How to align a business culture across international offices

August 5, 2022

If there’s anything recent years have taught businesses, it’s that culture is everything. Culture is the thing that connects an organisation’s people, ensures aligned values and a shared mission, and ultimately keeps everyone happy.  

We also know that culture is so much more than 25 days holiday or Friday drinks in the office, it’s about building a community of shared interests and feeling part of something. 

But as a business grows, culture is often threatened. Particularly when that business begins to grow internationally, when language barriers, cultural differences, time zones and physical distance all come into play. 

This is when it gets tricky for even organisations with a rock-solid community. How can leaders ensure that a culture is emulated consistently, and even strengthened, when growing overseas? 

  • Define your culture. What are your vision and values? What is the moral purpose and how will you do good beyond business? What are your objectives? What do your people have in common? What behaviours are expected? 
  • Document the culture! Put pen to paper and take note of the above answers in a sharable format for the whole organisation to refer to.  
  • Use the recruitment and onboarding process. Have a clear idea of the sort of person you want to recruit into your firm, and ensure this vision is shared with the people who recruit in other jurisdictions too. There should be a tick list of qualities, both essential and preferred. Also consider sharing a values charter with new joiners before they start, which they can read and agree to, making sure everyone is on the same page from day one. 
  • Events, events, events! Events are undoubtably the best way to bring an organisation together. In the new post-Covid world we’ve been introduced to hybrid events, meaning we can join from across the globe. Don’t underestimate the impact of bringing people together from different countries whenever you can, as nothing is more valuable than facetime. 
  • Learn from each other’s culture. Understand that your culture may not fit perfectly into another country’s way of working, so there needs to be some adaptability. Also consider the things you can learn from them – it’s likely they can enhance your culture for the better by bringing diverse new experiences, backgrounds and perspectives.  

Lucy Hargreaves, Development & People Director at gunnercooke  

gunnercooke llp won Gold at the Business Culture Awards in 2019.