Building an Effective Global Business Culture

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 29 January 2014
Ella Nilakanthi Ford
KFV Consulting
Issues covered:

NilaKanthi Ford of KFV Consulting writes:

In a business context, it is good practise to understand both organisational culture and any national cultures involved. Inadvertent misunderstandings can become deal breakers.

At the very least, cross cultural misunderstandings are minor irritants; at worst they lead to major conflict.  We have lost count of the times that we have been invited to carry out interventions for organisations with serious business performance issues resulting from seemingly small differences which had become blown out of all proportion!

Companies with strong global cultures combined with multi-cultural understanding perform better.  They bring the best teams together, sustain high morale and keep employees as well as each other focussed on the company’s purpose and mission.  Companies who understand local business rituals together with their own strengths and weaknesses fare better than more introspective companies.  


Building strong global culture is not easy.  It does not happen by accident.  It takes time.

A   Effective global firms require systems, policies and competencies that encourage positive leadership behaviours – then they will inspire and renew the people around them.  Through sound leadership and encouraging ideas from the people who are operating the systems and processes, companies will encourage free flow of ideas.  In addition, different countries will have other specific issues that need to be addressed. 

B  Work on expanding the corporate mind-set.  “Corporate HQ knows best” will stifle high performance in a global organisation.  Headquarters’ Managers can appear arrogant when unaware of the impact of their words.  So, avoid the HQ mentality. 

C  Listening and being able to understand local nuance will make a difference.  A potential global leader must understand how to think and adapt globally.  Gaining insights into cross-cultural beliefs and behaviours will broaden leadership thinking.  In KFVC programmes, we always ensure that we take business problems and then play them back to their originators from different cultural perspectives- the outcomes have been thought provoking. 

D Grow competent local managers and actively mix-up the talent pool. 

Taking these recommendations will help your organisation to develop advantage through a strong, inclusive and collaborative global culture.  The table below holds other practical suggestions:



Steps to building an effective global business culture

1.       Understand where you are heading and  set ground rules

Carry out a baseline survey. (BCS).  Identify globally applicable business needs and processes.  Be clear what locations you want to enter and key cultural requirements for effective entry. 

2.       Define vision and supporting brand- remember to think of how they will travel

Allow the corporate vision to travel globally.  Create a brand that supports it.  Remember not all brand values will meet international acclaim some may even cause derision.  Make your vision a vehicle to convey common ideas and beliefs that will unify – then diverse employees can identify and engage with them.

3.       Ask, listen , observe, respect, encourage

These are difficult skills for many senior executives to master.  They must be practised daily and established as part of the organisational culture.   Never ignore the basics of global cultural sensitivity. 

4.       Collaborate- and innovate

Innovation is key – cross-cultural environments that encourage creativity and the free flow of ideas will bring out the best of all worlds. 

5.        Include cross cultural competencies

Having a global mind-set should be a key requirement for any management position – from supervisor to Board member. 

6.        Build  strong cross-cultural teams

Make time for face to face meetings, hire senior people with aspirations for multinational experience and introduce them to some serious business-focussed cross cultural training.  Shift people between locations. 

7.        Hire competent local workforce

Engage with enthusiastic local managers and grow their multinational focus.


This article is correct at 06/08/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Ella Nilakanthi Ford
KFV Consulting

The main content of this article was provided by Ella Nilakanthi Ford. Contact telephone number is +353 860 888 889 or email

View all articles by Ella Nilakanthi Ford