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WHY EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE CAN’T BE BOUGHT OFF THE SHELF

People are all individual and employee engagement is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution; so it’s no surprise that global companies are struggling to engage workers worldwide. Diverse and inclusive engagement programmes need to be delivered to support all employees, regardless of geographic location.

There is a significant benefit in understanding local cultures to help drive company values and behaviours. In order to do this, companies need to conduct deep dives and find out what explicitly drives overall engagement. Does the company’s purpose support that of the employee? Large discrepancies may cause a divide between the two, resulting in disengagement.

The influence and benefit of culture in the workplace should not be underestimated. Here ‘culture’ can be defined as the social behaviours distinct to a particular group influencing customs, beliefs and behaviours. The rise of technology and new ways of working have eroded these barriers to an extent, but culture remains important.

As society continues to evolve due to immigration, diversity, and multi-culturalism, so too must employee experience. This evolution has led to a better connected and more diverse workforce, but some businesses are struggling to adapt to this rate of change. Reasons for this include employee experience evolving faster than research, studies often being too focused, or a distinct lack of understanding of others.

In order to study culture, evaluation frameworks can be used. One framework to view employee experience is Hofstede’s Theory of Cultural Dimensions. Hofstede argues that there are six dimensions which reflect a culture’s values and behaviours. These dimensions can be used to help craft policies that fit within the culture.

 

Hofstede’s theory supports the exploration of data. 

It can show how culture affects values, which lead to distinct behavioural patterns. It also looks at a group from a macro-national level. There can be very diverse groups within this larger group. It is also worth remembering that the cultural dimensions are a theoretical construct. This means they must be used in practical applications rather than being a universal truth and applying to all. Nonetheless, the Cultural Dimensions Theory can help us to delve deeper into attitudes at work. For example, is a policy not working because it does not suit the employees or is it due to cultural barriers? Companies can explore whether to use the same policies in Europe and Latin America, or whether tweaks need to be made due to cultural effects.

One way we can see this in practice is through a study by Sanchez and McCauley [1], which identified global engagement drivers. The UK and China have similar drivers such as a sense of personal accomplishment, confidence in senior management, and availability of training opportunities — while the USA focuses on confidence in the success of the organisation, work quality, and achieving career objectives. Employees in France and India care about the type of work, while in Germany they are more focused on who they work with. In Japan, pay is a key driver while in China it is benefits. Interestingly, both India and China are less motivated by work-life balance.

ENGINE Transformation worked with a digital technology company to review their global engagement programme. The approach was to have an overarching set of ideals, which each unit of the business had to drive in their own way. Results showed that this idea was the best for the company to achieve high engagement scores, as what drove engagement varied by country. Latin America was more focused on their own role and development at the company, while Scandinavia was focused on the behaviour of the company and its leaders – clearly illustrating that a one size fits all engagement programme would not work, as employees across the globe have different feelings on what engages them. Many business units have seen improvement since launching this programme of locally driven engagement. Even within these regions, there were variations; thus engagement must be driven at a more local level in global organisations.

Looking at the year ahead, I predict a wide range of issues that will face workers across the globe. Political events will be driving experience globally, although varying by country. The rise of AI may affect some communities more than others. Some workforces may be looking at environmental issues such as Amazon workers walking out in the US and UK. In Scandinavia, companies are taking a more progressive approach based on trust and flexibility, reflecting their social policies in areas such as long parental leave. However, some cultures may be focused on keeping their jobs due to changes in the economy or digital transformation. Although some themes will be overarching, many cultures will have individual concerns. To cope with this, businesses must take more time in formulating their approach to understanding local cultures. By taking this course of action, companies can create policies and work environments that better suits their employees – no matter where they are.

To conclude, companies cannot have an effective global employee experience programme without first understanding the challenges that their different locales face.

Organisations need to align their values and beliefs with local culture to drive engagement. The driving force could be having an overarching ideology across the company and allowing individual cultures within it to define what it means to them. Companies need to communicate their overarching values but enable them to be practised depending on the culture of the workplace. Understanding culture is the key to successful global employee engagement.

[1]Sanchez, P. and McCauley, D. (2006), Measuring and managing engagement in a cross‐cultural workforce: New insights for global companies. Glob. Bus. Org. Exc., 26: 41–50. doi:10.1002/joe.20120

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