International HR: 
8 ways to change company culture


July 18, 2019

Global HR is often tasked with changing company culture, particularly if the business is currently experiencing high levels of expat failure, employee turnover or productivity issues.

The difficulty is, while HR can lead change, you cannot implement cultural change without buy-in from business leaders.

An organisation’s culture is a broad concept impacting


  • How decisions are made
  • What is prioritised
  • Interactions with colleagues

If the leadership team is not on board the process is likely to be another layer of bureaucracy with very few tangible results. Although Human Resource professionals can’t change corporate culture alone, there are many ways you can lead the process: 


Be proactive

Changing an organisation’s culture is challenging. Although senior leadership may see the need for change, keeping the momentum going can be difficult. The day to day needs of the business may take over. This is where human resource management can play an important role. Your department can ensure the focus remains on the overall goal.


Define the current culture

Defining current culture will help everyone understand why and where change needs to happen. This is likely to involve a lot of research into values, behaviour and processes. The scope of organisational culture in each market will make it challenging for any other department to lead this research.


Get buy in from the leadership team

Many senior managers are sceptical about the success of organisational change if market conditions do not demand it. As an international human resources leader you can help by sharing examples and case studies of successful change from your industry.


Engineer the culture to your business needs

Create a culture within your business that reflects your business needs. This is going to vary by industry type. For some global businesses customer centricity is key while for others employee focus is more important.


Be accountable

Much like the first point on proactivity, accountability is also important when it comes to implementing such significant change. If possible include goals relating to organisational culture in performance management to ensure they are prioritised across the organisation.


Align culture with brand

The organisational culture you are building must work for your employees and the customers your products are trying to attract. This is particularly important in the digital age where reputation is so easily damaged by negative sentiment.


Don’t rush

You are embarking on a significant project when changing organisational culture, and it should be treated as such. Don’t try to rush change or overload the leadership team with related work. Try to plan the project out over a realistic timeframe and allow for particularly busy periods in your industry.


Embed culture into recruitment

Ensure candidates for open roles throughout the organisation align with the new culture. Use cultural fit interview questions to screen out unsuitable candidates in early round interviews. Questions like:


  • Describe the management style that will enable you to do your best work?
  • How would management and colleagues describe your work style in your current role?
  • What role do you take when working as part of a team?

Changing an organisation’s culture is particularly difficult when your business works across different countries. Finding the balance between company culture and local culture is crucial to success.


An equally important HR priority is the health and wellbeing of your employees, no matter where they are based. If you have questions about international health insurance for the expats in your business, we are happy to answer them.