A performance driver in a globalisation strategy, corporate culture is, however, often forgotten. The goal? To enrich it. The risk? It gets diluted! Here is a little guide to the essentials from a specialist in company values, Amélie Fenzy, from Valeurs&Valeur.

Corporate culture and globalisation, a mix with great potential… and some risks

On the one hand, are company values, on the other, collective culture: from these two come corporate culture. “Management has values“, explains Amélie Fenzy, “an energy that it promotes to employees. The employees give back an energy through their experiences together on a daily basis. It is the combination of the two that makes it work“.

This mix is sometimes fragile and, during globalisation, is put to a severe test… This is because, during its expansion, the company loses certain reference points in order to take on others, relating to the local culture. On a solid foundation, such a change can enrich the company… without destabilising it. The danger? “Misunderstandings, friction, loss of a lot of time, energy and performance“.

As for the action plan: on paper, it seems very simple. “Firstly, ensure a stable foundation of essential values“, advises Amélie. “Secondly, facilitate this culture regularly to create exchanges; thirdly, build a slightly different culture, but one that keeps the essential components of the original country!“.

Building a solid foundation is absolutely key

Although the recipe for success can easily be summed up, it is more complex to put into practice. “Most companies never precisely define their corporate culture, even less what its implications are“, notes Amélie. “However, if one is incapable of expressing what is important about one’s culture, it’s not possible to open up to another“. Verbalising one’s values allows the establishing of clear foundations for communication, and just as clearly, the related behaviours. What is the company saying in concrete terms? What dynamic does it imply in collaborative relationships? What must and must not be done?

A stage that is just as essential in the context of an international expansion programme, what makes sense in one country is not necessarily the same in another. “Everyone is in agreement that politeness is an essential value“, says Amélie. “But politeness, for some is a smile, for others it’s hello, for others still it is passing by the boss’ office to say hello with a smile! Most relationship difficulties are not based on performance, but on the sharing of values“.

Facilitating corporate culture, the right pace

Although perfectly defined and shared by employees, in the original location, corporate culture should be facilitated regularly so that it plays the role it should. How? “The first step is to integrate it into recruitment“, says Amélie. Candidates must understand which values the company will ask them to promote and share, without denying their individuality. The company must also accept that new employees modify the existing culture in part.

It’s about being a support lever in management strategy“, explains the founder of Valeurs&Valeur. Each employee should have reviews with his or her manager and receive constructive feedback, in order to understand their strong points and their scope for improvement in relation to the culture advocated by the company… as a minimum this should be twice a year, ideally every month during a globalisation phase.

Integrate the local culture to that of the company, a winning combination

Globalisation is similar to the dynamic of a couple“, explains Amélie. Two cultures, that of the original country and the target country, “which must be independently solid in order to build together“.

From the first phases of an international strategy, new elements are added to the existing corporate culture, especially when the company uses local workers. The collective energy embeds when new employees are added with new habits and new methods… “If the fundamental values of the company are solid, it is capable of taking on these changes“, summarises Amélie. “It can therefore construct a new culture, which respects the essential original elements, while allowing the culture of the new country to permeate as well“.

The last word? Adapting a corporate culture internationally cannot be improvised. “The whole managerial strategy is impacted“, concludes Amélie Fenzy, “and managing this relationship takes a lot of time. It is impossible to set up in a new market without taking it into account!

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