How to Build a Common Culture in a Global Company
In my role I’m lucky enough to travel to different SOTI offices around the world. Whether it be in Birmingham UK, Melbourne Australia or most recently in Gurgaon, India it never ceases to amaze me how the culture is so similar across the vastly different regions. Each SOTI office has the same ingredients of culture: fun, growth and innovation.
In my most recent trip to our India office, this point really hit home for me. I was there with a motley crew from our Canadian headquarters and other offices to celebrate the inauguration of our new state-of-the-art 51,000 square feet facility in Gurgaon and announce our future growth plans for the region. India is a perfect place for us to build out yet another R&D hub with their solid technical talent in an Android centric market with culture highly committed to innovation it’s no wonder that India is leading the world in mobility growth. On my trip, I arrived a few days later than the others in the group and noticed how integrated this Canadian team was with the India team already. Once I was settled in, I forgot I that was over 11,000 kilometers away from my home at the Canadian headquarters. But how is it possible that the SOTI culture is so similar yet the geographical area is so vastly different?
There is a lot of chatter in the HR and Leadership community that talks about how HR and Leaders are responsible for driving the culture of their organizations. I might lose some “street cred” with my HR friends or those that think I’m in a fancy office “strategizing” about how to make SOTI have a standard culture across regions, but I’m confessing here: the truth is that culture is not built by HR and Leadership. We merely create and nurture an environment for which the employees can build their own culture.
- Create physical spaces that foster the culture. Our Gurgaon office is fitted with all the amenities to encourage the culture; coffee nook with counter seating for impromptu chats, games room for fun, full fitness facilities and showers to promote wellness, spacious and homey lunchroom to encourage teams to come together for meals. Glass meeting rooms and an open concept space promote collaboration and transparency, along with a fully fitted training room to encourage growth of employees.
- Make it clear that you care about culture. Talk about it with the same importance as revenue or product releases. Have dedicated budgets for social activities, team building and training.
- Make it easy for global employees to interact. Have strong communication tools and ensure adoption. Fit meeting rooms with tools to encourage communication. Hold open forums for employees in all regions to communicate with Headquarters and other offices.
- Have a formal feedback loop on the culture. Do surveys. Have a suggestion box. Ask employees during 1-on-1 meetings. Hold detailed exit interviews. Ask people at the water cooler what they think. Be approachable.
- Allow for local flare. Be humble that you may not fully understand the culture. Ask opinions of local culture builders. Listen first. Share ideas from other offices as a starting point only, not as a mandate.
- Empower employees to drive the culture. Reduce management oversight. Find your culture builders in each office and let them make decisions. Be open to new ideas.
I’m insanely proud of the culture at our global SOTI offices; we all love fun, we are all relentlessly committed to growth and innovation is our way of life. I’m even prouder that this culture was built by the employees.