A strong company culture is essential to an organization’s success. Positive company culture increases employee engagement which in turn boosts productivity. Studies have shown high employee engagement can boost productivity by as much as 23%.
Regardless of your company size, sourcing inspiration from successful companies such as Google or Zappos can help you to create an engaging work environment that boosts productivity.
Here, we explore company culture examples of top-performing organizations and what you need to build a great workplace culture of your own.
What is Company Culture?
Company culture is the set of behaviors, practices, values, and standards that characterize an organization. Simply put, company culture is how you do things, and the standards you set in your workplace.
Company culture is what creates the day-to-day experiences within your company. A strong culture translates to positive experiences for employees and creates a highly committed and engaged workforce that is excited about coming to work and delivering great results.
Types of Company Culture
While there are many different types of company culture, some of the most common ones are:
The hierarchy culture stems from formal corporate structures with set procedures, levels of authority, and a chain of command.
The hierarchy culture focuses on creating a fixed organizational structure by implementing rules, levels of power and responsibility, and top-down control. The military, religious organizations, and many large corporate entities stand apart as good hierarchy company culture examples that you may copy in your company.
In the hierarchy culture, employees know their place in the organization’s chain of command – what the organization expects of them in their roles, who’s accountable to them, and who they report to.
A hierarchy culture provides clear direction with well-defined objectives. However, it introduces bureaucracy, which can slow communication, create organizational silos, and make the organization inflexible.
A team-first corporate culture makes employee engagement and cooperation a top priority.
A team-first culture focuses on creating teams where everyone works well together. So, team cooperation is a leading feature of the organizational culture — among colleagues across the company, there is a strong sense of camaraderie; which is why team-first culture is also referred to as “comrade culture.”
An organization’s focus on close-knit teams means hiring prioritizes culture fit before skills or experience. That is, they do not consider candidates who do not fit the company’s culture, even if they are highly skilled and experienced.
Organizations using the team-first culture frequently organize team-building activities such as employee outings to further deepen employee engagement.
Besides team-building activities, other features of a team-first corporate culture include flexible leave policies that promote a strong work-life balance and frequent team outings that nurture stronger employee bonds.
Generally, a team-first organizational culture focuses on creating a working atmosphere where employees feel valued. In turn, employees feel a strong connection to the company and are highly committed and motivated.
While team-first cultures create happy employees who go the extra mile to make the company’s customers happy, they also require careful management and planning to ensure that individuals are recognized and valued, conflicts are resolved quickly, communication is effective, and diverse perspectives are taken into account.
Horizontal company culture
The horizontal culture is a highly-collaborative atmosphere where everyone is on the same footing regarding pitching ideas and pulling the company’s weight.
The horizontal culture — also referred to as start-up culture — is the opposite of the hierarchy. In a horizontal culture, titles hold less weight, and everyone does a bit of everything.
Company executives work side by side with junior staff and new hires. Virtually everyone in the organization meets to discuss ideas and communication occurs across desks instead of via emails or memos, which creates an instant feedback loop due to the high levels of face-to-face communication among employees.
Horizontal culture makes for flexibility, allowing the organization to change based on market research or customer feedback. However, it can be difficult to maintain as the team grows, as larger company structures require more defined roles.
Progressive corporate culture
A progressive culture is one where an organization quickly responds to market trends and adapts to the environment around them.
Organizations often make drastic changes in response to digital advances, market influences, and other major shifts. Such change often requires updating the corporate culture to evolve with the company.
Uncertainty often characterizes progressive cultures. The company’s culture must change to suit current realities and new expectations. Companies in mergers and acquisitions find themselves in need of progressive culture.
While a progressive culture allows employers to clarify their company’s new goals and mission as well as answer employees’ pressing questions, constant change can create unease and a lack of structure for employees.
Elite company culture
Elite company culture is a performance-driven culture that focuses on hiring only the best talents who’ll bring big ideas to the table to help the company push forward and take the lead in their industry.
In the elite culture, the common desire to succeed unites the entire organization.
Elite company cultures are innovative and daring, seeking to make giant strides using untested means. Employers are usually very demanding and encourage employees to think outside the box for fresh ideas that help them stay ahead of industry trends.
The elite culture is common in tech companies (think Facebook or Apple), where the emphasis is on risk-taking and innovation.
The trail-blazing mindset of elite company cultures can result in big splashes in the market and fast growth. However, it can easily lead to competition between employees or employee burnout due to pressure to overperform.
Characteristics of a Strong Company Culture
Company culture differs from organization to organization. However, strong company cultures share a set of characteristics that set them apart.
When building culture, incorporating these key components will help you create a gratifying work environment.
Trust is the foundation of healthy relationships. Developing and encouraging trust in the workplace improves commitment, teamwork, and communication.
Trust in the workplace improves commitment because employees who trust their employers are more likely to work toward achieving the company’s mission and goals.
Trust also leads to stronger working relationships between team members, thereby reducing stress and burnout. For example, when employees know that they can depend on people to do a job well (competence trust), to do what they say (character trust), or to maintain confidentiality (communication trust), they will have fewer worries in the workplace.
Whether you use a full in-house team or have people working remotely, trust affects employees’ commitment and how they collaborate and work together. A culture of trust promotes loyalty, engagement, reliability, and communication.
Some ways to build and encourage a company culture of trust include:
- Encourage open and transparent employee communication
- Share important information with employees
- Engage employees in important decisions
- Make leadership approachable
- Admit mistakes
Empathy in the workplace helps employees feel seen and understood by their managers and peers, leading to closer relationships and stronger collaboration.
Empathy is the ability to understand the needs of others and be aware of their feelings and thoughts. The quality allows an employee to grasp another’s point of view and increase their capacity to connect.
Empathy promotes an atmosphere of understanding. Employees are compassionate to problems and opinions of others and genuinely want to help, leading to collaborative solutions and high-performing teams.
Some ways to demonstrate empathy in the workplace include:
- Show interest in the needs, goals, and roadblocks others may be experiencing
- Keep an eye out for warning signs of burnout in others
- Create opportunities for employees to meet with their managers to get the support they need
Leadership is a critical element of corporate culture because leaders can use their influence to reinforce organizational values and hold people accountable.
While everyone impacts an organization’s direction, leadership has the largest impact because it charts the course for others to follow. Leaders provide a sense of vision, purpose, and inspiration for employees. They set or clarify the company’s beliefs and reinforce behaviors that reflect company values.
Good leadership clarifies expectations, supports employees, and recognizes quality performance. People are generally happier and more engaged under strong leadership, improving employee performance.
Some ways to demonstrate leadership when building a strong culture include:
- Set clear and realistic expectations
- Provide specific and constructive feedback
- Lead by example by displaying the behavior you expect from others
- Have a people-first approach by prioritizing employees’ physical, emotional, and social well-being
- Recognize and acknowledge outstanding performance from your team
Community is the sense of belonging to a group with shared interests, and when it exists in a workplace, it makes for better interactions and teamwork.
Having a sense of community in the workplace creates a culture that focuses on support, the organization supporting employees, and employees in turn supporting one another.
A community is a place where there is camaraderie. Employees in a supportive environment are more open with one another, leading to positive interactions and collaboration. A strong sense of community ultimately improves employee engagement and increases productivity.
Some ways to build a culture of community in the workplace include:
- Create opportunities for siloed teams to come together (such as company events and team trips)
- Promote employee-employee communication by encouraging informal conversations, team building exercises
Equity means treating people fairly, which is a big motivating factor in the workplace.
Equity levels the playing field for everyone in the organization. It means providing fair and equal opportunities for employees based on their individual needs.
Promoting equity requires identifying and eliminating discrepancies in the needs of the different demographics in the workforce. In other words, your company should give every employee the resources and support they need to succeed.
A culture built on equity promotes a sense of ownership and respect among employees, leading to stronger work and better communication.
Promoting equity also helps you retain and attract top talents, as 78% of workers say it is important to them to work at an organization with “diversity, equity, and inclusion” efforts.
Some ways to promote equity in the workplace toward creating a healthy culture include:
- Be aware of and eliminate unconscious performance appraisal biases
- Drive awareness around equity in the workplace
- Prioritize equitable representation among the workforce
- Promote pay equity
5 Examples of Great Company Culture
Studying companies with great cultures allows insight into how you too can build a culture that will create positive experiences for your employees and customers.
Here are great company culture examples to draw inspiration from:
Zappos is a perfect example of a team-first culture that focuses on employee happiness.
Inspired by former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s quote, “Businesses often forget about culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good services from unhappy employees”, the shoe company executes a team-first corporate culture that focuses on making employees happy as a way to deliver good service.
Zappos’ desire for the perfect team makes the company prioritize hiring people that fit their culture. After a business interview, Zappos also hosts a culture interview for a social test to see if the candidate can work with the team.
In addition to the culture-fit-first attitude to hiring, Zappos allows employees to have a say in the company’s core values. Famous for their decentralized management practice, Zappos transforms command hierarchies into agile, self-organizing networks.
The company allows employees the autonomy to help customers how they see fit instead of making them follow strict guidelines. The result is an atmosphere where employees are empowered to make autonomous decisions and offer personable assistance that customers and employees appreciate.
Key components of Zappos’ team-first culture:
- Culture fit first hiring
- Employees have a say in what the company’s values should be
- Self-organizing teams with relative autonomy when delivering service
Google is a fine example of a fast-paced elite culture that emphasizes risk-taking and innovation.
Google is a leader in computer software and hardware, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and advertising. The company is constantly increasing possibilities. As a result, they use a forward-thinking elite culture.
At the core of Google’s culture is hiring the very best talent, and challenging them to push boundaries while motivating employees with robust benefits packages.
For example, using the “think 10x” concept, Google aims to improve a product 10 times instead of improving it by 10%. From when a product is launched, employees are already looking for ways to improve it.
Despite an emphasis on innovation that is very demanding, working at Google is fun because the company makes the workplace feel like more than just work. Employees get everything they need for relaxation and fun right in the workplace. These include free meals, nap pods, a gym facility, and on-site physicians.
Key components of Google’s elite culture:
- Hire the very best talent
- Task them to push boundaries and innovate
- Motivate them through world-class perks
3. Warby Parker
Warby Parker is another example of a team-first corporate culture that uses team-building activities to create happy employees.
Team unity is at the core of every initiative of the direct-to-consumer eyeglass maker.
Warby Parker’s strong culture starts with mastering its onboarding process.
The company is famous for involving the whole team in onboarding. Not only does this make new employees feel comfortable, it makes them meet and interact with team members early on, leading to the formation of close-knit teams.
Warby Parker prioritizes team-building opportunities, such as planning lunch dates for employees across the organization to get to know one another better.
The company also uses its socially conscious model to forge strong emotional connections internally. Employees are happy about working for a company with a carbon-neutral cause.
In addition to team building, leadership prioritizes employee development as a core component of their culture; offering regular skills training and development opportunities to promote employee growth and demonstrate their investment in their workforce.
Key components of Warby Parker’s team first culture:
- Involve the whole team in onboarding
- Organize team-building events
- Use their socially conscious model to strengthen emotional connections
Squarespace is a SaaS website building and hosting company that exemplifies the use of horizontal culture.
Being a relatively small company, Squarespace operates within a horizontal culture where employees freely make contributions that count toward charting a direction for the company.
Squarespace says it believes in the power of the individual to make things happen. The company gives employees a great deal of autonomy and ownership over their work and balances it with strong support and collaboration with peers.
Squarespace fosters a positive collaborative environment in many ways, including having employees enjoy brainstorming lunches and encouraging group discussion in Slack where everyone shares inspiration. As a result, 97% of Squarespace employees look forward to interacting with their team every day.
Key components of Squarespace’s horizontal culture:
- Few levels of hierarchy
- Collective brainstorming
- Considers everyone’s ideas in the directing of the company
Patagonia uses a team-first culture that prioritizes work-life balance and flexible schedules.
The outdoor clothing and gear company exhibits an excellent team-first culture. It starts right from the hiring process, as Patagonia goes for people passionate about their product and the outdoors.
Patagonia’s culture heavily focuses on organized team-building activities and often has employees embark on outdoor adventures to test its clothing and gear as well as foster a sense of community among employees.
Patagonia’s culture is also family-friendly. The company has an on-site childcare center, and the children around make the office feel like a home instead of a workplace.
The company’s culture is also famous for its flexible schedules. Warehouse employees have 15 different schedules, while retail employees have guaranteed schedules up to three weeks in advance. This helps employees manage their time better, leading to a healthier work-life balance.
Key components of Patagonia’s team-first culture
- Hire people passionate about the outdoors
- Prioritize team-building activities based on shared passion (outdoors)
- Offer flexible schedules to promote work-life balance
Transform Your Company Culture With Omni
A strong culture creates a gratifying environment where employees are happy and highly engaged which improves their productivity and drives results.
Regardless of the culture you operate under, promoting a strong culture can result in 23% higher productivity among employees, and doing so is no easy feat.
You can draw inspiration from the company culture examples above to build a strong culture in your workplace to boost productivity. When building your company culture, employee management software helps you streamline administrative HR functions so you can focus on building high-performing, engaged teams.
Omni’s all-in-one employee management software unifies the tools, workflows, and data you need to streamline your HR functions while you build an award-winning culture.
Omni offers a solution that combines people and performance management and workflow automation to manage the end-to-end employee lifecycle. Wherever you are in your journey, Omni has a module that suits your needs.
Let Omni help you build a culture that increases productivity and drives impactful business outcomes. Book a demo with our team to learn more.