A company’s culture can be hard to define; most employees can exist in their company’s culture without ever giving any thought to what it actually means. But culture is extremely important to any organization, and could mean the difference between a workforce that’s engaged and one that has one foot out the door. So what is your company’s culture like, and what do you want it to be? Here are eight types that could work for you:
A team-first company culture is focused first and foremost on the happiness of its employees. From benefits to a great PTO policy to snacks in the break room, company leaders believe that a happy workforce is an engaged, motivated, and productive workforce. Employees are given the flexibility to work in a way that’s effective for them, with management acting more as mentors than authorities. In a company with a team-focused culture, new hires are made with careful attention to cultural fit because these cultures, while enjoyable for employees, are quite delicate and can be disrupted easily. However, companies that succeed with a team-first culture are often highly coveted by job seekers, meaning they often get their choice of top talent.
2. Lifelong Learning
A company whose culture is organized around lifelong learning believes that continuous personal improvement is the key to success. From the moment a new employee is hired, they’re given opportunities to receive comprehensive training, attend educational events, take classes, receive certifications—and they’re expected to take those opportunities. Most of the time, companies with a culture of learning hire highly skilled individuals who seek to continue developing these skills. As a result of this alignment of goals between the employee and the company, turnover tends to be low, meaning a company where the product or service is continually improving.
3. Service Excellence
In this type of company culture, the customer is always right. Of course, excellence of service has to be limited to reasonable requests, but in these companies, every employee is dedicated to making customers happy—even those who don’t interact with them directly. Success to employees in a service excellence culture means glowing reviews and referrals, with revenue following naturally. Many organizations have at least some elements of a service excellence culture, but it’s the companies whose guiding philosophy is customer happiness that really get buyers talking.
Mission-driven company cultures unify their employees around a single cause or belief. Most not-for-profit organizations are mission-driven, with employees and volunteers working primarily to achieve a non-monetary goal, but for-profit companies can also have this type of culture. For example, employees of a manufacturer of healthcare equipment may be inspired to create best-in-class products or do extensive research and development to contribute to solving a particular healthcare issue. These organizations favor employees who are highly passionate and therefore will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.
Highly competitive cultures reward productivity and good performance. Common examples of these cultures are sales environments like car dealerships and pure-commission positions, and while some people may dislike highly competitive environments, others thrive. The key for companies with a successful competitive culture is avoiding the tendency to motivate employees with fear. Instead of punishing poor results (though this may be necessary on occasion), and then are empowered to rise to the top, then are rewarded for their performance.
For some companies, employees rally around high-risk, high-reward situations. Unlike competitive cultures, however, they’re not necessarily taking risks within their own positions, but rather with the company as a whole. Risk-taking companies always strive to be on the cutting edge, or in new territory, succeeding by blazing new trails instead of working their way up through an established market. Technology companies and startups often begin with a risk-taking culture, where excitement about the possibilities drives employees to give their best work.
When defining conventional company cultures, think traditional business settings: business formal, structured, scheduled performance reviews, and nine-to-fives. These companies have clearly defined hierarchies, where strategies, goals, reports, and feedback flow up and down the chain of command. However, conventional culture doesn’t always have to mean an office. Retail companies often have a very structured culture that allows for a consistent customer experience.
Prescriptive company cultures have one tried-and-true way to do practically everything, and employees are expected to follow that model for optimal success. While for some people a prescriptive culture may seem restrictive, employees who believe in their organizations’ goals, principles, and offerings will be more likely to also believe in its set of procedures. Managers in these companies are generally more hands-on, and will step in to correct employees whenever they act outside of company processes. Many service-based companies have some level of a prescriptive culture, such as quality assurance recordings for employees of call centers or representative feedback from customers. With careful attention to process, companies with effective prescriptive cultures benefit from well-trained employees.
Keep in mind that while there’s no “best” company culture—what’s best for your company depends on your employees, industry, size, et cetera—your culture should be well defined and the company’s expectations of its employees, clear. With a strong sense of culture, your organization’s workforce can work with confidence in your brand.