National Culture Vs Corporate Culture
Part A – General
Why do people behave similarly? Do they have shared beliefs and values? Most likely, our minds shape our actions and once people speak the same language and do things in a similar way, they form a culture. Different cultures can be seen in countries, companies and communities.
We grow up with the values of our national culture such as certainty vs. uncertainty, risk taking vs. risk-averse and good vs. evil, and held them deeply and gradually change over time. Geert Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist, has identified six dimensions of national culture: power distance, avoidance of uncertainty, individualism, masculinity, long-term orientation, and indulgence vs. indulgence. restricted. The dimension scores vary from country to country. Power distance is high in Latin, Asian, and African countries and low in Germanic, Scandinavian, and Anglo-Saxon nations. The Latin and Germanic countries and Japan have a high level of uncertainty avoidance; Chinese, Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon countries are more accepting of uncertainty.
On the other hand, corporate culture is made up of dress codes, systems, and ‘culture carriers’ such as its founder, CEO, and managers. Company practices are developed and learned from work to achieve their mission and objectives. In addition, people can move from one company to another. Therefore, they are more superficial and adaptable than the fundamental values of the national culture. According to Hofstede, national cultures belong to anthropology; organizational cultures to sociology. Within a large company, various departments may even exhibit different cultures due to working with different people.
Can the corporate culture weaken the national culture? Certainly, conflicts will arise especially in multinational corporations (MNCs) due to cultural differences between local national culture and imported corporate culture. Taking as an example a multinational in the Middle East, the local worker will not stay up late to complete his work if he has a family duty and this does not mean that he is an irresponsible employee. However, a Western executive might take it as if he doesn’t care about his job and disagreements could arise. An INSEAD professor, André Laurent, found that cultural differences were significantly greater between managers from different nations who worked within the same multinational than between managers who worked for companies in their own country of origin. In a typical multinational, Germans apparently became more German, Americans more American, Swedes more Swedish, and so on. The explanation is not very understandable, so it could suggest that employees are not adjusting to a shared corporate culture if it is not aligned with their national cultures. There is also a general trend showing that workers who do not fit into the corporate culture will either not get a job in the first place or will quit within a few years.
Corporate culture is not defined in a single day and evolves and becomes more visible over time. Almost all successful companies had developed a strong and positive culture, based not only on management and administration, but also on leadership and empowerment. For example, Toyota presented its “Toyota Way” and its clear devotion to teamwork and continuous improvement (“Kaizen”) has given them a competitive advantage and has attracted many companies to learn from them. With a strong and clear corporate culture, companies can enjoy many benefits, such as maintaining similar standards, greater loyalty, greater motivation and productivity, and greater management control.
How do leaders create corporate culture? At the beginning of the business, the founder or founders play an important role in setting the standards based on their beliefs, values, and assumptions. However, once they begin to recruit new members to the management team, more learning experiences will be shared and new beliefs, values, and assumptions will be passed on. As more and more people join the company, there is a greater need for the CEO to create a shared vision, a code of practice, and the same level of risk-taking. Unfortunately, the culture does not survive if the main ‘culture carriers’ leave or most of the members leave. With a strong value of individualism in America, companies take on a similar value. Therefore, a corporate culture could reflect the characteristics of its founders, such as Jack Welsh at GE and Steve Jobs at Apple. Interestingly, there are also companies with a long history that can continue with their own unique culture, no matter who is or is in top management. IBM is an example.
Part B – Specific (BreadTalk)
BreadTalk was established in 2000 and is a designer confectionery store, most famous for its cream-filled buns covered with pork floss, called Flosss. For the third year, BreadTalk Group Limited was listed on the SGX. It is one of Singapore’s leading food and beverage brands, known for being creative, innovative, pioneering and for its premium products. Today, BreadTalk has reached 12 countries with more than 300 bakery establishments (including franchises), 33 food courts and 8 restaurants, supported by more than 4,000 employees. Its brands include BreadTalk, Toast Box, Food Republic, Din Tai Fung, and The Station Kitchen.
BreadTalk’s vision is to be a trendsetting international lifestyle brand and its mission is to lead a new lifestyle culture with innovative new changes and creative differentiation to craft products with passion and vitality. They believe in providing QSC (Quality, Service and Cleanliness) for their clients. They consider training as an important aspect for their company. All new apprentices must first receive training at their BreadTalk outlets to learn how to pack bread, serve customers, etc. Periodically, the training and development department also sends its headquarters staff to professional development courses. They also believe strongly in team bonding, and before a new BreadTalk store opens, the entire store staff will go to the beach or a day of exciting team-building activities. With a closer bond and understanding, your staff will be able to work well together.
Additionally, BreadTalk President Dr. George Quek encourages his entire staff to be creative and always think out of the box. A reliable team of employees and partners is vital for your business to grow successfully. Empower your managers to make decisions on their own. “You can’t just send someone overseas without empowering them. The market in China, for example, is much bigger than Singapore, so the manager we send there has to be trained to deal with that kind of scale.” Your secret to BreadTalk success is being diligent.
In my opinion, our Singaporean culture (for example, a heavy emphasis on education, collectivism, and diligence) does play a role in shaping BreadTalk’s corporate culture, especially by local employees. BreadTalk is also clearly formed by its founder, Dr. Quek. The main difficulty is making your foreign employees feel comfortable working in Singapore. I think the BreadTalk culture will not be greatly affected by other Asian countries, such as China, India and Vietnam. However, in today’s competitive market, there are different patterns and traits that companies must cultivate to be successful, such as creativity, innovation, differentiation, training, team building and autonomy.
In 2008, BreadTalk had specially created a muffin, called “Peace Panda” and all proceeds from the sales of this muffin had been used to help the Sichuan earthquake recovery. Together with the Red Cross, they had raised S $ 40,000 in just one week. This corporate social responsibility (CSR) law demonstrated its innovative way of using its product as a fundraising tool by choosing China’s national animal and giving it a name, also starting with ‘P’. Although CSR is not really considered part of your corporate culture, it gives your brand free media coverage and can leave a deep impression on the hearts of your clients as it shows humanity and compassion. It is like a way of differentiation from other F&B companies. When people support the cause by buying their “Panda of Peace”, they will also buy other breads. It also helped boost their sales.