Globalisation And Culture

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 25 July 2014 Issues covered:

In a global business world how will your organisation’s understanding of culture enhance business performance?

NilaKanthi Ford writes:
Following an interesting discussion with an Indian legal practice, I decided to reflect on the internationalisation that every organisation is trying to achieve.  Law firms need global cultures and today most practices have international ambition.  Intuitively, I believe we all know the difference made by a strong internal culture (“the way we do things around here”).   Add a global dimension and your business can become even more effective – or not, as the case may be!

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!

Organisations with a clear understanding of differences in global cultures perform better than companies who are continuing regardless of the composition of their workforce.  They are more aware of cultural norms, bring the best teams together, sustain high morale and keep employees as well as each other focussed on the Practice’s purpose and mission wherever they are based.  Their workforce also will feel more able to develop business locally and globally.  Firms who have a grasp of local ways of doing business combined with an understanding of their own corporate culture, including their own strengths and weaknesses, will be more effective and encounter less hiccups along the way.

Building a strong global culture is not easy.  It requires sustained and thorough internal focus.  In this “here today, gone tomorrow” world, building an internal and international culture can be seem to slow.   It is not easy; you need strong alignment between all the Partners.  Otherwise, a cultural gap will develop.  Eventually firms will start to operate as groupings of separate practises – does this sound familiar?

So, how do you combine a strong internal and global culture?  Where should you focus your efforts?  I decided to talk to the KFVC team.  They are multinational with deep professional experience, in a senior executive capacity.  Here are some of our practical suggestions:

  1. Understand where you are

Carry out a baseline survey. (BCS).  Identify and understand business needs and processes as well as exceptions that are applicable globally.

  1. Define vision in a global context


Allow the corporate vision to travel – be clear what it will mean to different countries

  1. Create supporting brand – remember to think how they will travel

Make it a vehicle to convey common ideas and beliefs which diverse employees can identify and engage with Remember not all brand values will meet international acclaim some may even cause derision

  1. Ask, listen , show respect

Strive to achieve this difficult set of skills to establish as part of the organisational culture.   Never ignore the basics of global cultural sensitivity.  Train leaders to really ask, truly listen and seek to understand how to respect cultural norms and expectations. Build teams that communicate effectively.

  1. Set clear ground rules

Everyone should “walk the talk”.  It will be how you do business, wherever you are

  1. Create and collaborate

Environments that encourage creativity and the free flow of ideas will bring out the best in everyone, everywhere. 

  1.  Be clear about workforce competencies

Having an international mind-set should be a key requirement for any leadership position.

  1.  Create strong cross-cultural teams

Shift people between locations. 

  1.  Hire locally

Engage and grow multinational focus

This article is correct at 07/10/2015

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