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Four tips to taking your company culture global

The idea of opening a new office in a new country is a daunting one for any business: from possible language differences to the difficulties of negotiating a new legal system, there are plenty of aspects to consider.

Yet culture is also a crucial factor to consider – not just that of the country your office will be in, but the unique culture of your company and how best to bring it to life with a new team and new location.

Businesses are increasingly looking outside their own country’s borders to scale and reach new customers: a 2014 study by the British Chambers of Commerce found that 43% of 4,700 businesses surveyed have ambitions to grow internationally. That’s why it’s all the more vital to consider every aspect of this growth carefully, including that undefinable yet crucial aspect of company culture.

From our beginnings in San Francisco to expansion in Sydney, London, Dublin and most recently, Tokyo, AdRoll has always made sure the company culture, as well as the knowledge, transfers abroad. Here are our tips for building this culture in a new country.

Create an ethos that transcends countries

The first step in creating a company culture that will stand up globally starts before you ever leave home, by building this internally in the first place. What does your company stand for and how can you make sure your team embodies those values? While this often starts with the hiring process, companies can also set up policies that ensure these values are given the consideration they deserve by employees.

For example, if you’re a company that prides itself on caring for the health and wellbeing of your staff, you can put policies in place that support and promote this. Take SAS for example, the company have an annual, month-long health and fitness event. Or Intuit, an American software company that offers a ‘Life Management Programme’ which provides access for employees to financial planning, legal advice and chronic illness support.

Make time for culture

Creating this culture is about more than just policies, of course – you actually have to make sure your staff has the time and resources for aspects of work that go beyond their job description, which is harder than ever before considering how busy every office is now. Everyone, from interns to senior managers, need to be on board with your office culture to make sure employees have the time for team-building activities that involve more than just a trip to the pub.

AdRoll Dublin’s sales team, for example, recently roamed the streets for a scavenger hunt – a team building event organised by AdRoll’s Culture Club and a feat that would’ve been impossible if management wasn’t on board as well. By investing the time and resources necessary to make these ‘extracurricular’ activities a reality, you’ll already be well on your way to ensuring that company culture is ingrained in every employee, whether that’s in headquarters or abroad.

Invest in ambassadors

There are few people who’ll know your company better than current employees, which is why it can be extremely valuable to set up an ambassadors programme for new offices. Whenever we open a new office, several experienced AdRollers move to the new location for a period of time, typically six months, to help set it up and share their knowledge.

The impact is two-fold: not only is it more efficient to have temporary ambassadors operating the business while new hires get up to speed, but these company experts can also help instill aspects of our culture that go beyond the business. Take Tuesday night running club for example, or quarterly CSR projects – not to mention the opportunity for these employees to experience a new country and culture for themselves.

It’s not an easy process to become an ambassador: at AdRoll, prospective ambassadors go through a thorough interview and training programme before leaving home. Setting out the calibre of person required for this challenging role – qualities that go beyond their own specific job – means you can be confident they will impart your company ethos.

While it might seem difficult to lose dedicated staffers to a new office for a time, it will pay off handsomely – both for your new office and for these ambassadors’ careers – in the long run.

Adapt culture abroad

Every company’s office doesn’t need to be an identikit of headquarters. It’s not about replicating your culture abroad exactly as it is at home, but taking the core ideas and adapting it to each new market, much as you would your sales or marketing strategies.

AdRoll, for example, gives out a Golden Bagel award at each week’s all-hands meeting in San Francisco to recognise employees who go above and beyond. We took that same idea of recognising team members’ hard work in every other office, with slight twists: in New York, it’s become the Golden Pizza award, and in Dublin, it’s the Golden Potato.

It seems like a small thing to change, but allowing regional differences like these to exist – rather than enforcing strict adherence to the way things are done at HQ – will allow each office to grow and build its own culture, as well.

Each company’s culture is obviously personal, but these are three key guidelines for businesses to follow when considering a move abroad. There are enough challenges with starting a new office in a new country – making sure all employees, both at HQ and abroad, are happy and reflecting your business values should be the easy (and fun) part.

AdRoll is a client of WithPR.

The piece originally appeared on M&M Global

Image source: Business Research Plus

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