How important is corporate culture and internationalisation in your firm?

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 2 November 2015
Ella Nilakanthi Ford
Vision Consulting Ltd

Have you ever considered that the success or failure of your firm could depend on the type of culture your company has and how well it is blended with international cultures?

Please try and answer these questions about your practice?  

  • Describe your corporate culture today? 
  • What countries and sectors is your firm seeking to work into? 
  • How many nationalities do you have employed within the firm?
  • In an ideal world, how would you like to see your organisational culture evolve? 
  • How multicultural would you like it to be?
  • Is your firm measuring your progress towards diversity? 
  • Do you target and reward your leaders based upon their interpersonal behaviours in developing the corporate culture? 
  • Do your partners “walk the talk?”
  • Do your teams understand how to effectively negotiate internationally?

Today, you will be surprised how few partners and team leaders are able to respond to these questions consistently.  All of these things are interrelated.  If you are considering improvements in performance and internationalisation, it is essential to work proactively with behaviours and combine this with both cultural and international focus. 

What is Culture?

1. Culture is acted out in the behaviours of everyone in your team, department and organisation.  It is continuously created by every member of your workforce just by their daily participation in the work your company does.  It is dynamic, shared and is reinforced by peers.  It is neither static nor unchanging.
2. Culture is “how we do things round here”.  It provides team members with (largely unspoken) rules for how they should behave to gain and maintain social ‘membership’ at work.
3. Culture shows up in many ways:
- Language –shared words, acronyms or descriptions your business
- Rituals – meeting behaviours, company events, lunch and tea breaks
- Dress code – how people are expected to dress at work
- Symbols – job titles, name plates, corporate signage
- Decision making – how company decisions are made and communicated
- Conflict resolution – managing issues
- Status- who is recognised and respected- formally and informally
- Work environment

 
So, culture, or “the way we do things around here”, is created collectively by everyone in an organisation.  Behaviours and actions are then guided by the shared culture.  Peer groups behaving in ways required by the perceived “OK culture” legitimise and reinforce it further.  Add internationalisation to the mix and without clear guidelines you can develop a volatile mix!

Building an effective global business culture


In a business context, it is good practise to understand both organisational culture and national cultures.  Inadvertent misunderstandings can become deal breakers.  At the very least, cross cultural misunderstandings are minor irritants; at worst they lead to major conflict.  I 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 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 purpose and mission.  Companies who understand local business rituals together with their own strengths and weaknesses fare better than more introspective companies. 

A strong global culture does not happen by accident.  


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.  When putting together your programme try and include some of the following areas:

1) Degrees of inequality
2) The Power-Distance Index (collectivism vs individualism)
3) Gender and diversity issues
4) Attitude to uncertainty
5) Approach to time
6) Business approaches to strategy
7) Intended versus unintended conflict
8) East- West communications
9) Organisational stereotyping
10) Virtual communication across time zones

  • B  Work on expanding the corporate mind-set.  “HQ knows best” will stifle high performance in a global organisation. 
  • 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. 

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. 
  1. Define vision and supporting brand- consider how they will travel
Allow the corporate vision to travel globally.  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.
  1. Ask, listen , observe, respect, encourage
These are difficult skills to master fully.  Never ignore the basics of global cultural sensitivity. 
  1. Collaborate- and innovate
Cross-cultural environments that encourage creativity and the free flow of ideas will bring out the best of all worlds. 
  1.  Include cross cultural competencies
Having a global mind-set should be a key requirement for any management position – from supervisor to Board member. 
  1.  Build  teams with strong cross cultural understanding
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. 

 
I hope this helps to stimulate your thinking on internationalisation?  It might seem simple but dig beneath the surface and you could be even more effective.

This article is correct at 04/01/2016
Disclaimer:

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
Vision Consulting Ltd

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

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