A colourful and stimulating office space? Check. Plentiful staff perks and benefits? Done. A solid variety of CSR initiatives? You bet. Many businesses believe they have the perfect recipe for a high performance corporate culture, having studied the likes of Google and Zappo’s, and carefully cut and pasted their well-documented internal initiatives with a view to emulating their success. But can a corporate culture ever be replicated or is this simply a recipe for disaster?
Why not ask Walmart, whose attempts to replicate their existing corporate culture within the German market ended in cataclysmic failure. Their typically American management and staff motivational practices didn’t resonate with local sensibilities, and employee feedback was duly ignored. The situation resulted in an enormous decrease in overall company productivity, morale and efficiency, with business analysts estimating that the company lost somewhere in the realm of $300 million in the space of just a year as a result.
This outside-in approach to corporate culture is not unique to Walmart, and is something particularly prevalent in the Middle Eastern market, where many international companies simply set up shop without taking into account cultural sensitivities or nuances. The results, like Walmart’s, tend to be similarly dire, leaving many business leaders scratching their heads wondering where it all went wrong.
Ultimately, culture is an organic and evolving thing, and one that needs to be nurtured from the inside, based on the specific needs and sensibilities of those within it. Just because your workforce in Stockholm is thriving thanks to their new ping-pong table and daily free lunches doesn’t mean it’ll resonate as effectively in Abu Dhabi, where expectations and needs might be significantly different.
So how do you go about creating a high-performance corporate culture that’s unique to your business? Here are 3 tips to get you started.
ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Before nailing your company’s values to the mast, why not consider asking for input from your employees? After all, they’re the living, breathing embodiment of your corporate culture at the end of the day. If you want to establish a high performance environment that brings the very best out of your people, it’s vital that you understand what drives and motivates them, so that you can build your culture on firm foundations. Place your employees at the centre of your cultural development, and you’ll be sure to reap the rewards down the line.
HONOUR YOUR HISTORY
Each and every business has a unique story that differentiates it from the competition, and it’s important that you honour this as part of your cultural evolution. Your employees want to be a part of a business they can believe in, and by helping them to understand the path you’ve travelled to get where you are today, you’ll humanize your enterprise in their eyes, in turn rendering them far more likely to be invested in your success. Whether you introduce wall murals that highlight historic milestones, or simply enforce traditions that have been in existence since conception, you’ll be building your culture on something authentic, and your employees will sense the difference.
EVOLVE & RESPOND
Culture is an ever-evolving entity, and the only way to ensure it remains on track is to keep tabs on employee sentiment and shape your efforts accordingly. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your workforce’s needs won’t change as the years go by – after all, just think of how different the world looked ten years ago and how much the corporate landscape has shifted in the wake of digitization. So make sure to conduct regular feedback sessions with your employees, delving into what they do and don’t enjoy about the workplace, and encouraging them to offer their own suggestions as to how it could be improved. By calling on input from your workforce, you’ll not only ensure you have an ear to the ground, but also make sure your employees feel acknowledged, understood and heard.