As the new chief people officer of a global company that has more than doubled in size over the past 18 months, the biggest challenge for our leadership and HR teams right now is building and maintaining a unified company culture. Most of our teams are continuing to work in a hybrid form, which places a greater focus on fostering a mixed online/in-office culture that works for our people. As a company that helps retailers create localized shopping experiences, we know it’s critical to continue to create a personal employee experience no matter where they are.
We are still in the “great resignation,” and many hiring managers today would tell you that it’s a challenging time to recruit and retain talent. While benefits packages and perks are more important than ever, creating a vibrant company culture of belonging, vision, and purpose could be the reason employees choose a company. Like many high-growth organizations, ESW has experienced growing pains, but we learn from those and continue to grow and evolve.
Here are my top six best practices to forge a corporate culture in a global organization:
6 Ways to Forge a Unified Corporate Culture in a Global Organization
- Stay true to your vision and values
- Remain authentic
- Localize for where necessary
- Focus on employee growth
- Encourage collaboration within and across teams
- Have fun
1. Vision and Values
Attracting talent whose mindset and behaviors match those of the company is the first step to creating a vibrant company culture across borders. I learned from an incredible leader that the right attitude trumps smarts every time. Therefore, it’s vitally important for companies to leverage brand identities and what they stand for across the entire organization. As the next generation begins to enter the workforce in greater numbers, this becomes even more critical for attracting talent. The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z survey found that nearly 50 percent of Gen Zers surveyed said that they make choices on where they will work based upon their own personal ethics. We need to continually reinforce who we are, where we want to go, and how we want to behave so that we can attract talent that believes in our company’s ambition.
Our global HQ is in Dublin, but ours is a community of 27-plus nationalities. Our diverse community translates into being a welcoming community, with a more relaxed corporate environment. This works with all our employees and fits nicely with the Gen Z population who see less distance between who they are in their work and real lives. Our casual style allows all our teammates to be their true selves at work. As we build out our teams at scale over the next few years, we want to ensure that authentic teamwork wins out over internal politics at every opportunity.
There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all for local offices of multinational firms, as localization strategies are paramount to growth for global companies. In the same way that we advise our customers and clients to localize their content to appeal to the intended audience, so, too, do we need to make sure that each office or home office works for our global employee communities.
A thriving corporate culture is greater than the sum of its parts. A recent Harvard Business Review article states, “nearly one-third of turnover can be attributed to unsupportive management or lack of development opportunities.” In our case, we are focused on evolving to appeal to a multi-generational workforce and fostering a company culture that creates continuous opportunities for learning, agility, and growth. By doing so, we can say we are truly becoming a place to grow an employee's career for as long as they stay with the company. Having a culture that supports people in their development will always become a magnet for talent.
Collaboration between teams can be fostered more easily now that video meetings have become the norm. Furthermore, new hires, such as the “Covid Class of 2021” are highly experienced at virtual collaboration. The Wall Street Journal recommends leaders to “leverage the unexpected skills these grads bring to the table,” by learning from them. Video calls also make it much easier to communicate and collaborate than our previous dull and unengaging conference calls. We host unplugged sessions, leader calls, and town halls to hear from a variety of team members across all business locations, which are much livelier since migrating to video conferencing. Teams know each other better now that they have virtually visited each other’s homes and seamlessly work together across regions in a more effective way.
We like to celebrate our accomplishments and each other. Prioritizing time away from the office is just one way to help bring people together. Our virtual wellness program encourages team members from all offices to join a wellness community, attend talks by fitness professionals, take a yoga class, or to work out together virtually. Our sports and social committee creates interactive competitions and themed events which appeal not only to our employees, but also members of their families. It’s been our experience that teams that play together, win together. And our work here is not done, we will continue to build our muscle to be future fit. We have more we want to do to ensure our teams truly enjoy and have fun doing what they do.
These tips are often considered aspirational — but they’re totally achievable. Making them happen allows the team to feel invested in, cared for, and trusted so they can give their best. Great cultures offer great customer experience. Culture is organic and I truly believe there is no greater work a leader can do than to create a winning culture where everyone can be themselves.