Company Culture Beats Your Own Culture

Arab Business Meeting

Moving to Dubai the book ‘Don’t They Know It’s Friday` written by Jeremy Williams was recommended to me. The book mainly addresses the cross-cultural aspects of life affecting Westerners and Gulf nationals in the GCC. It deals with the realities of business and the stresses and strains of operating in the Gulf as a Western visitor or expatriate.

It’s all about relationships says the book, a great tip for the new comers to the region. You have to build relationships both on a business and personal level to make your experience a success. Also you should respect other cultures and religions if you do not already.  Acceptance of what others do and believe and having no judgement or feelings of superiority are important, as you will never learn all the details of all cultures -  they are so many! But we should all learn how to respect and live with them.

If you are around the region for a while you will witness lots of expats leaving after such a short time, mainly because they did not fit or feel at home on a cultural level and not because they did not have the skills to do their job. Respecting how people are living and working, and creating a common environment all people can work in effectively is needed.

When you are based in a culturally diverse city like Dubai you will realize how different cultures can be, the way we dress, we talk, interact with each other, salute each other is different. But it is fascinating how all these people can live and work together peacefully and effectively. Is it not easy to achieve but it’s doable.

When we talk about creating the right environment for expats and locals, we are talking about a huge task for every company that often falls to HR departments. Winning the EXPO 2020 there are lots of expectations placed on Dubai based companies, lots of high targets, investment and thus more challenges to create the right company culture.

`Shape Your Culture, Shape Your Company’s Future’  is a great article written by Ian C. Read CEO of Pfizer. It reinforces the importance of support from line managers to create company culture, both from first and second line managers. At Pfizer these front line managers strongly influence the day to day working environment of 80 percent of their colleagues.

So what can we do? Studies show that if you are able to create a strong company culture and educate your employees on how they should contribute to the culture within the company, the company culture beats individuals’ own culture. If expectations are clear and senior management is leading by example, every employee knows how to act and what to do e.g. if you have a meeting every person knows when they should be there, they know how to communicate with colleagues and customers, the tone their e-mails should be written, how to respond to feedback, respect personal time etc… Your company culture decodes all of the above and in most cases in the Middle East, your company culture will contrast greatly to the behaviors of individual employees own culture.

HR can play a major role in identifying the company culture and helping employees adapt to it. Here are some best practices followed by multinational local companies in the region:

ü     Induction Training not only to introduce the organization and functions but also to help employees learn about the company culture and how to perform in this culture.

ü     Assigning buddies who can answer the general questions new employees have and guide them to fit into the company culture.

ü     Language courses & cultural trainings to give some basic information or help to better survive in a different cultural environment. Mainly for the employees coming from out of the region.

ü     Assigning mentors not only to support the new hires, but also to assist existing employees in implementing the company culture and improve their performance based on the company expectations.

ü     Rewarding & recognizing right behaviors to influence other employees.

ü     Having a right channel of communication so employees can be informed on strategy, changes, updates, news etc.

ü     External trainings or consultants to help the company to define the right culture based on the strategy and staff.

Once there is a strongly identified and communicated company culture it’s easier for employees to fit and perform into the company no matter what their personal background, at which point every employee can say that company culture beats their own culture!

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