Know Thyself: Building Business Cultures in Growth Economies

Culture is how people make sense of the world. From the cacophonous streets of Mumbai and sultry beaches of Brazil to the neon lights of Tokyo and rhythms of Mexico City, culture gives us our identity. Culture is also scalable. Nations, regions and workplaces have cultures that define their collective individuals.

When groups of people behave according to a shared understanding of values and sensibilities, they are contributing to a culture. Businesses in growth economies must act now to establish prosperous internal business cultures that embrace the emerging opportunities of a digitally transforming world.

Build Consensus Throughout the Business

The evolving global economy presents growth nations with unprecedented access to a borderless international marketplace. The rapid pace of change, however, has many business leaders at odds regarding the value and role of culture to their financial success. This lack of consensus can muddle a company's vision, as well as confound a business' workforce and consumer base.

C-suite executives, managers and HR professionals — in businesses throughout the world — often have different interpretations of what internal culture means to profitability. The high-level takeaways from Mercer's research report, "Mitigating Culture Risk to Drive Deal Value," which focused on the mergers and acquisitions industry, offers businesses throughout growth economies valuable insights into the complexities of building consensus around culture:

  • C-suite executives rate governance and decision-making processes as the most important components of culture (60%).
  • Independent advisors believe performance management (measurement) can and should play a role in driving organizational change and defining culture (45%) — only 18 percent of HR professionals agree.
  • Corporate development professionals (41%) think that risk tolerance and management can undermine a transaction.
  • HR professionals rate collaboration (69%) and empowerment (54%) as the most important components of culture.

Businesses in growth economies should be proactive about defining who they are as a culture. Does the culture value technological innovation and input from employees, or is it risk-averse and strictly hierarchical? Does the company stress individual effort or teamwork? Is it focused on international growth or regional prominence? Is it rebellious and irreverent or humble and serious? What is the definition of success, and how are the employees and customers factored into that definition?

An effective corporate culture begins with building consensus throughout the leadership, workforce and operations.

Dhruv Mehra
by Dhruv Mehra

Multinational Client Group Leader, South & East Asia Singapore

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