Global company culture

How to ensure your company culture works around the world

14 Jun 2017

Global organisations must strive to have a recognisable, consistent company culture with a little bit of local flavour.

Company culture is an important part of working life. When people apply for jobs, one of the main things they look at is the culture – they want to know what it’s really like to work there.

With some of the bigger organisations, you might have an idea of what their company culture is like, depending on how much they like to promote it to the public.

Future Human

But does that culture remain consistent no matter where in the world the company is based? Do big multinationals with signature customs stick to them in every location?

And how much does company culture change depending on the country the office is in? Aon may be headquartered in London, but the multinational professional services firm has locations in more than 120 countries, from Argentina to Zimbabwe.

With offices in various regions, countries and cultures, Aon knows what it’s like having to adapt its company culture while still trying to keep it relatively consistent.

A bit of local flavour

“The art of being an integral part of a truly global firm is that the core culture of your organisation is consistent throughout the world,” said Oisín O’Gogain, head of HR at Aon.

“Admittedly, cultural practices can vary,” he said. In different parts of the world, certain dress codes and hours of work will have to be adhered to, and they may not match other global branches.

However, O’Gogain said the core values, methodologies, ethical practices and entrepreneurial spirit of Aon itself, and how it engages with its clients, translates everywhere in the world.

Embracing certain cultures in various countries is necessary for businesses that want to expand globally. On the flip side, for employees who are relocated, a certain level of consistency is important, too.

O’Gogain said: “We leverage our scale and ensure consistency through educating our business leaders and all colleagues via our own university portal, accessible globally.”

He said the company also measures its successes through a consistent leadership model, performance management cycles and bringing staff members together to celebrate being ‘One Aon’ as regularly as possible.

Global companies have a duty to their brand, their current employees and the countries they set up shop in, to strike the right balance when it comes to establishing a company culture.

“A Big Mac doesn’t always taste the exact same in each country,” said O’Gogain. “The meat is always local, the taste is suited to the local market, but the branding and quality is consistent with the global brand.”

He said at Aon, it is much the same. “You know you will get quality that suits you and it’s globally recognisable with a little bit of local flavour.”

Being a truly human organisation

As a global management consulting and professional services company, Accenture also understands the value of having an adaptable but universal company culture.

“In a company of over 400,000 employees serving clients in more than 120 countries, our culture is something that is hugely important for us,” said Susanne Jeffery, global head of employee experience at Accenture.

“No matter where you are in the world, which part of our business you are in or what level you are, the core values apply in the same way. These core values anchor us to something common.”

As part of its company culture, Accenture takes diversity very seriously. “Being a truly human organisation is a priority for us,” said Jeffery. “We recognise that when our people feel like they have a sense of belonging, that they are working on meaningful work, and they feel challenged and energised, the benefits to the individual, our organisation and our clients are hugely powerful.”

Jeffery said that aside from Accenture’s core values, the company is respectful of local cultures and customs in its various locations. “While we may have a common feel throughout all our offices around the world, we embrace the differences that come with being a truly global organisation.”

She also said that Accenture employees have access to a wide range of global training courses on cross-cultural awareness, from country-specific workshops to online courses.

Updated, 4.55pm, 14 June 2017: After clarification from Accenture, Susanne Jeffery’s title has been updated to global head of employee experience.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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