What factors are the most important for better efficiency, growth, and customer orientation within a company? A discussion with Jens Karolyi, senior vice president of corporate marketing and culture for the Interroll group, about what corporate culture can contribute to commercial success.
Mr. Karolyi, Interroll has been steadily climbing uphill for years. What are the reasons for this success?
The fact that our customers around the world value our work can, of course, be attributed to a number of reasons. But ultimately, the success of a leading tech company like Interroll always comes down to the competence and dedication of its people. It hasn’t been in vain that this knowledge has formed the basis of our company-wide leading value for years - “Climate of Excellence”, which also relies on the constant advancement of our employees. We want to learn and get better all the time - for the sake of our customers.
It’s easy to want something, as we all know. But how do you actually live out this approach?
By using this value as a yardstick for our daily work, it becomes a living and permanent part of the institution. An example of success is the Interroll production system, which has ensured continual and consistent optimization at all of our locations worldwide for years.
But that’s not all we do, not by a long shot. In the last year or so, we’ve applied a company-wide program called “Culture for Growth” that develops opportunities for continual improvement as related to corporate culture.
To empower the “inner strength” of the company
How did the idea of “Culture for Growth” develop?
The idea originated during the annual management strategy discussions. We asked ourselves how we could better realize Interroll’s great potential for expertise, identification, and motivation. After all, beauty comes from within. How can the company’s inner strength truly be awoken, systematically and on a wide scale?
Needless to say, this approach is especially effective for a business like Interroll that’s growing fast and going international at an equally rapid pace. That said, it was also immediately clear to us that an appropriate initiative wouldn’t be easy to implement as a directive or management appeal. If you want to succeed in this field, you can’t put yourself outside the system of values.
... But that also includes being able to criticize yourself.
Absolutely. Nowadays, asking others to scrutinize themselves to learn something new and stray off the beaten track won’t get you very far if you’re behaving like a hermit. The main thing is having a trustworthy model.
That’s why the management for the program wrote the motto “It starts with us” on the flags. Meanwhile, every executive board member has received critical management feedback from their colleagues and direct subordinates. That way everyone at the top level of management knows what they need to work on in order to improve their leadership skills and performance. But this is obviously just one element of our “Culture for Growth” initiative, which takes a holistic approach.
What else is part of that?
Next, of course, you have to know where you stand. For this reason, we - together with an expert external partner - conducted an anonymous survey of all our employees, about 2,000 worldwide. Both the high rate of participation and the quality of the answers surpassed our expectations, incidentally. The large majority understands and accepts the company values.
High standards for senior management
However, the surveys reveal central areas of activity for prospective training and incentive measures, which are selectively addressed for specific countries and the results of which are assessed twice a year. And of course with “Culture for Growth,” we also took a good hard look at our senior management, about 200 executives.
What exactly do you expect from this target group?
In this field, particularly high standards arise regarding advancing internationalization, technological change, and shifting customer demands. To name just one example, the major sorter contract for the Brazilian post required three of our global Centers of Excellence to work successfully with each other and with international partners from outside of the software industry. This only succeeds with participants who can think and cooperate over country and disciplinary borders.
On the other hand, management obviously plays a significant role as the role model, ambassador, and talent promoter when it comes to bringing awareness of change into the company. This is why with regular workshops and forums where even executive board members participate, we foster the exchange of new ideas, provide inspiration, learn from one another, pool our expertise, and facilitate the international networking that is increasingly necessary to our projects.
What other challenges lie in store for Interroll?
We’re a mid-market company that’s growing strong internationally. We can’t let ourselves become fossilized during this process. Instead, we need to retain the flexibility to allow short decision-making channels and flat hierarchies.