Tips for Maintaining Your Company Culture Across International Offices

Posted on Apr 19, 2019 - By Bianca Benedi

Your company’s culture helps attract employees and define your brand. Developing a cohesive culture should therefore be a priority as your company grows. However, maintaining this culture can become a serious challenge once you begin overseas expansion. Bringing international offices into the fold can represent a significant step in your business. However, it also means your existing culture will be affected by incoming cultural forces.

It is important to emphasize your company culture as you grow. Preserving the culture ensures loyalty from staff and builds your brand’s reputation as a good place for employment. Once you have grown, it is doubly important to take steps to promote that culture across offices. Maintaining and promoting your office culture will help your brand retain its identity and maintain employee satisfaction across offices. Rather than losing long-time staff and watching employee happiness decrease, you can instill a sense of loyalty and satisfaction in your team.

Highlight Your Values in the Hiring Process

One important way to maintain your company culture even as you continue to grow and expand is to incorporate your values into the hiring process. When you bring in potential hires and interview them for a particular position, address key aspects of your company culture. As part of your decision making process, you should consider how candidates respond to particular aspects of company culture. During the interview, you should highlight unique aspects of your company’s culture and ask candidates how they feel about it. For example, if office competitions and games are frequently used to build camaraderie, ask about the candidate’s interest in participating. It can clue potential employees in to the kind of team building expected among employees.

Office culture can also include factors like average daily workload, the strictness of the corporate hierarchy and how much inter-departmental collaboration occurs. It is important to have a clear idea of how your policies impact your office culture and what employees can expect once hired. By communicating those aspects of office culture clearly during the interview process, you can weed out candidates that have different desires or expectations.

Make Benefits Consistent Across Offices

When developing your company culture, it’s important to consider whether all employees get to participate equally. For example, if you have a gym in one office and not another, employees in offices without a gym may resent company calls to increase physical activity. After all, some employees will find that significantly easier than others due to the presence of an on-site gym. If you promote family values at your company but only offer parental leave at the home office, employees in other locations may find it difficult to balance proclaimed values with their financial reality. Even small benefits make a difference. If one office has a fancy coffee bar and the others only have basic coffee making equipment, employees who notice the difference may feel frustrated and undervalued.

You should strive to apply benefits, big and small, equally across all your offices. Benefits and policies that vary from office to office will hamper the ability to develop a cohesive company culture. However, investing in all your employees instills a sense of loyalty and a company-wide identity.

Create Company Traditions

Spreading your company culture is easier when you have concrete traditions to share and spread. For example, it can be difficult to maintain a company culture of recognizing employee accomplishments without a built-in process to do so. Although the home office may prioritize praising employees who do a good job and bringing high performance to the attention of others, that may not translate in other offices. Managers who haven’t been trained to highlight employee accomplishments may fail to carry out this particular tradition. However, an employee of the month policy which highlights particular employees’ accomplishments and rewards those who were nominated can be more readily replicated.

Along with spreading traditions, you should allow new traditions to form organically and spread throughout the company. For example, if a staff employee proposes a regular baking competition, you may consider proposing similar competitions in other offices. Individual offices may have different focuses – one office may prioritize baking while another has a cooking challenge, for example. The rules do not have to remain consistent across offices, but encouraging similar traditions across offices can maintain a sense of camaraderie and friendliness, regardless of where employees are located.

Foster Frequent Communication

One way to keep employees connected is to ensure that you promote open lines of communication between offices. Integrating technology built for this purpose, like Slack and Skype, can help ease the process. This helps employees become more aware of staff in other offices and, as an extension, the full extent of the company. Rather than viewing one’s individual office as the focal point of the company, employees can begin to consider the role that every office plays in maintaining operations.

However, simply making employees available to others is not enough to foster communication between offices. In addition to facilitating conversation with convenient programs, you should create reasons for your offices to interact with one another. In a single office, employees in different departments naturally have the opportunity to talk at the water cooler or the coffee bar. Across offices, however, employees are mostly restricted to speaking to their immediate supervisors or direct co-workers. Setting up a general chat room to encourage communication between offices can help bridge the gap. In the general chat room, employees can discuss sports, TV shows, video games, music, movies and more. Additionally, setting up events like interoffice competitions can encourage employees to consider what other offices are doing and reach out.

Another step you can take to open up communications is to create a newsletter or blog that updates employees on changes. Publications can provide all employees with updates at once. It can keep employees thinking about the same goals and on the same page. If you do have a newsletter or blog, it’s a good idea to create a schedule and post regularly. Employees can learn to expect regular posts, and a schedule can help such blogs become an integral part of the company conversation.