Decoding Types of Corporate Culture


Organizational culture is something that only HR leaders, but business leaders to worry about. It, after all, has a direct impact on many organizational aspects, from how you are perceived as an employer, to whether you are able to engage and retain your top talent. Gone are the days when employers used to be dictators, handling out task after task to be done in a set, said way. Today the values of creativity, sharing collaboration, communication, openness, transparency are taking precedence as “the way” to make employees feel valued and make them productive.

But how do you exactly define a corporate culture? Leaders often struggle with pinpointing what differentiates different corporate cultures, they seem to be quite intangible and difficult to define. Here is a look at cultures that are often encountered. These will help you assess what category you fit in, and relook at your cultural positioning to see if you want to drive a cultural transformation.

  1. Team Friendly: This is a company that makes employees’ happiness a top priority. One can see a number of opportunities for teams to get together and share- team outings and outbound. But it not just these superficial fun things that create a team-first culture. The company strives to help employees balance their personal and professional lives, and incorporates personal and professional aspirations through proper coaching, learning opportunities and feedback loops. When hiring, culture-fit is a very important parameter for candidate selection. Such a company thrives on the notion that “happy employees make for happier customers.” This type of culture is often in start-ups or small scale companies, and as companies grow it may be harder to maintain.
  2. Elite: They believe they are the best and strive to continue doing so by charting untested waters. An appreciation for excellence and outperforming forms the core of such as company. People are pitted against each other to create intense competition, and bank upon innovation to do the unthinkable. Such a company hires only the best and ultra-competitive and propel them to perform with the right rewards and recognition. Getting ahead in business and career is often the sole aim of employees. While it may create a penchant for high performance, employees may be left feeling they are always on, and under huge pressure.
  3. Horizontal: This is the collaborative company where ideas are shared openly and everyone is encouraged to speak up. Typically younger companies like start-ups fall under this category. This flexible culture makes them more adaptable and able to adjust to the changing market needs. Such a company is often devoid of high-flying titles, preferring the equanimity of horizontal relationships. However, it is this very open environment that can lead to a loss of direction or lack of accountability, if not reigned in.
  4. Traditional: These are those companies who are comfortable with old-age ways of working, rigid hierarchies and all. You can often make these out with senior professionals strutting about in ties and ultra-formal wear, barking out orders. This is just the tip of the iceberg, underneath that traditionalism lies an unwillingness to change with time, and a lack of experimentation. Today, such companies are waking up to the digital age, and starting out on the learning curve to deliver to new-age expectations. In fact, their methodical approach and established processes can help them if they decide to marry these competencies with an innovation and flexible mindset.
  5. Progressive: Contrary to what it means, a progressive culture is one that is in a state of flux i.e. a transitive culture. It can be the result of a sudden market change, a merger or acquisition, or a change of investors. The bottom line that defines this is uncertainty, and lot of it. The positive part is that they are receptive to change, and this instils a sense of evolution in employees of such a company. Leaders of such a company must lead the change from the front, else there is a very strong chance of employees being fearful and losing confidence in the company and in themselves.

Every company culture is unique and it is up to the leaders to identify what works best for them. The earlier you take a stock the better, because a cultural transformation may involve an extensive change of people, processes, systems, and most importantly the umbrella mindset.