Samsung to ‘act like a startup’ and reform authoritarian office culture

Author: PM editorial | Date: 30 March 2016

Electronics giant with more than 300,000 employees promises fresh corporate strategy

Electronics giant Samsung plans to revamp its top-down hierarchical structure and rigid corporate culture to act more like a lean, hungry startup, it says.

The Korean organisation held a ‘Startup Samsung’ ceremony at its headquarters in Suwon South Korea, this week, in which it promised an end to unnecessary meetings and staff working excessive hours.

The plans come at a time when Samsung’s semiconductor and phone operations are under pressure from Chinese companies, and the organisation – a flagship for Asian innovation and technological capability – is looking to expand into new areas.

In January, Samsung announced a 40 per cent drop in its fourth quarter 2015 profits. It is hoped that cutting down on bureaucracy will foster innovation and boost sales.

"We aim to reform our internal culture, so we can execute quickly as a startup company and push towards open communication and continuous innovation," said a Samsung statement.

Samsung will announce in June exactly how it plans to reorganise with measures such as reducing the number of levels in its staff hierarchy and holding more frequent online discussions between senior and junior employees. It said new vacation systems would mean employees can spend more time with their families and take breaks for self-improvement.

Online debates were first held last year, with 26,000 Samsung employees making suggestions around how the business could change direction. Flexible working hours and a loosening of dress code requirements for weekend work were introduced, but many employees still report that working hours are too long.

A change of leader for Samsung is also widely expected soon; Lee Jae-yong, 48, is preparing to take over as chairman from his father Lee Kun-hee, who suffered a heart attack in 2014.