Corporate Culture: Definition and Examples

Updated July 21, 2022

As you search for new job opportunities, you might take more into account than a job’s title, salary and benefits. You can also consider the organization itself, its culture and whether you would enjoy working in a specific environment. Finding a culture that fits your style of work can help you be successful and productive in your job. In this article, we will review what corporate culture means with workplace culture examples.

What is corporate culture?

Corporate culture is an organization’s values, ethics, vision, behaviors and work environment. It is what makes each company unique, and it impacts everything from public image to employee engagement and retention. If employees share a company’s ethics, vision and other cultural elements, it can positively affect a company’s bottom line. Companies with good corporate culture often have high workplace morale, and highly engaged, productive staff.

Organizations might define their cultures in their company culture statements, which are becoming nearly as important as mission statements. You can look for corporate culture statements when researching a company.

Related: Guide to Company Culture

Types of company culture

While corporate culture certainly varies among organizations, here are several common culture types you might encounter when searching for a job. When you research a company culture, you may be able to determine if your organizational style and core values align.

A “team-first” culture

Companies with this corporate culture hire people based on how well they fit with that organization’s values and beliefs, then consider skills and experience. This often makes for a happy workforce with proud and passionate employees. Team-first companies might also organize routine team outings and social gatherings outside of work. If you work for a team-first company, your employer may frequently ask for feedback and encourage open communication, even between departments.

An “elite” culture

Innovative, cutting-edge, fast-growing companies typically have elite cultures. They look to hire confident, talented people who will be daring leaders and go beyond traditional limits. Because these organizations are often trailblazers that are doing meaningful work in their fields, you may be highly motivated and proud of your efforts in this kind of culture.

A “horizontal” culture

Startups and smaller companies might promote a horizontal culture in which job titles, roles and descriptions are fluid among you and your coworkers. They encourage a collaborative, team-focused environment that is conversational and facilitates innovation. If your workplace employs a horizontal culture, you typically participate in many aspects of the company and are passionate about its shared goals and values. This type of company might have a CEO who is hands-on and involved in daily operations.

A “conventional” culture

Risk-averse companies with traditional dress codes and established hierarchies, such as banks and law firms, often have more conventional corporate cultures. With the rise in new technologies, social media and the number of millennials in the workforce, traditional companies have begun to embrace new communication and collaboration methods. If you work in this culture, you may thrive in organized environments and seek to work for well-founded, successful companies.

A “progressive” culture

Companies in transition, whether due to mergers, market changes, buyouts or new management, have progressive cultures. This environment offers an opportunity to redefine or clarify roles, goals and mission statements. If you communicate well, welcome change and like trying new ideas, you may succeed in progressive cultures.

A company culture might not fall strictly under these categories and could have any combination of these elements.

Related: Core Values: Overview and Examples

Signs of a great company culture

The companies with the best corporate cultures know what environment they need to create to have happy and engaged employees as well as a positive reputation. When you’re deciding where to work, look for these examples of good organizational culture:

Hiring the right people

Organizations that hire people who are cultural fits with and good representations of the company’s values typically have a positive work environment. Their workforce is united by a common purpose and passion beyond a weekly paycheck.

Having a cultural ambassador

Companies might identify people who best represent the corporate culture and are passionate about the organization to serve as ambassadors. Their feedback and efforts to embrace what the organization stands for can help a company grow and improve. Company leaders should be ambassadors for the corporate culture, as well, and demonstrate the organization’s values and beliefs.

Setting goals

People are likely to remain with a company if they are happy in their jobs and feel like they’re progressing professionally. As part of their corporate culture, companies can help their staff set personal goals and meet periodically to help them achieve those goals. They can give each team member something to work toward based on that individual’s ambitions and ideas.

Positive feedback

People who receive good feedback on a regular basis tend to be happier and more productive than those who do not get verbal encouragement.

Rewarding success

Companies with the best corporate cultures recognize and reward performance and achievements. They recognize every person’s—not just top performers’—work throughout the year so no one gets excluded or discouraged. These organizations celebrate milestones and achievements publicly, such as during meetings or through company-wide communications, and encourage staff to do the same for their peers.

Offering practical perks

While perks are not unique to companies with strong cultures, look for ones that actually benefit the workforce. Organizations with youthful, fitness-centric staff, for instance, might provide free gym or yoga studio memberships.

Trusting staff

Companies with strong organizational cultures trust their employees to do their work well and offer people independence. When employees and employers share the same company vision, this becomes increasingly possible.

Being flexible

Companies that allow employees to choose their hours to some degree tend to have productive and happy staff. People appreciate freedom and flexibility in their schedules to arrange their hours to allow time for managing other responsibilities and appointments.

Encouraging open communication

Communication is often key to success. Companies should embrace an open culture in which they encourage people to share their ideas and discuss problems. If people feel motivated and inspired, they will be happy and easy to retain.

Having an open ear

A company with a positive culture is one that listens to its employees’ needs, ideas and opinions. This helps create a happier and more cohesive workplace and makes people feel valued.

Hosting social events

Companies with good organizational cultures arrange social events, parties and outings that invite people to interact with each other and bond over shared values. This helps boost morale and an organization’s fun factor and helps people build stronger relationships with their teams.

Creating a fun workplace

Companies should aim to make coming to work something people look forward to. Organizations can cultivate a friendly and playful environment by celebrating successes and adding things like games and ping-pong tables in the break room.

Perks, benefits and a fun work environment are key to staying happy and engaged at work. However, you can also tell a quality corporate culture by how a company treats its staff. Look for organizations that offer their employees independence, a voice and a sense of ownership. 

As you conduct your job search, research the corporate culture of the companies where you would like to work. Some people do their best work in an outgoing, open, community-oriented setting, and others simply want to work for a company with similar core values—no matter the office space or perks. Look for companies in your job search that support a company culture in which you can thrive.

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