What Is Company Culture?

Definition and Examples of Company Culture

People working in an office
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Company culture is the shared values, attributes, and characteristics of an organization. Learn how to identify an organization's company culture and why it's important.

What Is Company Culture?

Company culture refers to the attitudes and behaviors of a company and its employees. It is evident in the way an organization's people interact with each other, the values they hold, and the decisions they make.

Company culture encompasses a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, leadership style, values, ethics, expectations, and goals.

  • Alternate names: Organizational culture, corporate culture, workplace culture

How Does Company Culture Work?

A company's culture may be expressly and deliberately cultivated, or it may simply result from the accumulation of decisions made over time. With a strong company culture, employees understand the expected outcomes and behaviors and act accordingly.

Some companies have a team-based culture that emphasizes employee participation on all levels, while other businesses have a culture where formal, traditional, or hierarchical management is valued.

When you work at a company with a traditional management style, your job responsibilities will be clearly defined, but there may not be opportunities to advance without going through a formal promotion or transfer process.

At a more casual workplace, employees often have the opportunity to take on new projects, and additional roles, as time permits.

One example of company culture can be seen at Netflix, where it is encapsulated in their philosophy of "people over process." In its company culture document, Netflix spells out its company values: judgment, communication, curiosity, courage, passion, selflessness, innovation, inclusion, integrity, and impact. These values are expected to be upheld by employees in every action and interaction, resulting in a creative, collaborative, and successful organization.

If you're looking for a company that's fun to work for, the company culture will be a big component of your decision-making when evaluating prospective employers.

How to Identify Company Culture

There are several things you can do to find out more about a company's culture.

Check out the company website: In particular, look at the company’s “About Us” page. It will often have a description of the company’s mission and values. Some company websites also have testimonials from employees, which can be a way to hear about the culture firsthand.

Do some research: Check out reviews of the company online. Glassdoor, for example, provides reviews and ratings of companies written by employees.

Ask around: If you know someone who works for a company you’re interested in, ask to set up an informational interview where you can learn more about the company. Check LinkedIn or the alumni office at your college to see if you have connections at the company.

Ask the right interview questions: The employer will likely ask you questions to assess whether you’d fit into the company culture. However, you can ask questions, too. You might also ask about particular considerations that are important to you, such as the amount of independent work vs. teamwork, or what your day-to-day schedule would be.

Shadow someone: If you are offered the job and are still unsure of the company’s culture, ask if you can shadow someone in the department for a day or a few hours. This will be a useful way to see the office dynamics in play and to ask any remaining questions.

Benefits of Company Culture

Company culture is important to employees because workers are more likely to enjoy work when their needs and values are consistent with their employers. If you work somewhere where the culture is a good fit, you'll tend to develop better relationships with coworkers and be more productive.

On the other hand, if you work for a company where you don’t fit in with the company culture, you are likely to take far less pleasure in your work. For example, if you prefer to work independently, but are employed by a company that emphasizes teamwork, you are likely to be less happy, not to mention less efficient.

Company culture is important to employers, too, because workers who fit in with the company culture are likely to not only be happier, but more productive as well. When an employee fits in with the culture, they are also likely to want to stay with that company for longer, which reduces turnaround and the associated costs of training new hires.

Key Takeaways

  • Company culture is the sum of an organization's attitudes, ideals, and attributes.
  • Company culture may not be expressly written but can be seen when observing the actions and behaviors of its employees.
  • You can identify the company culture of an organization before working there to see whether a job would be a good fit.

Article Sources

  1. Harvard Business Review. "What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?" Accessed June 29, 2020.

  2. Harvard Business Review. "Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive." Accessed June 29, 2020.