12 Types of Company Culture

Gone are the days when offices were just cold, exclusively profit-driven spaces where employees existed in their own isolated bubbles. Here we discuss the 12 types of company culture.

Gone are the days when offices were just cold, exclusively profit-driven spaces where employees existed in their own isolated bubbles. It took the 1980s for companies around the world to realize the importance of a little something called “company culture”.

There are several types of company culture; it lies in the hands of the upper management to identify what works best for the employees without compromising on the company’s vision, clearly defining the culture, applying it in the workplace and nurturing it.

Company Culture — Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron Model

In order to better understand the concept of company culture, Robert E.Quinn and Kim S. Cameron from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor did quite a bit of extensive research on the topic, resulting in one of the most popular models on the subject.

The model, identifies 4 different types of company culture — market, clan, adhocracy and hierarchy. Understanding these will help you align your vision and your employees’ happiness, as well as rectify any aspect of the workplace so that it fits with the intended culture.

Remember, a company can have more than one culture; however, recognizing the dominant culture will help in aligning the various aspects of the business.

Hierarchy Company Culture

The word “hierarchy” is not one that most of us are unused to. Probably one of the most common and typical structures (in business or otherwise), a hierarchy company culture indicates a traditional culture with a top-down view of the organization.

A huge hit in the 1900s, hierarchy company culture has resulted in efficiency, consistency and stability in corporate workplaces, especially ones like the investment firm Goldman Sachs, through the years. Characterized by many layers of management and therefore, many doors to get through before employees can reach the top management, hierarchy company culture is beneficial due to the clarity it brings with it — in making rules, accountability, procedures, authority and decision making.

According to the founding fathers of this model (mentioned earlier), this type of culture can result in reliability and flowing production, especially when you take the economies of scale into consideration.

However, due to the several layers of management, decision making and change can be a slow process in the business, especially given the turbulent economy of today. Consequently, employees may feel like victims of red tape-ism.

Has Your Company Got It?

As mentioned earlier, several levels of management characterize a hierarchy company culture, especially compared to other types of cultures. Another way to identify it lies in the process of employees’ promotions; employees will be promoted from the bottom up and on the basis of rules and procedures.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Switching to a hierarchy company culture implies taking a more procedure and process-oriented approach. You’ll need a more organized approach to your business, which means no more of the go-with-the-flow attitude that comes with, say, last-minute recruitment or dismissal and working as the situation demands.

You’ll also need to bring in more professionals to occupy planning roles and establishing procedures that employees need to adhere to.

Market Company Culture

A child of the 60’s, market culture refers to the emphasis of a company’s external environment over its internal one.

Market culture places importance on external relationships, such as the ones it shares with suppliers, customers and creditors; it views these relationships as an indicator of the company’s competitiveness and profitability.

Popularly followed by companies such as General Electric and Philips Electronics, market culture is highly business oriented and links success to returns on assets and competitiveness. Though beneficial for the shareholders, its profit-motivated approach may not resonate with employees who don’t define success in terms of finances, leading to a disconnect.

Even if employees do define success monetarily, this model could lead to excessive competitiveness and a ruthless, cutthroat approach to business. Additionally, teamwork and the spirit of collaboration will tend to be ignored.

Has Your Company Got It?

More a product of intention than an accident, a market company culture exists where there is a priority on winning, financial results, and hitting targets and stretch goals.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Building a market company culture requires analyzing the link between each position in the company to external drivers of success and profitability. The bridge required to link these two are generally factors like consistency, customer satisfaction, product development and the likes.

Financial incentives and bonuses will also go a long way in evoking the spirit of competition in the workplace and thereby, achieving a market company culture.

Clan Company Culture

As the name suggests, this type of company culture is suggestive of shared goals and values, a spirit of participation and the feeling of unity/solidarity. According to Quinn and Cameron, clan culture is inspired by the structure and functioning of a family, fostering a feeling of “we-ness” in the workplace.

Clan company culture has received a lot of positive attention and garnered a huge fan base in the last decade. Unsurprising; after all, you can hardly go wrong with a supportive environment defined by semi-autonomous work teams and employee-involvement programs.

Due to the shorter distance between the leaders and their employees (due to the lesser number of management levels), decision making is a much faster process. Additionally, communication is easier and more candid between the two parties. Unlike market culture, this type of culture fosters a feeling of teamwork and collaboration, as can be seen in the famous and successful example of tech giant Google.

However, as we said, you can hardly go wrong with this, which means you still can. This happens when businesses place internal needs on the top of the list instead of building a successful business by focusing on aspects like profitability.

It could also lead to an increase of “yes men” in the company due to group thinking, which severely restricts innovation.

Has Your Company Got It?

Do your employees love each other? Is there a feeling of communal harmony and bliss? Over-exaggeration and romanticization apart, you know you have a clan culture when employees are more often found working in teams than flying solo.

The presence of group benefits, a group-reward system, an “open door” policy and the lack of barriers between the levels of management all indicate a clan culture. In fact, the absence of these barriers can even result in employees viewing managers and leaders as mentors more than senior authority; despite its craziness, “The Wolf of Wall Street” gives us a clear exhibition of this through Jordan Belfort.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Listen to your employees. Leave your doors open for feedback and allow employees to walk into your office at any time for some quality one-on-one. Cut down on the censuring and create an environment that lets employees know they can be candid and 100% honest with you, whether it’s their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the company they want to bring to your notice.

Additionally, take a page out of Michael Scott’s “Somehow I Manage” and organize team-building activities for employees to participate in. Team lunches and mentorship programs are also a great way to bring about a clan culture in the organization.

Adhocracy Company Culture

Though it sounds fancy, adhocracy finds its roots in the word “ad-hoc” and indicates the journey that businesses have taken from the industrial age to the information age. This means that innovation is the need of the hour and businesses with this culture measure their success through innovative goods and services.

Therefore, it’s only natural that companies with such culture focus on developing new product lines and services as they assume that products are temporary; they become obsolete and can be replaced with better products. Think Apple or Tesla or even Google!

The obvious benefit of adhocracy is its emphasis on innovation. With it comes the prioritization of risk taking, individuality, multi-tasking and a future-based approach to product development. Therefore, creativity and a dynamic attitude are key.

However, the emphasis on innovation means untested products and initiatives, investing in which is a huge risk. Companies have been known to invest huge amounts in products that seem profitable at the start but fail miserably in the market. Sustainability of the business then becomes a problem.

Additionally, the focus on individuality means a lack of teamwork and collaboration.

This lack of teamwork may result in low employee morale

Has Your Company Got It?

If your company prioritizes creativity and flexibility among its employees and focuses on the development of new products and services, you may just be a follower of adhocracy. The power flow within the business may also be decided by the order of processes and the team working on it.

For example, teams handling “seller support” report to the risk analyst team at Amazon.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Adhocracy is a hard shift if you want to do it without restructuring your business methods. Where the other models focus on consistency and the long run, adhocracy focuses on short-term goals.

Having said that, creativity and innovation are definite assets to any organization; therefore, mixing in adhocracy with another type of company culture, by recruiting professionals who fly solo or focusing on professional development, could be highly beneficial.

Company Culture — Harvard Business Review

Just like the researchers at the University of Michigan, 4 organization development experts did a bit of research themselves (a literature review published in 2018’s Harvard Business Review) which further helped understand the slightly complex world of company culture.

Boris Groysberg, Jeremiah Lee, Yo-Jud Cheng and Jesse Price introduced 8 different types of company culture in addition to the existing 4. They determined two main concepts that affected a company’s culture, namely “People Interactions” and “Response to Change” and studied their relationship on a graph.

“People Interactions”, has a spectrum of “highly interdependent” to “highly dependent” on the Y-axis. This to the measurement of success through group work and solo work, respectively. The former indicates a work culture that fosters teamwork whereas the latter encourages solo work.

“Response to Change” has flexibility on one end of the X-axis, indicating a tendency for innovation and diversity. The other end is occupied by stability, indicating adherence to rules and hierarchy. The interactions between these two concepts and the different results (plotted using a two-dimensional axis) resulted in 8 different cultures.

Interestingly, the study also brought up the question of how much the geographic location of the company affects its culture, such as the culture of authority that Huawei, located in China, follows, which seems to be a reflection of the Chinese society and culture itself.

Additionally, the authors also studied the compatibility of different personalities with the work culture, the focus of company leaders under each type of culture and what the driving force behind the employees is in each culture.

Purpose Organizational Culture

Purpose organizational culture, as the name suggests, is driven by purpose. Now that we’ve gotten the obvious stuff out of the way, this culture is one that promotes sustainability and the building of communities worldwide.

The employees in a company with purpose organization culture are either recruited for being open to new ideas and thoughts and compassionate or encouraged to be the same. Therefore, such companies, like Whole Foods, emphasize on making a global impact rather than collecting individual medals.

Has Your Company Got It?

A workplace with a purpose organizational culture is characterized by tolerance and compassion. Employees are more committed to long-term goals that could positively impact the world and its future.

If you place emphasis on the sharing of ideals, seeing the bigger picture and working towards a greater cause, your company could have a purpose organizational culture. Employees are united by a sense of sustainability and communalism, with an air of idealism and altruism in the workplace.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Shifting from another culture to the purpose organizational culture requires the fostering of a tolerant and compassionate environment at the workplace. Instead of individual achievements, you should ideally focus on group achievements.

Additionally, your business should aim to reach a global level of operation, with the aim being long-term good as opposed to short-term profitability. Profit should not be a driver; instead, it should be a focus on sustainability.

Most importantly, employees should feel that their purpose is aligned with that of the company in order to ensure productivity and actively working towards the company’s goal. It should be a win-win for the employees and the company.

Caring Organization Culture

This sort of organizational culture exemplifies loyalty and is characterized by collaborative and welcoming employees, whereas leaders tend to be sincere, with a focus on maintaining good relationships and fostering a spirit of teamwork.

Caring organizational culture prioritizes mutual trust and cordial workplace relationships. Therefore, in workplaces where this culture is prevalent, the work environment is warm, welcoming, collaborative and supportive.

A prime example of the caring organizational culture is Disney, one of the most recognized brands in the world for their business as well as their culture. Here, there is an atmosphere of creativity, growth opportunities and the feeling of being part of a

wider community.

Employees’ happiness is emphasized, as indicated by the organization’s employee discounts, access to exclusive areas of Mickey’s Retreat, healthcare and various other incentives. As a result, employees tend to be unwaveringly loyal to Disney.

Has Your Company Got It?

If your business place is characterized by loyal employees who are motivated to perform well due to the positivity in the workplace rather than any monetary gain, you could be running a very caring organization.

The top management must emphasize on employees’ well-being over all else, as such a culture believes that employees’ well-being is correlated to the profitability and sustainability of the company.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Establishing a caring organizational culture requires the top management to emphasize employees’ well-being. This can be done in various forms, such as exclusive deals for employees, discounts to various events the company may sponsor, discounts on the company’s products and services, and the likes.

However, such an environment could compromise on the firm’s profitability, if there is an excessive focus on caring for employees instead of conducting business. Therefore, certain restrictions and limitations may have to be imposed to find a balance between both.

Order Organizational Culture

A company with an organizational culture that runs on order is one that focuses on discipline, structure, respect and shared standards. Employees at such workplaces are expected to follow the rules; most employees at such places tend to be strict rule followers who seek to find their place in the organization through the same.

Additionally, employees are bound together by a feeling of co-operation and the top management approaches business in a more traditional, tried-and-tested way with an emphasis on shared procedures. Therefore, the workplace is expected to run methodically, like clockwork, as it does in places like the SEC.

Has Your Company Got It?

A company with order organizational culture is one that is unambiguous and extremely structured. If you run a workplace where employees follow instructions down to the “T” and there is an emphasis on rules, regulations and a structure, you could be running a workplace that focuses on the order organizational culture.

Additionally, there is a methodical approach to each aspect and process in the business; there is not just a focus-related air and drive, but an emphasis on performing the process in the prescribed way to achieve the intended results.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Generally, like a hierarchy culture, switching to an order organization culture requires a focus on procedures, processes, and methods. An organized approach is important without the scope for any action that lies outside the agreed-upon norms that the company dictates and the employees share.

Therefore, this requires planning professionals, a strict hierarchy, a rigid and defined process flow and employees driven by a liking and need for order so that they can thrive in this environment and lend to the company’s profitability.

However, this sort of a work culture may inhibit creativity and innovation as well as affect employees through monotonicity and the presence of an impersonal and slightly intimidating/cold environment.

Safety Organizational Culture

As the name suggests, safety organizational culture minimizes risk and believes in being prepared for any eventuality. As such, this type of culture is characterized by caution, efficient planning and being prepared for any scenario.

Workplaces, where such a culture is prevalent, tend to have risk-conscious leaders who expect the same quality in their employees. Decisions are carefully thought through with several contingency measures in place.

Employees in organizations with a safety culture are prepared for change, even anticipating it, and value feeling safe and protected, whereas leaders plan way ahead in a realistic and research-backed manner, such as Lloyd’s (London).

However, due to this emphasis on safety at all times, there is a risk (ironically) of missing out on great business opportunities that can be seized only through quick action and decision making. Additionally, spontaneity and spur-of-the-moment creativity become inhibited in both employees and leaders; problems that require creative solutions may take longer to be solved due to both the unconscious repression of spontaneity as well as the tendency to think things 100 times through.

Has Your Company Got It?

If your employees are conscientious and risk conscious and you as a leader emphasize pragmatism and being prepared for the future through careful advance planning, you have all the ingredients of a safety organizational culture.

Employees at such workplaces want to feel included in any organizational change and are careful planners themselves; leaders are methodical and have plans A to Z and then some, just in case!

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Going from another type of culture to the safety model may require you to change your business model, but not drastically. You’ll just have to incorporate more initiatives to improve employee engagement and be able to anticipate any change.

Being able to anticipate the future comes from carefully studying the past and the present. This requires research, which means the recruiting of more analysts and a heavier investment in R&D.

However, no research is 100% foolproof, so don’t believe research results to be the end all and be all. Anticipate that these could be wrong as well! Most research assumes hypotheses and happens under controlled conditions, so keep the windows open!

Authority Organizational Culture

This model runs on authority, with employees who thrive on following orders and employers who thrive on giving them! An embodiment of boldness, firm decisiveness and strength, authority organizational culture works on competition.

Workplaces become highly competitive with employees itching to impress, make a mark and gain personally and get ahead of the crowd. The binding factor is strong leadership and control, thanks to confident and dominant leaders.

Authority culture is a hit amongst those who are far more motivated by personal gain than the success of the organization as a whole.

Let’s take Huawei, for example. The company’s authoritarian work culture, popularly nicknamed “the Wolf Culture” won it the world. The workplace here is characterized by the high expectations and pressure of the top management.

As mentioned before, Huawei’s work culture led to it becoming a global tech giant. Employees are handsomely compensated for the grueling hours they put in and the strict discipline they adhere to. The company is successful and fast growing. So a win-win all around?

Not exactly. With a top-down approach similar to the hierarchy culture, not every employee is a fan of the “Type A” culture that pervades such workplaces. In fact, Huawei itself got into quite a spot for its work culture. Selling your soul to the devil never worked out well in the long run, did it?

Has Your Company Got It?

If your company runs on strict discipline with employees following orders down to the last, tiny detail, you could be looking at an authority organizational culture. The model adopts a top-down organizational structure; therefore, as with the hierarchy model, promotions happen from the bottom up and on the basis of knowledge.

Additionally, employees may subscribe to long working hours and be ready to take up assignments even at the last minute, all to get ahead in the race and climb the corporate ladder as fast as possible.

Just beware that their need for personal gain doesn’t outweigh the company’s profitability by too much, as this could potentially increase the risk of fraud and instances of insider trading.

That being said, an authority organizational culture often results in fast-paced growth, opportunities and success.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Adopting an authority organizational culture involves firm decision making, defining clearly who’s in charge and outlining the roles and responsibilities of employees clearly, all to ensure that the hierarchy and discipline are maintained.

Bringing about an authority culture would require recruiting highly competitive individuals, introducing incentives and bonuses on an individual basis and rewards such as the promotion of top performers.

Results Organizational Culture

A workplace with a results culture is united by a common need for achievement and victory. This type of culture is very outcome oriented with an emphasis on merit, with employees wanting to excel in their performance.

In such workplaces, there is a drive for success and capability among the employees, whereas leaders are focused on accomplishing set goals. Therefore, companies that have a results culture work best when employees have a thirst for victory and bring their A-game to achieve set goals.

A popular example of such a work culture would be GSK, where there is a focus on integrity, shared values, transparency and the motivation to get ahead in the market.

Has Your Company Got It?

Companies with a results culture are characterized by their victory-desiring employees and goal-setting leaders. This works out well for both parties as employers set the goals to be achieved and employees strive hard to accomplish these goals.

Therefore, if your company has a more goal-oriented approach than a process-oriented approach, it could mean that your company’s culture is a results organizational culture.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

To be a workplace with a results organizational culture means to switch from a process-oriented business approach to a goal-oriented one. Employees should be motivated by both group and individual incentives to achieve goals.

However, don’t ignore the process just because you’re switching your focus to the goal; the process is still important even when the goal dominates. Despite that, a results organizational culture could very well lead to fast growth and success.

Enjoyment Organizational Culture

As the name suggests, this one’s quite a fun model! In such models, businesses adopt a fun and exciting approach to doing business tasks, as well as ensuring that the work environment is playful and stimulating! After all, we all remember what all work and no play can do, yeah?

Workplaces with an enjoyment culture have extremely happy employees who do what makes them happy, as long as their work goal for the day is achieved. This includes working in the space of their choice, the timings of their choice, informal or no dress codes and colorful workspaces equipped with games and good food!

In such places, employees are united by their playfulness, light heartedness and stimulation whereas leaders prioritize spontaneity and humor! No more boring 9 to 5; every day has the potential to be an exciting one!

A famous organization that is the epitome of the enjoyment culture is Zappos. In fact, the company even conducts a “culture fit” interview, the results of which can make the difference between hiring a potential candidate or not. These interviews weed out those who are just there for fun and personal gain; the company’s well-being should be a priority.

Additionally, though there are positions and a hierarchical structure, no special treatment is extended to them; all employees, regardless of their position, have to attend the same training. This lack of formality and respect purely on the basis of positions in the organization is another characteristic of the enjoyment culture.

Has Your Company Got It?

If you’re willing to spend a substantial amount of money hiring employees just to ensure you pick the right ones, you could be a part of the enjoyment culture. Such companies tend to care about the kind of people they hire very deeply, with little or no regard for how much they spend in doing so.

This model works on the belief that acquiring the right talent and nurturing it will result in even bigger pay-offs not just monetarily, but with the employee’s loyalty, commitment and motivation.

Employees are promoted on the basis of their performances; there is hardly any scope for office politics due to the informality in the workplace. Additionally, there is increased productivity as happy employees make for productive employees.

However, “how much is too much?” is a question you may encounter if you have this kind of culture at your workplace. No office can function without some rules; it’s all a question of being reasonable and holding employees accountable and responsible despite the freedom and leniency.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Getting in an enjoyment culture can seem easy; after all, it’s just about having fun, right? Well, yes and no.

It takes much more than knowing what is pulse survey to have an enjoymeny culture.

An enjoyment culture requires you to set aside sizable portions of the budget for activities such as team building games, activities for cultural promotion, holiday-themed office parties, and the like. You want your employees to have fun but also be engaged with the work that they’re doing.

Strict rules and regulations won’t work in such a set up; you’ll have to find the right mix of work and play. Additionally, encourage employees to be informal and walk through your door if they should ever need anything.

Learning Organizational Culture

Learning takes place effectively when there is a spark of curiosity driving it. The learning organizational culture is no exception; employees are driven by curiosity, creative, innovative and open to exploring available alternatives.

In such an environment, leaders look for an adventurous spirit, innovation and knowledge in their current and potential employees. Therefore, such an environment is perfect for those who rank learning highly, compared to the other results of the work they do, such as promotions, personal gains or job stability.

A learning culture is defined by new ideas and exploration of alternatives, with inventiveness and open minded being key attributes along with expansiveness, curiosity and creativity.

Elon Musk’s Tesla is a great example of a workplace where learning work culture is strong. Its fast evolution in a relatively short period of time (a global leader in just 15 years!) is thanks to its continuous questioning, analyzing, re-analyzing, researching and digging deep for answers and solutions.

Despite the intensity of the work in this fast-paced company, employees’ hunger and drive to learn are what pushed the innovative company ahead of its competitors.

While such a culture ensures fast growth and continuous learning, it can also result in the subconscious overworking of the taskforce. Employees may overwork themselves in the pursuit of knowledge, which in the long run, could lead to a decrease in their productivity.

Has Your Company Got It?

If your employees thrive on learning and prioritize it over other perks of the job, you’ve got yourself a learning culture. As the leader, you look for innovation and knowledge, while your employees digging up and devouring knowledge.

Additionally, if you’re a company that’s into producing technology and new products, a learning culture may be more beneficial for the value it can add. It’s an age where products are introduced one day and become obsolete the next; therefore, continuous learning is important.

Don’t Have It but Want It?

Bringing in a learning culture is a great choice; you can hardly go wrong with it! For this, you’ll have to invest in R&D while ensuring that there are enough resources available to employees in their pursuit of knowledge.

Innovation and experimentation are key; therefore, create an environment that allows both. Encourage and listen to ideas that employees may have through group discussions, “open door” policies and frequent engagement with them.

The Last Word

It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong culture — just different types that suit different companies. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, no company can claim the distinction of having only one prevalent type of work culture in its office.

Therefore, it makes little sense to try and change your company and switch your business models to align with only one type of company culture. The smarter option is to find complementary models and establish a perfect mix of them in the workplace.

Of course, initially, this may be trial and error unless you have the resources to invest in heavy internal research, which could also take up time, effort and money that could be better utilized somewhere else.

The best option, though, is to understand the above-discussed models carefully and thereby, understand how your company, or any company, functions. With this understanding, you’re sure to find a culture that makes your employees happy and successful, you happy and successful and your company happy and successful.

A true win-win all around, indeed.

Interested in learning how technology can help you increase employee engagement? Learn more about our people analytics and employee engagement software.