Company culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, and practices that shape the behavior and attitudes of an organization’s employees.
It encompasses the company’s mission, expectations, and the work environment, influencing how employees interact with one another and with clients, and often significantly impacting overall job satisfaction and performance.
A positive company culture involves creating an environment that upholds constructive and beneficial attitudes that enhance the overall function of a company.
A positive company culture fosters employee satisfaction, which can lead to higher productivity and lower staff turnover rates. If you feel valued and inspired at work, your motivation levels may also increase.
I’ll start with explaining examples of different types of company cultures, then proceed to an explanation of some real-life company cultures.
Company Culture Examples
1. Adhocracy Culture
Adhocracy culture is distinguished by its adaptive and dynamic nature, driven by innovation and risk-taking (Noone, Lin, & Sharma, 2022).
A focus on moving forward, combined with a propensity to experiment, epitomizes this culture.
Pros include adaptability in the quickly changing market, and stimulation of creative, out-of-the-box thinking. For instance, Google, a company renowned for its adhocratic culture, is known for its innovative products like Google Maps and Google Glass.
However, without solidified policies or procedures, the organization might lack coherence or be vulnerable to indecisiveness. The culture’s policies and decisions seem “ad-hoc” rather than structured and thought-through.
2. Clan Culture
Clan culture refers to a friendly, people-oriented, and collaborative workplace environment (Zhang, 2019).
This type of culture likens a company to a large family, prioritizing harmony, cohesion, and morale. Companies with a strong clan culture are characterized by a collaborative work environment, high team engagement, and a general emphasis on employee welfare.
On the downside, the overly familial or relaxed aspects may affect productivity or cause the business to lose sight of its strategic objectives. Additionally, decision-making processes may be prolonged in a collective setting, affecting the pace of operations.
See Also: 175 Words to Describe Company Culture
3. Customer-Focused Culture
A customer-focused culture puts customer satisfaction at the heart of its strategies and operations (Bartley, Gomibuchi & Mann, 2007).
In this culture, every effort is geared towards serving and satisfying the customer.
On the flip side, ensuring customer satisfaction at all times can sometimes leads to negative externalities, such as declining employee satisfaction (when their opinions or perspectives are subordinated to those of the customer).
4. Hierarchy Culture
Hierarchy culture is a more structured and formal approach to organizing a business entity (Diefenbach & Sillince, 2011).
It emphasizes stability, efficiency, and doing things right, with a clear ranking system among employees. Elements of hierarchy culture are evident, for example, in many militaries.
However, this culture can thwart creativity or innovation, as it often prioritizes procedure and protocol over adaptability and flexibility. An overemphasis on rules and regulations might also cause low employee engagement or dissatisfaction.
5. Market-Driven Culture
A market-driven culture places priority on understanding and fulfilling the needs of the market first and foremost (Brondoni, 2008).
Such a culture is driven by proactive market research and attempting to establish a deep understanding of market trends. This approach enables companies to remain ahead of the competition by providing goods and services that predict, meet, and exceed customer needs.
However, a danger lies in the possibility of neglecting employee well-being or the long-term stability of the organization when market demands take precedence over everything else.
6. Purpose-Driven Culture
Purpose-driven culture is characterized by a collective, conscious, and intentional approach to fulfill the company’s stated mission and vision (Rey, Bastons & Sotok, 2019).
This culture can motivate employees towards a common goal, thereby strengthening the sense of cohesion and unity in the workplace. The clothing company Patagonia, for example, has a clear purpose of stustainability.
However, such companies must be careful to vet potential employees to hire people who personally identify with the purpose as defined by the company. Furthermore, an overly hard focus on the organization’s mission has the potential of overshadowing other important aspects of the company, namely, competitiveness.
7. Innovative Culture
Innovative culture is defined by a proclivity for novelty and the encouragement of new ideas (Polding, 2008).
Corporations that cultivate an innovative culture typically have processes designed to foster creativity, such as brainstorming sessions, inventive reward systems, and the allocation of time and resources for idea development.
On the downside, constant change and innovation can sometimes lead to instability or lack of consistency (see: adhocracy). Notably, not every innovative idea will be successful, resulting in wasted resources and potential frustration for employees when many of their concepts don’t flourish.
8. Creative Culture
A creative culture nurtures originality and encourages employees to think outside the box (Burkus, 2014).
This type of culture is common in industries where being first-to-market with a unique product or idea is paramount, such as advertising, media, and technology companies like Snapchat and Spotify.
However, similar to an innovative culture, the risks can be high. A culture that emphasizes creativity can also result in distractions from core business objectives if all efforts are directed towards pursuing the next big idea, possibly resulting in a lack of focus or alignment.
9. Patriarchal Culture
Patriarchal culture is defined by a hierarchical authority structure, where power is concentrated at the top and senior figures act as paternal figures to the rest of the organization.
This culture can provide clarity of direction and foster respect, but can also lead to an environment where employees feel they lack agency or the ability to make important decisions.
Some feel this type of culture reduces an employee’s ability to participate in decision-making, and therefore can stifle innovation or initiative due to its top-down nature. Also, with power concentrated at the top, there may be a slower response time to market changes.
10. Bureaucratic Culture
Bureaucratic culture is defined by strict procedures, rules, and hierarchies (Hendryadi et al., 2019).
It’s characterized by explicit job descriptions, lots of levels of management, and clear, considered direction.
A bureaucratic culture ensures clear governance and high-accountability standards, but can also hamper adaptation, decision-making processes, and employee engagement; the strict adherence to policies and procedures can sometimes be at the expense of employee creativity and individuality.
11. Charismatic Leadership Culture
A charismatic leadership culture revolves around the influence and charm of a singular character, who possesses the ability to inspire and energize others (Antonakis et al., 2022).
Business leaders such as Richard Branson and Elon Musk are prime examples of charismatic leaders who significantly shape their organizations’ cultures.
Nevertheless, this reliance on a single individual may present risks like instability in case of this individual’s absence. It can also foster a culture of dependency and inhibit the growth and development of other potential leaders within the company.
12. Role-Based Culture
Role-based culture is a type of organizational culture where each individual has a specific, clearly defined role (Nazir & Zamir, 2015).
Having well-defined roles and responsibilities can improve efficiency and prevent work overlaps.
Yet, a strict focus on distinct roles can easily result in silos within the company, inhibiting collaboration and mutual understanding across departments.
13. Caring Organizational Culture
A caring organizational culture focuses on the well-being and fulfillment of its employees, endorsing a compassionate approach towards people management (Groysberg et al., 2018).
Such companies place a strong emphasis on providing comprehensive employee benefits, promoting a work-life balance, and encouraging understanding and empathy among staff members.
The risk, however, might lie in overemphasizing care at the expense of performance. For instance, necessary but tough decisions might be postponed or avoided to prevent upsetting anyone, possibly hindering the company’s overall growth.
14. Safety Organizational Culture
Safety organizational culture signifies an environment where employee safety is regarded as a paramount concern (Antonsen, 2017).
Companies in manufacturing or construction, for instance, often need to adopt stringent safety cultures to reduce accidents and improve worker welfare.
However, an over-emphasis on safety can potentially impede productivity if excessive precautions take precedence over getting the work done. Importantly, a foundation of safety must be set, but irrational or unreasonable paranoia about safety issues could become a concern.
15. Democratic Culture
A democratic culture emphasizes the active participation of all employees in decision-making processes (Frega, 2022).
Input and suggestions from employees at all levels are welcomed and valued. This can foster a sense of responsibility and commitment among team members, as they feel they directly contribute to the decisions made in the company.
However, too much democracy can sometimes lead to indecisiveness, extended deliberations, and slower decision-making processes. This can delay project completion times and impede the company’s ability to respond swiftly to market changes.
16. Lifestyle Culture
Lifestyle culture reflects an organization’s commitment to promoting a specific lifestyle that aligns with their brand or values.
For example, a company like Lululemon Athletica – a yoga-inspired, athletic apparel company – promotes a lifestyle of health, wellness, and active living.
Though a lifestyle culture can significantly boost brand identity and loyalty among customers, it may also exclude potential recruits or customers who don’t align with or aspire to the particular lifestyle the company promotes.
See Also: Examples of Lifestyles
Real-Life Workplace Cultures
Type of Culture: Adhocracy Culture
Netflix is renowned for its distinct adhocracy culture. It is a company that embraces change, encouraging risk-taking, innovation, and experimentation. This culture makes sense for a company like Netflix, which disrupted the entertainment industry by leveraging streaming technology to provide convenient and personalized entertainment to its customers.
19. The Walt Disney Company
Type of Culture: Customer-Focused Culture
From its movies to its theme parks, the Walt Disney Company prioritizes customer satisfaction above all, aiming to provide memorable experiences for all its guests. This is cumulative in their customer-centric approach, where every decision or strategy is centered around the guest’s experience.
Type of Culture: Innovative Culture
Google is known for its innovative culture. The company encourages a creative atmosphere, supports innovative initiatives, and is not afraid to take risks. The birth of products like Google Maps, Google Glass, and Nest are testaments to this solidly innovative culture.
Type of Culture: Purpose-Driven Culture
Outdoor apparel company Patagonia is well known for its strong purpose-driven culture with a clear mission: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” This central mission drives all of their business operations from sourcing sustainable materials to donating a portion of their profit to environmental causes.
Type of Culture: Market-Driven Culture
Amazon, the multinational e-commerce giant, exhibits a market-driven culture. The company prides itself on its customer obsession, vigorously studying market trends, and understanding consumer behavior. This allows Amazon to provide a vast selection of goods and services, competitive prices, and convenience, staying one step ahead of competition.
Type of Culture: Adhocracy Culture
Facebook, now Meta Platforms, has a culture characterized by continuous learning, innovation, and risk-taking. Known for their mantra “Move Fast and Break Things,” they maintain an environment where rapid innovation is the norm and employees are encouraged to push boundaries. This culture supports Facebook’s objectives of staying at the forefront of social media and extends to their recent ventures into the realm of metaverse.
Type of Culture: Creative Culture
Pixar Animation Studios, the creators of beloved films such as “Toy Story” and “Up”, cultivates a strong creative culture. Inviting employees from diverse backgrounds and promoting a culture of inclusivity and creativity, Pixar ensures rich, innovative ideas. Their Braintrust, a group that offers feedback and critique on ongoing projects, serves as an example of this culture carried out effectively.
Type of Culture: Innovative Culture
Tesla is characterized by its innovative culture, focusing extensively on the research and development of electric vehicles and renewable energy solutions. Employees and departments at Tesla are constantly pushed to create, innovate, and disrupt traditional automotive and energy industries. It is this culture that has driven Tesla’s groundbreaking developments in electric vehicles and sustainable energy solutions.
26. Southwest Airlines
Type of Culture: Clan Culture
Southwest Airlines fosters a clan culture, making a central motif around treating employees like family. The airline is known for its commitment to employee satisfaction, operating on the belief that happy employees lead to happy customers. This caring and collaborative culture has been instrumental in earning Southwest a reputation for one of the best customer service experiences in the industry.
Type of Culture: Customer-Focused Culture
Online retailer Zappos is often cited as an example of an exceptional customer-focused culture. It prioritizes customer service above all else, often going above and beyond to please customers, and encouraging employees to take their time with customer service calls. This culture not only delights customers but sets Zappos apart from many of its competitors in the online retail space.
Benefits of a Positive Company Culture
A positive company culture makes the workplace a more productive space, but also has qualitative benefits for both employees and customers. Here are some brief examples:
1. employee retention: A positive culture retains talent. Corporations such as SAS Institute have showcased this beautifully. With benefits like high-quality recreational facilities and subsidized child care, SAS has a turnover rate of just 4%, far below the national average.
2. Customer satisfaction: A positive culture may also enhance customer satisfaction. For example, Vranesevic, Vignali and Vignali, (2002) have identified a positive “connection between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction,” Customers who respect the culture of a company may buy into the company’s mission, becoming repeat customers and evangelists of your brand.
3. Brand Identity: A positive company culture sets you apart, and this culture message spreads among current employees, potential employees, and customers. For example, a company with a positive and innovative reputation may be able to attract top-tier talent in an area; while a brand that lives a positive identity like “sustainability” can attract a loyal niche of customers who value this culture in a company.
Next Up: Write your Mission and Values
Once you know your ideal company culture, it’s a good idea to weave it into your company mission and values statement. For help with that, check out examples from within your vertical:
- Construction Company Mission and Vision Statements
- Non-Profit Mission and Vision Statements
- Restaurant Mission and Vision Statements
- Spa and Esthetician Mission and Vision Statements
- Real Estate Mission and Vision Statements
- Coffee Shop Mission and Vision Statements
Overall, setting a positive company culture is paramount. It ensures employee satisfaction, aids in talent retention, augments customer satisfaction, spurs creativity, and forms your company’s unique identity. Importantly, by now, these influences should underscore why forging a positive culture serves not as a luxury, but a necessity.
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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]