Company Culture: What It Is And How To Improve It

What is Company Culture?

Though the hard and fast definition of company culture has many variations, common threads are woven among them all. At its foundation, company culture is a set of shared values and behaviors that determine employee workplace interactions.

The state of a company’s culture is directly tied to employee engagement. According to Gallup, employees who strongly agree with the statement “I feel connected to my organization’s culture” are 3.7 times as likely to be engaged at work. Though the concept of culture can feel intangible it is important to note that culture is observable in all aspects of the workplace, including employee and manager relationships, performance, daily operations, client experience/satisfaction, and policies and procedures. In this blog, we will dive deeper into the implications of company culture and how to improve it at your organization.

Qualities of Good Company Culture

When evaluating the vitality of their company culture, organizations should keep in mind that the following list of indicators provided is not exhaustive but rather a starting point for assessing culture.

1. The mission is clearly defined and embraced. 

An organization without a clear mission or distinguishable vision is like a rowboat full of people rowing to nowhere. A cohesive workplace culture is cultivated through a collective mission that unites all employees in their shared goal.

2. Managers and employees have generally strong relationships.

Fostering manager/employee relationships built on mutual trust and respect begins with frequent one-on-one conversations. These check-ins are essential to creating mutual accountability by holding one another to their commitments, namely employees to job performance and managers to coaching and development.

3. The core values are operationalized.

The first step is establishing a set of workplace behaviors that the organization’s leaders deem valuable and representative of the culture they want to embrace. Secondly, those core values must be elevated by praising positive behaviors, often through an employee recognition tool, and measuring them equally with job performance.

4. The organization responds well to external interruption. 

Having a measured, thoughtful response to external interruptions, like economic downturns or industry policy changes, is only possible when leaders have a firm grasp on the overall state of the organization at any given time. This means leaders must be measuring employee engagement, workplace satisfaction, turnover rates, and must have a process in place for leadership succession planning. Even a basic knowledge of these areas allows organizations to be nimble and adaptable, thereby instilling confidence in employees that disruptions will not cause company distress.

5. Innovation and ideas are encouraged.

Good company culture encourages and embraces diversity of thought, experience, and skillsets. In this type of organization, no idea for change is too crazy. Though not all suggestions for change/improvement will be accepted, they will all be acknowledged within reason.

6. The leadership is built to last. 

An organization built for longevity is an organization where leaders delegate work responsibly and value identifying potential future leaders through strategic leadership succession planning. Practically speaking, this looks like an absence of micromanagement and evidence of empowering employees to take ownership of their commitments.

7. Training and development is highly valued. 

A talent development plan is a good indication of a healthy workplace culture as it shows the organization is focused on providing growth and development opportunities for its employees. The creation of customized individual development plans (IDPs) is also critical to culture because employees can tangibly see that their presence and career trajectory are a valued business strategy.

8. Documentation and transparency are prioritized. 

Implementing digital systems to effectively record performance initiatives and discussions regarding performance demonstrates the organization’s commitment to preserving historical data and maintaining consistency. Setting and tracking goals, conducting performance reviews, and holding regular check-ins should all be meticulously documented to track patterns, record the progress of both employees and managers, and promote a culture of transparency.

Why is Workplace Culture Important?

Gallup tells us that in the US, roughly 4 in 10 employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important. But if we were to move that stat to 8 in 10 employees, organizations could enjoy a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 50% decline in patient safety incidents, and a 33% improvement in quality. Good culture is good business. 

The Burke-Litwin Model of Transformational Change is a familiar image to those in the change management and organizational culture space. This model suggests that all factors within it are integrated so a change in one will affect all of the others, with organizational culture being one factor featured at the top. Mission and strategy, leadership, and company culture are considered ‘transformational factors’ in that they are critical to the organization’s overall performance. For any sort of change to occur, or for the business to perform well, these three factors must be aligned. In summation, efforts toward a strong workplace culture are mission-critical. 


Burke-Litwin Model

The 4 Types of Workplace Cultures With Examples

In Diagnosing And Changing Organizational Culture by Kim S. Cameron and Robert E. Quinn, the book denotes the 4 categories of workplace culture. The list below summarizes each category based on the Competing Values Framework by Cameron and Quinn, as well as offers modern-day examples of each.

1. Clan Culture

Clan workplace cultures are collaborative, led by mentorship and team-building principles, and value commitment and communication. It is in this culture archetype that you will hear things like “We’re a family here.” 

Examples: These organizations place a high premium on cohesion and team consensus. 

  • Pixar
  • Zappos
  • Patagonia


2. Adhocracy Culture

Adhocracy cultures come from the root word ad hoc, and place emphasis on adaptability, flexibility, and creativity. They are led by visionary innovators and value agility and transformation. 

Examples: These organizations work hard to produce innovative products and services and are often found in industries such as software development, aerospace, and think-tank consulting. 

  • Valve Corporation
  • Uber
  • Amazon


3. Hierarchy Culture 

Hierarchy cultures embrace formalization and structure, their leaders take a heavy coordinator approach to leadership, and they value efficiency, consistency, and uniformity. We often see hierarchies in government agencies and major corporations.

Examples: These modern-day examples instill highly structured procedures and emphasize rule reinforcement. 

  • U.S. Justice Department
  • McDonald’s 
  • Ford


4. Market Culture 

The market culture is oriented toward the external environment rather than the internal. These companies are highly competitive and results-oriented, they are led by top producers with a drive toward achievement, and they value profitability and cornering the market. 

Examples: Modern-day market cultures go above and beyond, by any means necessary, to reach the next level of success and achievement. 

  • Tesla
  • Warby Parker
  • Apple (under Steve Jobs specifically)

How To Improve Company Culture

In today’s workplace, the most strategic and efficient way to assess and improve company culture is to partner with digital tools that will elevate the employee experience and remove extra work from HR, who is typically held responsible for culture initiatives. Improving workplace culture happens through:

  • Regular one-on-ones– Frequent performance check-ins stabilize and grow the manager and employee relationship
  • Simplified performance reviews– Standardized performance evaluations work to mitigate potential bias and give employees the confidence to know where they stand with performance and workplace behaviors. 
  • Values-based recognition– Giving regular praise of positive behaviors aligned with the company’s core values improves morale and establishes team unity.
  • Visible goal management– Goals aligned to the mission and vision that are visible to all show employees their individual efforts make a big impact for the company at large.
  • Customized IDPs– Development plans that highlight strengths and development opportunities empower employees to take charge of their professional growth. 
  • Engagement surveys– An employee survey platform that measures engagement levels shows employees that their organization is open to feedback from its people.
  • Employee sentiment analysis– Incorporating pulse checks organically into daily workflows gives managers insight into general employee sentiment and satisfaction. 
  • 360-degree feedback– When sending and receiving feedback is a natural part of the workplace, it promotes a culture that embraces constructive feedback and values growth. 


WorkDove helps you to measure and assess your company’s culture through all of the features listed above. Ensure that your organization’s shared values and behaviors are aligned, defined, and frequently monitored by partnering with a simple, user-friendly platform like WorkDove. 

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