Ever wondered how multinational companies maintain a culture that incentivises people to thrive?
Ask Iain Croll.
As head of the international cultural ambassador program, he oversees the cornerstone of the employee happiness programme at AOL. Iain informs us about the importance of getting employees to volunteer to take ownership of the culture around them. Not only this, but how to get so many volunteer cultural ambassadors that they have to turn down half of the applicants.
Can you describe your Cultural Ambassador Program in 200 words?
The AOL Cultural Ambassador Program aims to impact the AOL Culture throughout the employee lifecycle, from a culture fit assessment prior to hiring through onboarding and beyond.
We have a team of high performing and motivated employees across the business who focus on ensuring a new hire has an amazing first few weeks at AOL. New employees learn about AOL’s Cultural Pillars and how they translate into expected behaviours. Additionally the Cultural Ambassadors organise events with a global impact to ensure all employees have opportunities locally to meet new people within their organisations.
What is the rationale, or fundamental beliefs behind the program?
The programme is there to support the AOL cultural pillars and bring them to life in the various offices we operate in.
Why is the program important to creating a great company culture at AOL?
It democratizes our culture. We have employees from every department and international region in our CA programme so this helps us keep our culture relevant to everyone. It gives us the flexibility to adapt our culture to local requirements whilst retaining a common purpose. As we have acquired a number of companies, our CAs have helped to integrate and onboard our newest employees.
How have you implemented it on a global scale?
We have a global programme with Cultural Ambassadors in most of our offices from Singapore to Brazil. I work with the Managing Directors of each market to ensure that we have a good spread of people and we aim for around 10% employee participation.
What difficulties or resistance have you faced putting into action?
Thankfully we have had no resistance. The program is supported from the very top of our organisation and each country MD has goals aligned to people and culture so they are all very enthusiastic and supportive of the program. It has been important to recognise it’s a voluntary role on top of our employee’s normal roles. Recognition from the top has been key to making that attractive.
What noticeable effect has the program had on morale, output, cohesion across global offices etc.?
One of the most noticeable effects is from the individual groups talking to each other and sharing learnings and opportunities. There are some economies of scale in planning that can be copied in other markets. This can be applied for putting on events, or creating guides and ideas around promoting our culture externally. We are also holding global events which can be held simultaneously everywhere, such as the AOLympics. Furthermore, we include culture in our employee pulse surveys to ensure that the program is having a positive impact on morale.
What learnings has it produced? What advice would you give other organizations pursuing a similar initiative?
My advice to other organisations is to have the right people involved in the program. We have a strict recruitment policy for the program to ensure that we have high performing people with the right outlook participating. The program will only be as good as the people involved so making sure you have the right people is the most important foundation. It’s also crucial that senior management are onboard with the program and can see the benefit of it long term.