Business leaders of all levels of success often talk about “building your company culture” as a key in the success of their organizations. And, when companies fail, we find ourselves discussing the “toxic culture” we perceive to have contributed to their decline. But what do we mean by culture; how does it benefit us; and how can we create and communicate that culture to everyone in our organization?
Company culture is a strategic cornerstone that can make or break the success of an organization. Consider this: companies with a robust culture experience up to 72% higher employee engagement than those that don’t. And culture affects more than employee engagement, it can affect everything from customer service to recruitment and retention. Research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that on average, turnover due to poor culture fit can cost a company between 50-60% of that employee’s annual salary.
These numbers underscore the pivotal role that company culture plays in today’s corporate landscape. Yet, as leaders, we sometimes struggle with the complex challenge of cultivating a vibrant culture within global enterprises, where teams are as diverse as they are geographically spread out. What is clear: we must work to create a company culture that resonates across borders and binds our organization together in purpose and harmony.
Defining Your Company Culture
Defining your company culture begins with the core of your organization’s identity: its values and beliefs. These form the guiding principles that shape behaviors, decisions, and interactions within your company. It’s paramount that these values and beliefs align with your business goals. When these values resonate with your team and mesh with your objectives, they become the driving force behind a culture that fosters engagement, innovation, and unity.
To identify your core values and beliefs, engage your team in thoughtful discussions. Ask questions like, “What do we stand for?” and “What principles are non-negotiable in our journey toward success?”
Once you understand your core values and beliefs you can use them to underpin the mission and vision statements which will give meaning and direction to your culture. For example,
Building a Global Company Culture
When you’ve developed the foundations of your culture, it’s time to think about how you can extend culture globally. It is a fine line to walk balancing consistency with ensuring your culture speaks to employees locally.
Some things to consider as you seek to ensure your core values have relevancy in an international setting:
Being Sensitive to Cultural Differences
Cultural differences can include things such as business etiquette, communication styles and other nuances that might not be easily apparent. An environment which is mindful of cultural differences helps employees from diverse backgrounds feel valued and respected, strengthening the cultural fabric of the organization across borders.
Authentic diversity and inclusion brings together a wealth of perspectives, experiences, and talents, fuels creativity, innovation, and adaptability. Consider ways to support diverse groups through Employee Resource Groups[KP2] , mentorship schemes and advocacy initiatives.
Avoiding Cultural Clashes
To avoid cultural clashes encourage teams to seek common ground and shared values through open and respectful dialogue. Provide cultural awareness training programs and encourage teams to seek common ground and shared values that enrich the culture rather than create friction.
Local adaptations can strengthen workplace culture by ensuring that it resonates with regional nuances and preferences while preserving core values. For instance, a global tech company may adapt its recognition programs to include local traditions, such as celebrating regional holidays.
Inclusivity and Accessibility
By creating an environment that is accessible to all you create an atmosphere where everyone feels valued, contributing to higher morale, productivity, and retention rates. Providing internal materials in multiple formats and languages ensures critical information is readily available to all employees.
Language and Communication
Language and communication styles directly impact effective collaboration, understanding, and the overall cohesion of a global workforce. Offer cross-cultural communication training, provide translation resources, and emphasize clear and inclusive communication practices to bridge language and cultural gaps, ensuring everyone can contribute and comprehend effectively.
Communicating Your Culture
Speaking of communication, how you go about presenting and conveying your culture within your organization is important too. Leadership has a crucial role to play in creating a common identity. Everyone from the CEO down must lead by example, demonstrating key values every day. If you value transparency, show it through regular communication, sharing decision-making and admitting mistakes.
There are many other ways to involve your employees in the process of cultural communication as well, including:
- Business Storytelling Techniques
- Sharing Cultural Narratives
- Global Employee Engagement Initiatives
- Feedback Loops and Employee Input
Measuring Cultural Impact
Measuring the impact of your company culture goes beyond the financial metrics. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that gauge employee satisfaction and retention rates can be invaluable in assessing cultural impact. KPIs like employee turnover rate, internal promotion rates, and average employee tenure provide a clear picture of how well your culture retains talent and fosters growth from within. High retention rates and a robust internal promotion pipeline are indicative of a culture that values and engages its employees.
However, to truly understand the nuances of cultural dynamics, gathering insights through employee surveys is essential. These surveys allow employees to anonymously express their views on company culture, management practices, and overall satisfaction. Leaders should encourage candid feedback and then act on it. This might involve addressing pain points, celebrating what’s working, and involving employees in shaping the culture further. Acting on feedback not only enhances cultural impact but also demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement, which is itself a cultural value worth nurturing.
Culture Challenges and Solutions
Challenge 1: Scaling and Maintaining Culture
One of the biggest cultural challenges businesses encounter is scaling and maintaining their culture. This challenge can arise during periods of rapid growth when large numbers of new employees join, potentially diluting the established culture. Similarly, mergers or acquisitions can introduce different cultural elements that need to be integrated. The rise of remote teams can further complicate matters, leading to the formation of subcultures that may not align with the broader company culture.
Always find ways to clearly articulate the core values and cultural pillars that define your organization. During rapid growth or after a merger, invest in comprehensive onboarding programs that give new employees insight into the company’s culture. Regularly check in with employees to assess the cultural impact of remote work and virtual teams, adjusting as needed to reinforce cultural expectations.
Challenge 2: Navigating Cultural Shifts
Navigating cultural shifts is another complex challenge. Recognizing signs of culture drift such as declining employee engagement and increased turnover can help give you a heads up that something isn’t right. To realign culture, you may need to revisit and revise core values, strengthen leadership commitment, and foster a culture of feedback and continuous improvement.
Technology can be a powerful tool for maintaining your culture. Digital platforms and tools can improve communication and collaboration, enabling leaders to reinforce cultural values and share success stories across the organization. Data analytics can help you monitor cultural health, identifying areas in need of attention. Regularly survey employees to gather their insights and concerns and use this feedback to inform cultural adjustments. Encourage open and transparent communication about cultural shifts, ensuring that everyone understands the reasons behind the changes and how they tie into the organization’s strategic goals.
Building a thriving global brand through culture is not just a strategic choice but an imperative for sustained success. Culture, as we’ve discovered, is not static; it’s a living entity that requires continuous nurturing and refinement. It’s the guiding force that unites diverse teams under a shared set of values and principles.
As business leaders and recruitment professionals, let us remember that our commitment to cultural excellence is not a one-time effort, but an ongoing journey! By cultivating a culture that reflects our core values, embracing diversity, and adapting to change, we pave the way for a future where our organizations thrive on the global stage, driven by the enduring strength of a unified company culture.