How to Build and Maintain Company Culture on a Global Scale

Rick Hammell, CEO, Elements Global Services, discusses how employers can ensure a consistent staff culture, even if a company has a geographically diverse workforce.

With global talent mobility at an all-time high, having employees in multiple locations around the world is becoming increasingly common. But there are many challenges got businesses when it comes to hiring and onboarding employees overseas. Beyond the various complexities of employment law in different countries, perhaps the biggest challenge for businesses is building and maintaining company culture when employees are dispersed around the globe.

According to new research from Elements Global Services, more than half (58 per cent) of businesses in the UK face find difficulties in hiring and onboarding staff overseas. Of the main challenges these businesses face, three stood out:

1. Setting up global payroll and HR essentials
2. Recruitment, including the time and cost involved
3. Overcoming cultural barriers

If adequate preparations are made and the right support is sought, the first two challenges can be anticipated and dealt with efficiently. However, the third is often an ongoing challenge.

But these difficulties are not stopping businesses from expanding. In fact, 69 per cent of businesses said that they are planning to expand into a new market over the next three years.

Cultural differences can often pose a bigger challenge than businesses expect. So how can businesses maintain their company culture when they expand overseas?

Ensure Benefits and Rewards are Culturally Sensitive

When you work with overseas staff, there are many cultural considerations to be aware of. Your business may have a specific company culture within its head office, but don’t assume that this can be rolled out directly across your different locations. First, you have to be aware of the cultural differences that could affect staff wellbeing and communication.

This is especially true with benefits and rewards systems, which should always be culturally-sensitive. Keep in mind the old adage of ‘think global, act local’. You need to be in tune with the local culture of every market and avoid initiatives that would be considered inappropriate or that simply would not work in other countries. This process can take time – and adequate planning must be done.

The UK’s team-oriented culture, for example, prizes collective rewards – but in South East Asia, it’s more important to develop individually-focused rewards. Beyond reward cultures, there are statutory requirements that need to be accounted for: in Germany, for example, companies are legally obligated to contribute to health insurance, while China mandates that employers contribute to housing and social care programmes.

Simplify the Onboarding Process

To help new employees learn how your company operates, one of the most basic but essential things you can do is to translate important documents, such as onboarding materials and official company messaging. Make sure these are translated by a native speaker so that everyone can understand them clearly.
You could also introduce mentor schemes between your established staff in your headquarters and new staff in different countries to simplify the process of learning about the company culture.

And don’t forget about the staff at your headquarters. You could set up training programmes for your employees back home covering cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity. Then your employees who work with other employees in different countries will have a better understanding of how to work with them more effectively.

Use the Power of Technology

When it comes to your company culture, technology is your friend. HR software and apps are particularly effective, and you will want to use them to encourage better communication and collaboration between staff at home and overseas.

As far as possible, make sure you use the same systems for team communication and project management, rather than separate systems, so that everyone stays on the same page. The same is true for HR platforms: you should strive to get everyone onto the same system so that it feels connected and every employee is treated equally no matter where they are based.

Finally, make sure you use effective payroll systems that can administer compensation globally. The last thing you want to happen is for staff in one location to be paid later than staff in another, so ensure there are no discrepancies with how and when staff are paid.

Maintain Your Company Culture

As a growing business, maintaining your company culture is one of the greatest barriers you will face. Make sure you show cultural sensitivity wherever you hire, and help your new staff understand the company culture by providing them with translated materials, training and mentoring.

Then enjoy the rewards of expanding into new countries while ensuring a clear company culture, irrespective of location