Learn how to build company culture with mobility at the core
Sept 29, 2023
Cultivating a Company Culture that Fuels Global Mobility
People are the primary drivers of business success. They thrive within a company culture that engages, motivates and enables employees to bring their A-game into work daily.
Enabling and supporting mobility is a core ingredient in creating these positive company cultures. Suppose employees feel free, supported, and just as importantly – trusted – to work from different locations and environments. In that case, they are more likely to deliver desirable business outcomes and stay with the business long-term.
This blog will teach you how to build a company culture that drives mobility.
The Importance of Culture in Global Mobility
Every business has its culture, but successful businesses tend to have ‘cultural’ similarities. These include individual empowerment, caring for one another, trust, two-way communication, and shared belief in the company vision, mission, service and/or product(s).
Creating a compelling company culture takes time, effort and careful consideration. Leaders must inspire by clearly communicating cultural expectations and ‘walking the walk’ themselves. Existing employees must also communicate to new joiners exactly what it means to work for the organisation and how to behave in line with the company culture.
Mobility also matters here. As the way we work changes, recruits have new expectations around the working experience, particularly around where they work. These high-potential people gravitate towards businesses with cultures that encourage and support mobility, to achieve a compelling mission or purpose.
The challenge for businesses is twofold: create a culture that embraces the idea of a mobile workforce and then keep their unique, high-performance culture strong, even when the team isn’t physically close to one another.
Why Company Culture Matters
As former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner stated: “Culture isn’t just one aspect of the game; it is the game.” Great Place To Work put it another way: “A great company culture makes for a stronger company overall.”
In the era of ‘the Great Resignation’, company culture has become more important than ever, as businesses are competing against one another to recruit and retain the best people. Corporate leaders from Cisco, Hilton and American Express have made their businesses great workplaces by focusing on corporate culture. They recognise that building a strong, supportive company culture can increase business performance and help the organisation attract, motivate and retain star performers.
It isn’t always easy. Today’s star performers have more choice over where to work and are likelier to pick employers that offer flexibility on workplace processes and location. ‘Mobility’ has long been recognised as desirable for employees; this article from more than seven years ago shows the clear link between mobility, employee satisfaction, and productivity. Then, employers offering mobility were limited. Today, the choice of flexible employers is much, much wider. Therefore, leaders must create cultures that support mobility to attract the brightest and best.
Cultural Barriers to Global Mobility
We’ve discussed the impact of global mobility on talent management in this blog. It shows the clear link between a culture that supports mobility and improved recruitment and business results.
So, how can companies generate the correct culture and avoid pitfalls as they seek to build an environment that builds results? Here are four thoughts.
Willingness to Evolve
Digital transformation, generational change and a globalised economy have caused rapid change in how we work. We’ve also begun to question what constitutes ‘good work’ today. Presenteeism, where an employee was judged on how long they were in the office, is no longer appropriate. Instead, companies must evaluate employee performance solely on business outcomes, paying far less attention to where people work.
Frictionless Work Experience
From onboarding to day-to-day work, employees are less willing to tolerate technical or logistical hold-ups that prevent them from focusing on high-value tasks. In mobility, employers must prioritise the digital experience, reducing login processes and offering versatile, lightweight equipment that allows employees to work effectively from multiple locations. Employers should also take on the brunt of bureaucratic tasks from multi-region working, simplifying and clarifying processes regarding visas, tax implications and other legal considerations, which could become an unwelcome distraction. Global mobility partners can make a difference here, saving the business time and money and reducing worry for the employee.
‘Can do’ Attitude to Employee Experience
Employees want to feel empowered, not limited, particularly when it comes to travel opportunities. Employers with a default ‘no’ to requests around workations, foreign travel, and other international assignment experiences will soon find themselves alienating employees, particularly if they cannot give an adequate, logical reason as to why an employee cannot visit a facility in another country, or work from abroad for a set time.
HR departments may have traditionally tried to handle all employee requests internally, but the diversity of workplace requests now requires a new approach. Instead of managing logistics regarding mobility internally, HR departments should lean on expert technology and services partners that can simplify and de-mystify processes regarding global mobility.
Building Blocks of a Mobility-Friendly Culture
Although company culture starts at the top, it is every employee’s responsibility to help build a brilliant place to work.
1. Leadership’s Role
Leadership, both in the C-suite and on the shop floor, must embody the company culture they wish to promote. The Harvard Business School states leaders can influence culture by ensuring alignment with mission, purpose and vision, inspiring confidence in the face of challenges, and leveraging mistakes as a source of learning.
On mobility specifically, leaders can make brave decisions regarding workplace norms. Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, won many plaudits for communicating his desire – and the reasoning behind it – that Airbnb employees could work from anywhere. HubSpot has given employees a choice on working arrangements. Other leaders who have backtracked on remote and mobile working initiatives have generated negative press and alienated existing and potential employees.
2. Employee Engagement and Support
While culture starts at the top, it should also be built ground-up by the employees who are expected to ‘live it’. Employee engagement is key. Employees must feel that they are listened to and trusted to work in the way that makes them most effective.
HR and business leaders should involve employees in shaping culture and rules regarding mobility. Employee surveys and focus groups are a good way to understand employee sentiment on mobility and concerns regarding procedures, technology and other matters. A globally mobile company culture will place employee wants and needs at the centre of decision-making.
Strategies for Developing a Supportive Culture
The importance of two-way communication should never be overlooked in any aspect of business, particularly regarding employee effectiveness and happiness. Fortunately, there are several ways to facilitate open communication between colleagues. Incentivisation can also help.
Communication is Key
Remote work, while reducing physical proximity, can be a game-changer in ensuring every employee’s voice is heard. Video call technology can ensure CEOs – or even new starters – can communicate with a global audience of thousands in real-time. Video call providers such as Microsoft are even evolving platforms to make it easier for all employees to contribute to these sessions via technology such as ‘raise hands’ and interactive digital whiteboards.
Digital and physical town halls, all-hands and employee engagement ‘champion’ talks have all been shown to increase engagement. Crucially, these methods must be used for two-way communication rather than top-down command sessions. They should be equally seen as opportunities for CEOs and other business leaders to learn about ground-level concerns, attitudes and ideas for improvement.
Offer Incentives and Rewards
Busy workplaces can make it more difficult to engage with employees, who may put off filling in employee surveys or other internal feedback forms until after an urgent task is completed. Many companies have seen improved levels of feedback after offering incentives, such as prizes, via employee communication channels.
Companies should also recognise that employees may have concerns about working from new regions, even if the advantages of learning and growth are clear. In this scenario, HR must allay any concerns regarding salaries and purchasing power locally, costs of moving, and ‘settling-in’ processes. They might also consider incentivising the move via bonuses, promotions, or internal recognition from senior team members.
Case Studies: Companies Excelling in Mobility-Friendly Cultures
Several trailblazing companies have improved their corporate reputations by embracing mobility.
Intuit Quickbooks created a mobility-friendly culture, leading 91% of its employees to say it is a great workplace. The fast-growing fintech business states: “We build diverse and talented teams and help them grow through mobility opportunities, world-class benefits and employee networks so they can do the best work of their careers.”
Airbnb embraced the mobility model in 2022 with its ‘work from anywhere’ approach. As its CEO stated, “We want to hire and retain the best people in the world (like you). We would be disadvantaged if we limited our talent pool to a commuting radius around our offices. The best people live everywhere, not concentrated in one area. And by recruiting from a diverse set of communities, we will become a more diverse company.”
Another key aspect of supporting mobility is supporting the well-being of employees, even if they are working abroad. Some 91% of Great Place to Work’s 52 awarded companies stated their employer ‘actively promotes mental and physical health’.
Conclusion: Your Blueprint for a Global Mobility-Friendly Culture
In summary, creating a mobility-friendly culture benefits the business and its people. Here are some key considerations in building a globally mobile company culture.
A. Recognise the Benefits
Be clear about why you want to change the culture and your objectives. If possible, add metrics, for example, around employee retention, satisfaction or productivity measures.
B. Make ‘Yes’ the Default
Approach employee requests for more flexible and mobile working with a positive ‘can-do’ attitude. If a request needs to be denied, be clear and specific as to the reasons why.
C. Simplify Processes
Companies shouldn’t leave seemingly complicated or confusing tasks regarding mobility compliance to employees. By leveraging partners such as Centuro Global, employers can ensure swift compliance with local tax, legal and immigration concerns without distracting the HR department or the individual employee from day-to-day work. Employees should feel equipped with the technology and the information they need to focus on the job as soon as they land in their new location.
D. Support the Employee and the Change
Out of sight should never mean out of mind. Great employers find ways to listen to employees, regardless of where and how they work. They also create a sense of belonging and support individual well-being with various initiatives designed to protect and improve mental and physical health.
Call to Action
If you want to learn how a mobility-friendly culture can deliver real business results, speak to our team.