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Fostering successful microcultures – the key to cross-border company culture

Learn how businesses are navigating the complexities of true multinational collaboration through the concept of microcultures. In Deloitte’s Human Capital report findings and Factorial’s insights shows why embracing regional preferences and differences is crucial for long-term success in today’s multicultural global marketplace.

The world of work has traditionally functioned quite happily within certain silos, none quite as historically defined as country borders. And yet, with hybrid work proliferating and tech-facilitated collaboration now common, most companies grapple on a daily basis with the complexities of true multinational collaboration between teams who could be located on completely different sides of the globe. This raises new and complex questions on the nature of company culture.

Businesses may have faced challenges previously when maintaining a consistent culture simply between offices in the same area, but when you factor in time zones and even highly nuanced local customs and preferences, things become ever more intricate to manage. Is the longstanding urge to deliver a truly unified and consistent approach to company culture across all corners of the globe even fit for purpose?

Deloitte’s recent Human Capital report 2024 has acknowledged that an organisation’s ability to plan and achieve a diverse and inclusive workforce culture is one of the top six greatest risk factors to business. Just 48% of those operations surveyed felt confident in addressing that issue. But the report has also called out that fact that attempting to implement single, rigid company cultures has also been shown to be less successful than harnessing ‘microcultures’ to keep widely varying employee needs engaged and involved in company-wide narratives.

This ‘glocal’ challenge is something Factorial knows well. As a youthful business but also one with truly global operations, we recognise that the average employee profile can vary significantly across markets. On a very simple level this can mean just the average age demographic of employees in one location versus another. But when you also consider elements such as cultural expectations, work/life balance priorities and communication preferences, the variances from one site to another can become relatively marked. For a business seeking to create a cohesive and consistent company experience for all employees, this can be a difficult needle to thread. To address this challenge and resultingengagement strategy effectively, here are a few areas which businesses in a similar position might like to investigate:

  • Cultural Research: Consider detailed research on cultural differences for each target market. This involves understanding work norms, attitudes towards work, communication preferences and recognition expectations. Once we have established this base level of understanding, we can start to plot approaches which can appeal to each areas, supported around a central ‘pillar’ of Factorial culture.
  • Benefits Customisation: Instigate a continual review of matters to be able to tailor benefits packages to meet the specific needs and expectations of each market. This includes country-specific health benefits and wellness programmes that align with local cultural practices.
  • Multi-channel communication: We strive to implement communication strategies that match each market’s preferences in terms of channels and tone. Some markets may favour direct and clear communication, while others may prefer more collaborative and participatory approaches.
  • Customised Professional Development Programmes: Offering professional development programmes tailored to the specific career expectations and aspirations of each market has been an important step. This may include training opportunities, mentoring and personalised growth programmes.
  • Implementing engagement measurement tools and collecting feedback on a regular basis to assess the effectiveness of tailored initiatives. through this, we are able to adjust strategies based on results and employee feedback to ensure that loop continues to work in the best interests of all.

Taking a measured and responsive approach aims to recognise those all-important ‘microcultures’ which can help each office and region to thrive, but with a central core that is distinct to the business’ personality. It means that an office where the average age demographic is skewing older than others doesn’t have, for example, regular office beers arranged as an office-wide event, if a drinking culture won’t work for them.

The concept of a single, fixed international company culture may be an attractive concept, but an ineffective one in the long term. Savvy businesses acknowledge that in a multicultural global marketplace, their internal practices need to reflect regional preferences and differences just as much as their external actions do. As we navigate significant shifts in what ‘work’ looks like, companies who can embrace and even encourage these microcultures to thrive will reap the rewards as a result. Attempting to introduce a rigid company culture may seem a wonderful idea on paper, but it’s more effective in the long run to adopt a more nuanced and adaptive approach.

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