3 Steps to Creating a Culture That Will Resonate Anywhere and Everywhere

Building a strong, global culture seems an obvious step in ensuring company success. But it can be easy to become lazy about your culture, assuming it will continue along well without intervention or oversight.

This is simply not true. As I’ve said before, culture is like a bonsai tree. It can take years to shape and grow into what you want, but mere seconds to destroy.

Today, I’m sharing wisdom from three executives who know of what they speak on the topic of company culture. Together, they lay out the three steps needed to create and maintain the culture you need to achieve your success objectives.

1. Define what you need by aligning cultural attributes with a strategic vision

Cultures necessarily vary by organization. Clearly defining that culture, then aligning its attributes (desired behaviors, communications, workplace environment) with company’s strategic goals helps employees more easily contribute to achieving the objectives – especially when those cultural attributes are regularly and positively reinforced through frequent, timely and specific recognition.

Ernst & Young Executive Director in the Americas Advisory Customer Practice, Barbara Porter, shared this wisdom in Forbes:

So, how do you create a culture that engages employees and delivers financial results?

First, leaders must acknowledge that culture and employee engagement are their responsibility. Rather than simply focusing on HR, entitlement or employee happiness, companies must create a culture that aligns peoples’ intrinsic values and behaviors to the guiding principles of the organization. Culture is the driving force within every organization, department and team.

An intentional culture specifically aligns the environment, communication and emotional drivers to a company’s strategic vision and brand. To build a culture that supports the brand experience, leaders must bring the corporate vision to life and help employees’ link what they do every day to the key elements (values, objectives, goals, key performance indicators and behaviors) of the organization’s guiding principles and strategy.”

2. Make sure you culture is consistent globally

It’s not enough to allow local cultural “pockets” or silos to continue. Driving an intentional, consistent culture across all locations is what drives real success.

Tom Erickson, chief executive of Acquia, explained more in a recent New York Times Corner Office column:

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I went into France to build our business there. I thought I had hired the right guy, and he started to explain to me that France was a different market, and that the French are different. I let him persuade me that the kind of people we had to hire were different. The whole thing collapsed a year later, and I had to make tremendous changes.

Building the culture and the way you go to market need to be consistent, no matter where it is. I used that lesson many years later when building the business in Japan. People would try to tell me, ‘We need to do things differently here.’ I’d say, ‘No, this is how you stay on message, on target.’”

3. Be sure executive leadership drives the cultural push 

Both examples make it clear leadership needs to drive this alignment. Indeed, it is only executive leadership that can enforce a truly global, consistent culture, but the benefits are worth it.

China Gorman, CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute (and a TLNT contributor), explained why in an article in Fortune:

The world’s best workplaces face the daunting task of creating ‘one workplace culture’ from the myriad of local cultures in which they operate,’ Gorman says. All successful organizations or companies have mastered the art of creating this culture. These organizations take in talented people, mold their identities, and assimilate them into their organization’s way of life.”

Do you have a consistent, global company culture?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.


1 Comment on “3 Steps to Creating a Culture That Will Resonate Anywhere and Everywhere

  1. Excellent three points. While there needs to be a common global core for your culture, there also needs to be the acceptance that there will be some things customized to the local culture. Behaviors will be different by region but there needs to be a common core that doesn’t go overboard on standardization. Your company culture will not overpower a national culture. You may see a shift in some behaviors that are critical to emphasize globally for your organization but if you go too far with the push for standardization then you will lose employees and customers due to the lack of sensitivity to how business is done in each region / area.

    This balance of supporting a common culture versus allowing customization by region / nation is a dynamic tension where it’s not easy to find the balance. It is as China mentioned “an art” but the art isn’t just driving and supporting a common culture but dealing with the balance of what must be relatively standard or consistent versus what can be customized. It’s also an art with how to communicate the value of the common cultural habits / expectations so each location sees value based on their own unique set of challenges they face. Great topic.

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