How to Build a Global Culture That Grows With Your Business
Uber is arguably one of the great success stories in modern business, disrupting and redefining age-old taxi industries across the globe. However, Uber’s aggressive global expansion has seen its company culture suffer, with the report from The New York Times revealing an “aggressive and unrestrained” workplace environment.
It begs the question: is it possible to build a thriving global culture and maintain it even as the organization grows?
Alvogen operates in 35 countries with dynamic teams of more than 100 nationalities. Its teams have different backgrounds, different religions, and come from different company cultures and countries. Still, one of Alvogen’s strategic advantages is its strong, united culture.
Robert Wessman, Alvogen’s chairman and CEO, says that a lot of time and effort has been spent ensuring Alvogen operates as “one company in 35 countries, rather than like 35 separate companies that happen to share the Alvogen name.”
He points out that “culture forms with or without you.” He contests that it’s more difficult to put right an unpleasant culture than it is to build a thriving culture from the start.
Here’s how Alvogen has managed to build its winning culture:
1. Be purpose-driven.
Your company culture should be a product of your purpose and the mission of your organization. If you can define what you’re here to do, it will make it easier for your employees to see how their individual and collective contribution count.
The culture should unite, inspire and guide decision making to enable your team to work as one toward future goals. Culture is not simply about building an enjoyable workplace and securing the retention of your key talent—it’s is about systematically communicating and reinforcing key behaviors and empowered decision making, giving you the speed, flexibility and employee engagement you need to outpace, outsmart and outperform the competition.
2. Continuously cultivate.
A thriving and rewarding culture cannot be bought or built overnight. It’s a long-term commitment from the top management, consciously understanding the importance of the value of one culture. A great culture is like raising a child: it’s a continuous and careful effort every day.
For a culture to become something that is perceptible, employees not only need to be able to buy into it, they need to see constant evidence of it. Therefore, the values and behaviors at the base of the culture need to be reinforced through operational processes and systems.
“Our culture is an integrated part of our selection processes, performance management systems, reward systems, and employee and leadership training,” Wessman explains. “Clear, consistent messaging reinforced through systems and everyday activities creates and supports the culture you crave.”
3. Promote independent thinking.
Employees make hundreds of decisions every day. A winning culture empowers independent thinking and fast, proactive, on-the-spot problem solving. It does not require people to wait for direction or hide from challenges. A winning culture expects and rewards the courage to act and take ownership for the success of the company as if it was your own.
In the case of Alvogen—one of the fastest-growing companies in its industry—the constant expansion means that the central leadership team can’t reside over every significant decision. However, thanks to the singular culture, its employees will align their reasoning with the best interests of the organization at large.
4. Fuel employee enthusiasm.
Great culture invariably has fun at its core. In the case of most people, bringing a sense of fun into the workplace fuels employee enthusiasm. It’s necessary to counter the pressures of high-performance expectations, which are essential to achieve extraordinary results. A fun and energizing culture can yield the comradery and teamwork needed to succeed in today's challenging market conditions.
Every April, Alvogen puts on its “Alvogen Got Talent” competition, which its employees regard as one of the most fun events of the year. With more than 2,800 members staff across the globe, the annual event reveals Alvogen’s varying backgrounds and cultures, as well as the common spirit that ties them.
Meanwhile, on the last Friday of every month, the company celebrates “Yellow Friday,” whereby every member of staff brings something yellow—the company’s brand color—to work, and are encouraged to do something together. “This is our casual Friday and reminds our colleagues around the world that we play as one,” Wessman says.
5. Use your cultural champions.
Every organization needs “cultural champions–employees who act as internal ambassadors of the brand and company culture. They love the business and its core purpose, and they are not afraid to promote the company from within. They may even bring talent into the business with the natural enthusiasm they talk about the organization when speaking with friends and family. These cultural ambassadors should be identified, used and rewarded.
Alvogen’s cultural champions are tasked with organizing company events, like Alvogen Day–a day when Alvogen celebrate the anniversary of its founding and subsequent successes. As a result, the events are as fun and energizing as they possibly can be.
Where to start?
Remember, culture forms with or without you–Uber is proof of that. Only those who methodically identify and reinforce a company culture based on their mission and future goals through processes, systems, energy, leadership and training will benefit from a culture that adds value to the business and drives it on to success.