Types of Workplace Culture and 6 Great Examples
February 12, 2024
February 12, 2024
Every workplace has a unique company culture that makes it stand out from the pack. Though each organizational culture is different, most company cultures fall into the same general categories. These are the most common types of workplace culture you need to be aware of, and some examples of great company cultures to inspire you.
The eight most common types of company cultures are:
1. Adhocracy Culture
2. Clan Culture
3. Customer-Focused Culture
4. Hierarchy Culture
5. Market-Driven Culture
6. Purpose-Driven Culture
7. Innovative Culture
8. Creative Culture
Let’s learn what each of these organizational cultures look like and the pros and cons of each.
“Alone, we can do so little. Together, we can do so much.”
Adhocracy culture focuses on innovation and isn’t afraid to take risks.
What it looks like
Team members challenge the status quo and constantly find ways to improve, innovate, and develop new services and offerings.
Adhocracy cultures encourage constant innovation that makes the company stand out from others in the same market.
The constant innovation makes it hard to focus on one thing at a time. It can be too fast-paced for some employees.
How to tell if your company has an adhocracy culture
If your employees constantly find ways to improve services or roll out new offerings, you have an adhocracy.
Clan cultures occur in companies where staff members function more like a family. These types of company cultures are most common in small, family-owned businesses.
What it looks like
Clan culture tends to get rid of hierarchies and creates a more supportive work environment where employees are just as involved and valued as upper management. They are likely to use open and informal communication. What you won’t find here is a high number of management levels, as employees are seen as peers and family.
Employees are more likely to provide open and honest feedback to management. It also creates stronger relationships among coworkers.
The clan culture can make the workplace more relaxed, encouraging employees to be a bit too relaxed for business.
How to tell if your company has a clan culture
The best way to tell if your company has a clan culture is to look at the relationships among coworkers and managers. If everyone feels like part of a family and is comfortable with one another, you likely have a clan culture.
Customer-focused cultures put the customer experience first, so employees are given the tools and autonomy they need to put the customer first at all times. In doing so, they create customer loyalty that makes the company successful.
What it looks like
They thrive on providing the best customer service possible and are always willing to go to the next level to keep customers happy. Employees are motivated by making every customer experience a positive one.
Letting employees make decisions and do what’s necessary to make people happy creates a sense of pride in their work.
Since customers are the focus, employees can often feel neglected or less important in these environments.
How to tell if your company is customer-focused
If you give your team the tools and independence they need to address customer concerns with ease, you likely have a customer-focused corporate culture.
Hierarchy cultures are the most traditional workplaces. They rely on a structure of upper managers, supervisors, and employees at various ranks with appropriate responsibilities.
What it looks like
Hierarchy cultures can be risk-averse and focus on preventing mistakes, sticking to rules and tradition, and managing failure. High-risk organizations like those in the oil and gas, finance, healthcare, and government industries often have hierarchy cultures.
The organization makes hierarchies one of the most efficient types of corporate culture.
Hierarchies leave little room for flexibility. For some employees, the culture can feel too stodgy and old-fashioned.
How to tell if your culture is a hierarchy
If you rely on clear structures and managerial roles, your organizational culture is likely a hierarchical culture.
A market-driven culture focuses on getting a product or service to market. This type of culture is results-oriented, hard-working, demanding, and highly competitive.
What it looks like
Companies with market-driven cultures may focus less on employee experience and satisfaction and more on performance and results.
That constant innovation means companies can release new products quickly and outpace the competition.
This constant push to create new products can make market-driven cultures one of the types of company culture that’s the most prone to burnout.
How to tell if your company is market-driven
If you’re always racing to develop new products and put them out into the market regardless of how much work your employees take on, you may have a market-driven culture.
Purpose-driven cultures are driven by—you guessed it—a strong and motivating purpose.
What it looks like
Their culture is built on a defined, shared reason for being, and they attract employees, customers, and partners who share those ideals. These cultures prioritize giving back to the community over making a straight profit each day.
The ability to give back to the community makes these types of workplace cultures desirable for prospective employees and increases the likelihood of high retention rates.
Companies with this culture prioritize giving back over straight profit margins. They tend to make less money than they otherwise could.
How to tell if your company is purpose-driven
If you strive to give back to the community and find ways to share your company’s wealth and resources with others, you likely have a purpose-driven company.
“Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity and meaning in their job.”
—Ken Blanchard, Author, Engaged Leadership: Transforming Through Future-Oriented Design Thinking
Innovative cultures focus on constantly coming up with the latest and greatest ideas to improve processes and offer services that meet consumers’ current and unanticipated needs.
What it looks like
Companies that embody innovative cultures are constantly looking for ways to build on existing technology and create new solutions. Conventional thoughts and methods get pushed to the side each day in favor of new ideas.
Innovative cultures give employees the freedom to experiment and find solutions that others might consider too obscure or inefficient.
The constant push for new ideas can leave employees dealing with burnout.
How to tell if your company is innovative
If your company constantly pushes the boundaries of the status quo in favor of finding new ways to get things done, you have said goodbye to traditional organizational culture in favor of an innovative culture.
Creative cultures focus on creating new products, stories, and services every day. It’s not about individuals so much as coming together as a team to create something people will love.
What it looks like
Creative cultures focus on the end goal and do what they can to bring those visions to life. Employees typically work together on teams and contribute ideas with the intention of providing the world with a new experience.
Employees are encouraged to work together and enhance each other’s creativity every step of the way. This allows for stronger relationships and reduces downtime on the job.
The demand for creativity can put added pressure on staff and leave them worried about falling short of expectations.
How to tell if your company has a creative culture
You have a creative culture if you’re constantly trying to produce new products, stories, or services that tell a tale and take your customers’ minds away from the cares and concerns of their lives.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Now that you’ve learned about the different types of workplace cultures and the essential aspects of company culture, it’s time to see how various companies establish great company cultures. Check out these six work culture examples to see aspects of the different types of company cultures in action.
You’ll notice these companies have strong cultures and happy employees, but also lead in company performance and are world-renowned, proving yet again that a positive company culture can yield powerful business results.
Dow Chemical provides a place for their scientists to regularly come together and discuss the projects and challenges they are working on. Being able to connect and discuss across business units leads to innovative thinking, gives new hires critical exposure to senior scientists, and creates a sense of belonging that prevents competitors from poaching their top talent.
In recent years, Dow Chemical has also allowed manufacturing employees to have more flexible work schedules through their “Design Your Day” policy. This makes it easier for team members to choose shifts that work around their family’s needs and their other responsibilities.
“When employees feel validated and feel a part of the bigger picture, and a part of the strategy, we all work harder. We do more. We put more effort into everything we do and we do better work. That impacts the shareholders. That impacts corporate initiatives. That impacts the bottom line. It’s very good business sense to make sure that we have an engaged workforce.”
—Curtis Kesler, Recognition and Appreciation Program Manager
For over 25 years, Capital One has revolutionized the credit card industry with data and technology, while still maintaining ingenuity, simplicity, and humanity in banking. Leaders at Capital One know that organizational success is fueled by a positive company culture, and they prove their commitment by investing in tools and establishing policies that improve the employee experience.
All 51,000 Capital One employees have access to a company-wide employee recognition program that allows teammates and leaders to share regular appreciation for both the small and large moments at work. According to feedback on a company survey, recognition at Capital One “motivates people” and helps people across the organization connect and collaborate.
Capital One employees also enjoy many benefits including No Meeting Fridays, Invest in Yourself Days (self-care days), and on-site cooking classes.
Adobe is built on creativity, so traditional performance ratings and rankings are not the best way to assess and value work performance. Adobe assigns team members to special projects, connects them to mentors, and provides special leader support to help their people succeed.
Rather than micromanaging, leaders ask team members about their goals and what kind of support they need to reach them. This process of mentoring and coaching means leaders inspire their people and then get out of the way.
“I can honestly say that I've never been surrounded by so many genuine, authentic, and nice people in my career. The work environment is one where colleagues truly care about each other.”
“I love working for Adobe. The company focuses on individual growth and provides almost constant opportunities for growth. Couple this with the focus on work life balance and you have an almost perfect company.”
“Wonderful hidden gem. Passionate and creative people, pride in the product. CEO does an awesome job. Vibrant work culture. Product groups are thriving.”
A world-leading mining and resources company, BHP’s purpose is to bring people and resources together to build a better world. Since their employees work in over 16 countries and in “offline” environments, BHP’s company culture empowers all employees to bring their best every day, and own the ability to make their work safer, easier, and better.
To encourage this company culture of empowerment and ownership, BHP provides continuous learning opportunities for all employees through the BHP FutureFit Academy, and flexible work schedules for employees seeking further education.
Finally, diversity and inclusion are top of mind for BHP. According to BHP recruiters, inclusive and diverse teams promote safety, productivity and wellbeing within BHP and this diversity underpins their ability to attract new employees.
Patagonia’s policy is that employees can leave anytime there is a perfect surf–even during office hours. Patagonia prides itself on superior quality products, and what better way to prove that than by using their own people to test them?
According to Patagonia leaders, “If an employee really believes in the product, it will come across to the client.”
Patagonia is one of the best work culture examples out there. Patagonia’s employees maintain passion for the products and are encouraged to showcase their diversity every day. This freedom to demonstrate individuality and ultimate autonomy over their work makes employees more likely to stay around for decades.
“Great company culture. Environmentally and ethically conscientious. Socially responsible. Solid leadership. Incredible perks. Quality benefits for full-time employees. Core company values; it is a values-driven organization with special emphasis on sustainability and building excellent products.”
“Great company culture. They give you time off to support community causes.”
“The management was amazing and really cared for the employees. Patagonia takes their mission statement seriously as well as the well-being of their employees.”
CIBC is a leading North American financial and banking institution committed to creating enduring value for its stakeholders—clients, team, communities and shareholders. A fundamental component of CIBC’s approach is investing in its teams and company culture.
Over the years, CIBC has proven this investment by establishing “People Networks,” employee-led resource groups that help employees find community and connection among coworkers. These groups meet regularly, plan activities at work, and organize volunteer events for the communities in which they operate.
Recognizing employees’ different points of view and experiences is an essential part of what makes CIBC’s culture collaborative and dynamic.
Company culture doesn’t happen by accident. Now that you know more about the most common types of workplace cultures, and some great companies to inspire you, you can find ways to incorporate small or large elements into your organization and build your unique company culture.
To learn more about how you can build and improve your company culture, check out our tips here.