The Ultimate Guide to Company Culture

Download Now: Free Company Culture Code Template
Caroline Forsey
Caroline Forsey


Nowadays, we hear about a company's culture a lot — including perks like free beer, ping-pong tables, and fitness classes at the office.

ultimate guide to company culture man smiling while on the phone

Company culture is a critical factor for acquiring and retaining top talent. Additionally, a good company culture can help your business succeed. In fact, companies with strong cultures saw a 4x increase in revenue growth.

But culture is more than just workplace benefits. At its core, a company's culture is the shared set of values, behaviors, and shared vision of that workplace.

Download Now: Free Company Culture Code Template

Additionally, a company culture clearly outlines your workplace's values, and ultimately drives your entire company under a common vision.

In a Deloitte study, 87% of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges.

If you feel your culture can be improved but aren't sure where to begin, keep reading to learn about the different types of company cultures, and get ideas on how you might improve your own culture.

Let's unpack the five main types of company culture and which one may be a good fit for your company.

1. Team-First Corporate Culture

As the name implies, a team-first corporate culture is one in which team bonding and cross-department collaboration are top priorities. In a team-first corporate culture, you're likely to find both formal and informal events planned to encourage strong employee relationships, including regular team outings or after-work drinks.

Additionally, a team-first corporate culture typically offers flexibility and a level of autonomy to ensure employee happiness. For instance, Netflix provides its employees with a full year of unlimited family leave, which allows employees the opportunity to decide what works best for them.

Netflix also encourages independent decision-making and a culture in which information is shared openly. These aspects of the culture are inherently team-first, as they emphasize the importance of collaborating and communicating with team members to ensure the company stays on track to hit goals without sacrificing an employee's individual needs.

2. Elite Corporate Culture

You'll want to consider companies like Google or Facebook when you think of an elite corporate culture, which is a culture in which innovation and forward-thinking are not only encouraged, but expected.

An elite corporate culture hires only the best, and values fast growth — ultimately, the employees of an elite corporate culture aim to become the trailblazers in their industry.

For instance, Gainsight, a SaaS company, demonstrates its culture's emphasis on innovation on its About Us page, where they state: "To change the world of business, you've got to have great captains". Additionally, one of their five values is "Stay thirsty: we believe in a totally internally-driven strive for greatness."

You might have an elite corporate culture if your company encourages each employee to think outside the box and push the boundaries of the status quo on a daily basis.

3. Hierarchy/Traditional Corporate Culture

In a hierarchical or traditional corporate culture, you'll find the bottom-line is always the highest priority — meaning a company with a traditional corporate culture likely makes risk-averse and data-driven decisions.

A traditional corporate culture likely enforces a dress code and has a clearly defined hierarchy. Additionally, a traditional culture has an established practice, which makes it difficult to implement new technology.

Bureaucratic organizations like the Department of Motor Vehicles is a good example of a hierarchy culture. This organization follows corporate procedures to ensure consistency and results.

4. Horizontal Corporate Culture

A horizontal corporate culture is typically more popular with small start-ups — as the name implies, it's a culture in which everyone pitches in and collaboration is critical. Since the company is typically young, a horizontal corporate culture is flexible in nature and encourages employees to use market research to refine their strategy.

For instance, take a look at some of these employees' reviews of Acorns, a software company with digital investment products: "[People in leadership positions] are great! I always received help from them when needed" and "Every person in the company is engaged and you'll get help from any person that you reach out to".

These are the types of reviews you'd expect to see for a horizontal culture.

5. Clan Culture

Last on our list, clan culture refers to a company with a "family-like" atmosphere. Typically popular with smaller companies and startups, clan culture suggests a high level of employee engagement and collaboration, and a strong emphasis placed on teamwork.

Additionally, with clan culture there's typically fewer levels of management between employees and leadership -- which means communication tends to be more informal and candid.

For instance, on Smile Brand's Glassdoor review, you'll see one employee wrote, "I've worked for Smile Brands for close to 12 years. I enjoy the family atmosphere and collective focus on supporting the practices and optimal patient care."

Now, let's review some common company culture ideas you can implement at your own company.

1. Offer impressive workplace benefits, like an on-site gym or unlimited vacation.

Typically, one of the first aspects you'll hear about when you discuss workplace culture is the benefits -- but free beer isn't enough to implement a truly impressive company culture. Instead, you'll want to ensure the benefits you offer exist to increase your employee's happiness, and align well with your values.

An on-site gym, for instance, shows your company's commitment to health and wellness. Alternatively, unlimited vacation makes sense if your company values autonomy.

If you're unsure which benefits are appropriate for your company culture, take a look at The Comprehensive List of Employee Benefits.

2. Focus on diversity initiatives.

A strong office culture can't exist without focusing on diversity. For instance, a survey by Glassdoor found 67% of people consider diversity an important factor when deciding where to work — to attract top talent, then, it's imperative you incorporate diversity into the workplace.

Additionally, diversity can foster innovation, and diverse teams perform better. To learn more about the benefits of diversity in the workplace, check out 5 Awesome Benefits of Diversity at Work.

3. Plan team-building activities.

To create a fun and engaging company culture, it's critical you implement both formal and informal events to cultivate stronger relationships among members of your organization. You might consider monthly team outings, or informal happy hour drinks after a campaign kickoff.

To ensure everyone feels included in the outings, vary the types of experiences you have with your fellow team members — for instance, one month you might commit to a charity event, and another month you might create an office fitness challenge.

Ultimately, a strong office culture can only exist once employees begin feeling more comfortable with one another.

Additionally, it's important your company offers opportunities for employees to engage with coworkers from different departments, for better company alignment.

4. Give back to the community.

To improve employee morale and give employees another reason to feel proud to work for your organization, consider offering employees the opportunity to volunteer for a local charity.

Charity events enable employees to bond with one another, and can also ensure your employees see first-hand how your company's values play out in real life.

For instance, ExxonMobil awards a $500 grant to a non-profit once a team of five or more employees volunteer for a combined total of at least 20 hours — this allows employees to focus on teamwork and strengthen employee relationships while giving back to the community.

When exploring corporate gifting options, think about how they can also benefit your local community. For example, purchasing gifts from local small businesses for your employees can boost the economy and showcase your commitment to the area you serve.

5. Take action to help your employees' health and wellness.

Having healthy employees has proven to result in better productivity, lower healthcare costs, and fewer turnover rates — all critical components to a good workplace culture. Additionally, healthy employees are happier, which will likely lead to a more engaged workforce.

There are plenty of opportunities, varying in cost, to create a stronger workplace wellness program. You might invest in standing desks, create lunchtime yoga sessions, provide healthy snacks, or offer personalized nutrition counseling.

Alternatively, you might simply offer employees more flexible hours, so they can arrive at work early and leave at 4 p.m. to catch a cycling class, or arrive late after a morning meditation session.

Essentially, any steps you take to help employees feel better will pay-off in the long run. And, ultimately, you'll create a culture in which health is considered a top priority -- which is certainly a place I'd like to work, wouldn't you?

6. Create a company culture manifesto.

A few years ago, HubSpot founder Dharmesh Shah created this Culture Code slide deck, with the purpose of answering the following questions for viewers: "What do we believe? What makes us tick?"

A powerful company culture manifesto or document is critical for attracting top talent, and can be used as a resource for recruiters and HR.

Additionally, a manifesto enables you to clearly outline what your culture is, as well as what you want it to be — essentially, it can work as a road map, guiding employees when making decisions regarding behaviors and values.

For instance, HubSpot's slide deck states one simple rule: "Use good judgment." This is a memorable statement internal employees can use when decision-making.

7. Collect employee feedback.

You'll never fully know whether your company has a strong and compelling culture if you don't regularly collect employee feedback.

By asking your employees how they feel, you'll be better equipped to recognize strengths in your current culture, as well as areas for improvement. For instance, maybe you'll find employees are unhappy with the lack of training programs your company offers.

This information can help you create a more targeted and unique workplace culture down the road -- one that focuses less on free beer, and more on long-term employee happiness.

If you need further assistance in developing your company's culture, consider checking out Delivering Happiness, an organization that offers workshops and online resources to help companies improve their workplace culture.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

company culture template


Related Articles

Free Presentation Template to Explain and Share Your Company Culture

    Marketing software that helps you drive revenue, save time and resources, and measure and optimize your investments — all on one easy-to-use platform