At the beginning of this series, organizational culture was still a nebulous concept. It is not homogenous; it is largely a lived experience, so it can be hard to pin down and qualify. Yet, frameworks that aim to measure culture exists. Specifically, Dr. Hofstede’s study on culture has been enlightening to the oft-intangible makeup of social behaviors and norms that influence an institution. More importantly, it has shown us that if you can measure culture, you can cultivate it, too, and—if necessary—change it.

A Blended Approach

Considering all of this, keep in mind that you do not have to completely upend your organizational culture as you expand into the U.S. market. Management inSites CEO Daniel Andrepont noted, upon reflecting on graduates of our International Business Incubator program, that “throughout the years, we have seen that the most successful companies are those that set themselves apart from standard U.S. companies by bringing traditions and values from the parent company to the U.S. operation.” The blended approach can also leverage some aspects to attract top talent. For example, we’ve seen European-based companies offer more PTO (personal time off) to their U.S. employees to match with the work-life balance attitudes that are more prevalent in their home country.

“At the same time,” cautions Andrepont, “foreign-owned companies must understand and adapt to the demands of the U.S., taking into consideration feedback [in order] to ensure the best organizational, marketing, sales, and service strategies for the U.S.” Occasionally, it is necessary to make adaptions or modifications. Organizations must be flexible during the transition to acknowledge that American expectations from an employee and customer perspective may (and often do) differ from those in their home country.

So, where do you start?

First, you’ll want to clearly understand the parent company’s values and culture to ensure that they are communicated effectively to your U.S. subsidiary. An approach worth considering is allotting time to create a comprehensive set of guidelines and policies that reflect your company’s mission and vision, ensuring everyone in your organization knows them.

While it may seem arbitrary, dedicating time and resources to cultivating a culture within your U.S. subsidiary signals to employees—and clients alike—that your organization is fully committed to this venture. Any employees you bring over from the parent company need to be adaptable to the culture you are building at your subsidiary. They will have difficulty adjusting to the lifestyle if they are too rigid in the norms of their own National Culture.

This can lead to tension in the workplace. At the same time, ensure that American workers undergo screening to ensure they fit in as well. During the interview phase, have questions addressing the most critical aspects of your company’s culture. Note whether candidates have read your mission and vision statements and if they speak to how it resonated with them as a reason why they want to join the company.

U.S. Advice

Additionally, consider the psychological aspects of working for a start-up, as many U.S. subsidiaries operate in this manner. “Making sure employees feel they are part of the family is key,” said Andrepont. Your U.S. subsidiary employees must feel they’re joining a unified body rather than a barely attached limb; this will take time and investment to cultivate. Of course, a few kinks will arise throughout the cross-cultural adjustment period.

However, Andrepont advises non-domestic companies to “invest in frequent visits to the U.S.” and “send key U.S. employees for training in the home country.” Consider matching some U.S. employees with employees of the parent company so they learn the company’s core values and competitive advantage through direct participation.

Final Notes

As we said, there will be a learning curve at the beginning. To achieve balance, embrace your U.S. employees’ and customers’ unique perspectives and experiences. By listening to their feedback and incorporating their ideas into their company’s operations, organizations can create a more inclusive and diverse workplace culture that respects its core values and traditions.

Ultimately, successfully establishing a U.S. subsidiary requires a delicate balancing act between preserving your company’s identity and adapting to the needs of a new market. By approaching this challenge with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to your company’s values and culture, you can create a thriving business that meets the needs of both your U.S. and international stakeholders.

Looking for the previous installments? Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 3.5.

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