FROM LONDON TO NAIROBI:
EXPLORING THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPANY CULTURE
By Malini Parkash, Account Manager, Gong Communications
Google’s global employees (called ‘Googlers’) are encouraged to share what makes them ‘Googley’. They actively reflect on how they identify with Google’s culture as owners, not receivers. This insight was shared by Dorothy Ooko, Google’s PR lead for Africa; guest speaker at Gong Kenya’s recent Cultural Capital event held in Nairobi. Fellow speaker Chris Harrison, Africa partner at The Brand Inside, discussed the importance of defining, communicating and measuring culture.
Observing this event while on secondment to Kenya from our UK office, what stood out for me was the lively Q&A amongst the 50 attendees – a rich discussion around the possibility of a borderless culture. A concept viewed as highly appealing by those in the audience working for international organisations with HQs overseas.
The benefits of having a strong company culture are well documented and include loyalty, retention of talent, lack of conflict, and high levels of engagement (Harvard Business). If an organisation can establish a purpose that determines its general direction of travel, then its culture will govern everyday decision making. This is crucial for companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions. When the overarching company culture is the guiding force, whether you are in Kenya, Ghana, London or New York, the brand experience, both for employees and customers, well communicated, should feel the same, while also allowing for local cultural expression.
How this looks will vary but from a comms perspective, a key route is the uncovering of moments that shine a light on employees who are living the company culture across borders: through case studies, personal testimonies or visuals. What it can do when people don’t have physical proximity is create opportunities to build connections and reinforce values and behaviours.
Strong cultures create employees who are brand ambassadors, proven to help with talent acquisition and retention. Recent Gallup research showed that employees with a strong connection to their organisation’s culture show higher levels of engagement and are more likely to refer friends to their company.
Our Kenya and UK teams work collaboratively on pitches and briefs as required, sharing ideas and best practices. But Gong Kenya has its own flavour, which originates as much from the personality of its team members as it is shaped by its clients and its surroundings. Based in a dynamic co-working space, Ikigai (the Japanese term for ‘a reason for being’), that unites communication specialists, founders of VC start-ups and East African NGOs, the feeling of opportunity and enthusiasm for what can be achieved is palpable.
Doing business in developing economies such as Kenya, while not without challenge, is getting easier as evidenced by The World Bank’s latest Doing Business report that saw Kenya move 19 places higher in the global rankings to 61, earning it a place among the 30 most improved economies in this year’s Index. The forward momentum in the city is evident, with several roads and new infrastructure projects currently underway, alongside towering office and accommodation blocks sprouting up in all corners of the burgeoning city. Amongst them, Gong Kenya client Garden City, one of the earliest mixed used developments – a flagship real estate project by Actis along Thika Superhighway, combining commercial offices, residential property and an international shopping mall in one design, with plenty of green outdoor spaces.
Albeit not quite Googler scale (yet!), Gong’s employees (so-called Gongers) embrace a core set of values, expressed in the four Cs: Considerate, Curious, Courageous and Connected, and adherence to these values transcends geography. Through the warm welcome I received from the team: their enthusiasm to introduce me to their friends and family and to show me the wildlife that surrounds the city as well as their commitment to go above and beyond to deliver excellent client services. The trip made me eager to return to Africa and further encourage the depth of collaboration between offices that generates fantastic results for clients.