8 Types of Company Culture: Which is Yours?

Date: April 26, 2021
company culture

There are a few different ways to succeed as a business, and just as many types of company culture. Traditionally, companies have focused their efforts on offering high-quality products or excellent customer service. But perhaps what truly gives an organization its capacity to thrive are two things: its strategy (its destination and plan for getting there), and the company culture that drives it (its fuel). 

company culture office games

Why is company culture so important?

Company culture (or corporate culture), can be defined as the values, beliefs, and group norms that guide a workforce in its behaviours, has become a hot topic among business leaders in recent years as a measure of company success. In a research paper on corporate culture, 92% of surveyed companies agreed that culture is a major factor in a firm’s value. 

Various research shows that companies with strong company cultures and high employee engagement experience higher profitability, better productivity, earn great reputations, and have ease attracting the best talent in the market.

For those reasons, business leaders have been doing their best to implement employee reward and recognition programs as part of their culture to get the very most out of their employees. 

But what makes a “strong company culture”? 

company culture office ping pong

It's not one size fits all. If you’ve worked in a couple of different companies through the course of your career, you’ve probably experienced, firsthand, how every culture is wildly different. In a Harvard Business Review study, “The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture”, culture experts Boris Groysberg, Jeremiah Lee, Jesse Price, and J. Yo-Jud Cheng made their efforts to define the 8 of the most common corporate cultures based on two factors placed along an axis: how people interact, and how they respond to change.

You can watch The 8 Types of Company Culture explainer video here.

Let’s get into the characteristics of these 8 styles of corporate cultures to find out which one sounds the most like your organization. Bear in mind that you might identify with more than one of these culture types since cultures can often be a mix. Most of the time, you’ll find you identify strongly with one primary culture as well as one secondary culture.  

The 8 types of company culture 

1. The caring culture — “we support & help each other” 

Caring corporate cultures are warm working environments that prioritize mutual trust, respect, and positive relationships within the company. In the Harvard study, 63% of companies in the sample ranked themselves as having this cultural style as their first or second culture type. A perfect example of this type of culture can be found in Walt Disney Company.

Walt Disney Company logo

Your company might have a caring culture if:

  • On any given day in the office, you see lots of teamwork and cross-functional collaboration between teammates. 
  • Your employees treat one another kindly.
  • Your leaders make it a point to put employee needs first. 
  • Your corporate culture feels like a family.

2. The purpose culture — “we care about what we do” 

The purpose culture is an idealistic one. 9% of companies in the HBR identified with this culture type. Companies with a purpose culture care about the role their organization plays in the world. Whole Foods is an example of a company that reflects and purpose culture. 

Whole Foods logo

Your company might have a purpose culture if:

  • It is passionate about its mission. 
  • Its mission is focused on sustainability or supporting the global community. 
  • Your employees feel united in your company’s mission and vision in creating a brighter future.

3. The order culture — “we follow the rules”

The order culture is typical in traditional industries that prefer structure. 15% of companies in the HBR belong to this style. An example of a company with this culture style would be the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). This makes sense because their whole business is about following the rules. 

SEC logo

Your company might have an order culture if:

  • Employees are rewarded for following the rules.
  • It has long-standing shared norms and customs.
  • It is cooperative in nature, but likes to do things right. 
  • Processes and changes in the business are very predictable. 
  • It has very clear hierarchies.
  • Its guidelines and processes are well documented, followed and almost set in stone. 
  • Making big changes is often a slow and unwelcome process.

4. The learning culture — “we never stop learning”

In a learning corporate culture, leaders expect employees to be curious, innovative, open-minded and creative. 7% of organizations in the HBR classified themselves as having this culture. An example of a culture with a learning culture is Tesla.

Tesla logo

Your company might have an order culture if:

  • It regularly supports experimentation and learning.
  • It offers tons of opportunities for professional development. 
  • A day in the office has you regularly exposed to fruitful brainstorming sessions.
  • All ideas are welcomed (the sky's the limit).
  • Lunch & learns are frequent events. 
  • Crushing goals is important, but what matters most is that employees are always learning and growing.

5. The enjoyment culture — “we have fun!” 

What’s the point of doing anything if you can’t enjoy it? This is the attitude of companies with an enjoyment culture. Only 2% of companies in the HBR study identified with this style. These cultures value independence and flexibility. Zappos reflects an enjoyment culture, in fact, one of its core values is to “create fun and a little weirdness”.

Zappos logo

Your company might have an enjoyment culture if:

  • Your work atmosphere is enjoyable to be in.
  • A day in the office can be filled with excitement and spontaneity. 
  • The office is filled with quirky things like slides or a foosball table.
  • Although your teams get their jobs done, they’re sure not to take themselves so seriously.
  • Work doesn't just feel like work, it’s enjoyable. 
  • Jokes and humour are welcome.
  • Morale and engagement are high.

6. The results culture — “we’re all about crushing goals”

Unlike the enjoyment culture, the results culture is more about the achievement than the process of getting there. Companies with this corporate culture style take their goals very seriously and measure their success by meeting those goals. 89% of companies identified with this style in the HBR study. An example of a company with a results culture style is GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

GSK logo

Your company might have a results culture if:

  • Outcomes of projects are more important than the process of getting there. 
  • Leadership values achievement more than anything. 
  • Staff are expected to meet and exceed their team and individual goals. 
  • Managers spend time defining clear objectives for teams and individuals. 
  • Your company celebrates wins regularly.

7. The authority culture — ‘we are confident leaders”

Companies with an authority culture have very confident leadership that are sure of themselves and their direction. 4% of companies in the HBR study identified with this style. A good example of a company that represents this style is Huawei.

Huawei logo

Your company might have an authority culture if:

  • It is directed by strong, confident leadership.
  • Leaders value boldness, decisiveness, and making big moves. 
  • You can find dominant, confident characters in all levels of the company. 
  • The company is very competitive in its market.
  • The work environment also feels competitive. 
  • Individual efforts are highly valued. 
  • Personal goals are supported.

8. The safety culture — “safety first”

Simply put, companies with safety cultures put safety as their top priority. They are extremely careful with everything they do. 8% of companies in the HBR study identified with this culture style. An example of a company that embodies this style is Lloyd’s of London. 

Lloyd's of London logo

Your company might have a safety culture if: 

  • Your environment is very predictable and calculated. 
  • Plans are made very carefully, always considering risks, and prioritizing safety. 
  • No decisions are carried out without thinking very carefully. 
  • Potential risks are always anticipated and backup plans are made. 
  • The company regularly goes through safety procedures. 
  • It’s not common to jump into an idea without a careful assessment first. 
  • Leadership is very realistic and cautious with its plans. 

How employee rewards can help you get the most out of your company culture 

Now you have a better idea of which type of company culture your organization falls into, your next step is to make sure you’re doing the right things to support it. 

Implementing employee rewards & recognition programs is a great way to improve productivity and employee engagement no matter which corporate culture you’re in. You just need to decide which behaviours or accomplishments you want to be rewarding and how you want to roll out those rewards.

We encourage you to read up on what to look for in a corporate rewards program and how rewarding employees can be made easy with software.

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