The effect of a positive company culture is far reaching. Today’s employee is far more likely to choose to stay loyal to an organization which reflects their personal values and where they feel they’re contributing to the bigger picture.

Having clarity around what you’re trying to achieve together – and communicating that effectively – can have a marked impact on your colleague satisfaction and retention rates.

And your company’s culture will affect customer experience as well. When a customer is met with a consistent experience, they’re far more likely to trust that business.

Setting The Foundations for a Positive Company Culture

The first step to a positive company culture is to invest time in its foundations. This means collaborating with other leaders in your business to ascertain what you hope to acheive together.

This will often be revenue driven. That said, we are also here to achieve something bigger. Business exists to solve a problem or provide a solution.

So you might set a target that is revenue based but use a mission statement or vision which communicates your ‘bigger picture’ aspirations.

Google’s mission statement is ‘to organise the world’s information and make it accessible to all’. Apple’s is ‘to bring the best experience to its customers through technological innovation’.

You should also discuss what your values are as a business, and what behaviours drive that. For Creditsafe, customer service lies at the core of our business and we always ask how we can improve our offering in line with our customers’ needs. So ‘customer centricity’ is a core value.

Think about the values that drive your business and what behaviours you therefore expert yourself and your workforce to exhibit.

You can also consider how you might include your workforce in discussions around culture. If appropriate, something like a company wide survey asking questions such as, “What are your values?” or “What do you want our company to be known for?” can highlight what’s important to them. If you can reflect that in your final decisions, you’re likely to get stronger buy-in because everyone feels that they’ve contributed.

Communicating Your Culture

The next step to a positive company culture is to communicate that culture to your workforce. That means creating a simple document or video, and maybe some visuals around the office space. This will ensure people see things like your mission statement and values throughout their working day.

That’s not to say that you should push people about it. But you would hope your colleagues would be able to recite the mission statement and values back to you because having them front and center means it’s more likely for everyone to exhibit the appropriate attitude.

One way we ensure colleagues are clear on our purpose as a business is to include it in our company handbook. We also reflect these things in our interview process, which helps us to identify candidates who will likely thrive within our business culture because they buy into the vision we have.

In a multi-territory business where you have colleagues across the globe, it’s important to ensure these cultural points be communicated in the appropriate manner. At its most basic level, this means translating documentation into the local language.

However, think about what is appropriate to expect in each country. For example, it might be that colleagues in the UK value flexibility in terms of working hours and will appreciate being able to communicate with their colleagues around the clock, while other countries like Sweden value a shorter working week but longer working days.

Related Article: 3 Ways Leaders Can Preserve Company Culture

Recognising Differences

As your business grows internationally, you will note that more of these differences between countries become apparent. There will be some things like sales structure and KPIs that you might not be flexible on. But then other elements of your company culture will be completely flexible for the local customs.

Related:  Overcoming Resistance to Corporate Culture Changes

In Japan, they don’t play music on the sales floor, which is very different to the Wales. We might see playing music as part of our culture of having fun at work and mitigating too much formality in our approach to our customers. But pushing this on our Japanese colleagues would conflict with what they’d be comfortable with.

One initiative we’ve found to be extremely valuable has been that of the 70/30 model, where 70% of our own company culture is reflected across the globe, but we allow for 30% ‘wiggle room’ to account for cultural differences in different geographical regions.

As leaders within the business, we regularly visit our global offices and spend time getting to know the people, their expectations, and their way of working. This way, we can ensure our company culture is as inclusive as possible while staying true to our overall mission.

We also bring someone from the new territory to our offices in the UK for a period of 2-4 weeks as we find this is enough time for them to be immersed in our company culture. They can take this back to the new office and have a better understanding of business goals and expectations.

This person then helps to bring the entire office on board through their actions. This has a much better impact than if that employee was just to learn cultural expectations via a conference call.

Staying Flexible

Of course, all of the above will become obsolete if yours is a company culture that people fall out of love with or that fails to adapt to changes in the wider world.

While it is important to aim for consistency in terms of your business’ vision or mission statement, it’s equally important to recognise that the manifestation of this can change over time. This is particularly true of the behaviours your colleagues exhibit, where too much dictation of what’s expected can actually stifle growth.

Instead, as a leader, it’s important to recognise the individual value each colleague brings and to allow them flexibility to make a difference to your business.

By setting a clear vision, you’re giving what some leaders refer to as a ‘north star’ to guide their journey, but the path they take is much more flexible. Trust in your workforce and allow them to shape your path while giving them something they can believe in to follow and work toward.

How Can Leaders Create a Positive Culture in a Multi-Territory Business?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Steve Carpenter
Steve Carpenter is the Business Development Director at Creditsafe, a global business data provider which operates in 16 countries. Steve has worked with business leaders around the world and is Creditsafe’s ‘cultural champion’, working with in-country teams to instil the business’ values in a way that is appropriate to the local environment. Steve regularly shares his advice on business culture and diversity.
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