentic reflection, and to ensuring consistency throughout your corporate structure.

Why is culture important in global business?

Company culture is important for global businesses because the benefits are incredibly invaluable. From trust to a willingness to exceed expectations, a solid global company culture will inspire its workers to deliver extraordinary results. This makes it even more worthwhile for businesses to invest in a resilient global company culture.

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. However, employees’ expectations are changing.

According to a study by PWC, 80% of people say that workplace culture needs to change. As the Millennial and Gen Z demographic have been introduced to working life, more (95%) are expressing that work-life balance is important. Around 70% of respondents also imply that it’s very important.

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 leave, which can leave businesses in a predicament.

But, if your employees are invested in your company culture and feel the benefits of embracing that culture, they are much more likely to remain loyal and be trusted advocates of the business.

Driving global company culture to commercial success

Commercial success can be affected by a company’s global culture. With full transparency offered to employees about business aspirations and goals, as well as a level of flexibility and understanding towards individual employees, it can insight a willingness to go above and beyond. Companies that fail to listen to their employees’ needs will end up trying to fill vacancies instead of prioritizing business – critical projects.

In 2018, Toyota’s net profit reached ¥2.49 trillion, surging 36.2% from 2017. These figures were in part due to the company focusing more heavily on its people and organizational capabilities. However, Toyota is not the only company that has seen commercial success from its culture.

According to Forbes, companies such as IBM have seen a correlation between employer status and company size. With a share price of $136.94 billion (as of February 2023), IBM ranked in 98th position on Forbes’ Global 2000 list while systematically ranking within the top 100 for categories such as World’s Best Employers, Best Employers for New Grads and Mexico’s Best Employers. With a vast global presence, IBM’s Culture of Think allows its employees to feel empowered by their decision making.

How to manage successful global corporate culture

As a business leader, you need your teams to champion and celebrate your business culture. 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 more tips for building a strong and successful global corporate culture:

1. Align your priorities

Sometimes, the free spirit of ideology hits a brick wall. This occurs when your culture aspirations clash with the realities of doing business and become inaccessible.

Expecting your culture to constantly overachieve and exceed for customers isn’t always the way forward, especially when tricky or unmanageable circumstances present themselves. Sometimes, the reality is that operational and budgetary restrictions make this impossible.

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 so it aligns to your culture.

2. Talk to your people

Engage all your employees across the globe to gain a true understanding of the culture at your organization as it sits presently. This will give you a starting point for any changes you need 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 regional culture. You need to decide whether those two cultures are going to work in isolation or in tandem.

3. 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.

4. Lead by example

Teaching and encouraging these core behaviors 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 behaviors. You should also invest in flying your employees out to your HQ to let your international workers immerse themselves in your core culture experience.

5. 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. However, if conducted successfully, measured appropriately and managed correctly, it could result in improved overall happiness (88%).

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.

Building a successful shift in company culture can take time and dedication to change. Our all-inclusive international HR consulting services can help you create a framework that promotes your company culture in a manageable and sustainable way.

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