Corporate culture: definition, components and examples

Corporate culture

Corporate culture refers to all the rituals, codes, value systems, history, and brand image (employer brand) of the company. It is a real competitive lever for start-ups and large companies alike. The development of a strong corporate culture not only maximizes employee commitment, but also contributes to creating a reference framework to assist in decision-making and to differentiate the company from its competitors. Defining a corporate culture and spreading it among your teams is not that easy. Indeed, it requires following the essential principles of any organizational culture.

A little clarification on this is necessary and you will see, you have a real role to play in creating the corporate culture of your tribe. But what is corporate culture?

What is corporate culture?


Corporate culture, also known as organizational culture, is the set of characteristics that shape and govern the functioning of an organization, making it unique. These characteristics are mainly influenced by the history of the company, its vision, the personality of its founders and its recruitment policy.

Having a strong corporate culture aims to unite employees, partners, and all stakeholders around a common goal and values, and to differentiate itself from the competition in order to attract the best talent.

To achieve this cohesion, companies highlight their history as well as the important people and events that have contributed to its evolution.

This notion, of Anglo-Saxon origin, aims to build a solid employer brand, in which employees and partners recognize themselves and eventually become ambassadors.

The culture of an organization is not conceptual. It affects its regular activities and its reputation as an employer in a real and palpable way. It must also be accepted by all parties involved in the operation of the company, regardless of their position in the hierarchy.

According to Frei and Anne Morriss of the Harvard Business Review:

“Culture guides discretionary behavior and picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to unprecedented demand for service. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to highlight or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions themselves every day, and the culture is our guide. The culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which of course is most of the time.”

What are the components of the corporate culture?


We cannot talk about culture without talking about values. We distinguish between moral values such as benevolence, mutual aid and collaboration, and ethical values such as the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of equality between men and women or the protection of the environment. A crucial element of the company’s culture, values have the role of uniting and guiding the teams and giving meaning to the work of each employee.

The values of a company can be of the following types:

  • Sustainable development;
  • Social responsibility;
  • Innovation;
  • Honesty, integrity;
  • benevolence, team spirit;
  • etc.

However, there is no specific guideline to describe a company’s value system. Depending on the history of the company, they can be more specific. Values are also closely linked to the company’s long-term mission.

Si vous voulez savoir comment définir vos valeurs, vous pouvez consulter notre article sur le sujet:

The importance of values for a company and how to define them

The history of the company

In order to leave a mark on everyone’s mind, it is very important to have a history that traces the path taken to create the company. There may be myths, characters and specific events that have had a great influence on the company. These elements contribute to the brand’s identity and reinforce the sense of belonging to the company. For example, they may share the founder’s vision, be intrigued by the creation of the company, or be impressed by how the organization has overcome challenges.

Symbols and rites

Every company has its own symbols that represent it to the outside world and allow its members to recognize each other. These symbols can be dress codes, logos and other visual representations. The vocabulary used helps the company maintain its identity because it allows for easy communication between employees who speak the same language.

The rituals of a company can take many forms:

teambuilding, galas, farewell parties, off-duty meetings …etc. They unite all the members around the same values, promoting communication between its members to create what is called the “Great place to work”.

From a broader point of view, the culture of a company is reflected in its rules of operation: for example, the layout of the work space, the collaboration of employees, the organization of working hours.

Well-being at work has become essential to justify the presence of a good corporate culture.


The choice of candidates is also very important. They share the same values as the company and have a philosophy that fits the company. Hiring is the first step in uniting employees and encouraging them to play an active role in the company’s growth. In addition, socialization, the process by which new hires are brought into the company, is equally crucial. These new employees need to witness the company’s values in action from their first days on the job and collaborate with those who embody them.

The long-term vision of the company

Every company must establish a vision, or the center around which all its efforts must be directed. In other words, the direction in which the leader is heading. The notion of corporate culture fully integrates the vision.

The vision must be communicated to every employee in the company in order to serve the interests of the company. It must be solid and resistant to changes in the company’s strategic positioning.

It is by being transmitted to all levels of the hierarchy that the vision can support the company’s culture and thus develop a strong sense of commitment on the part of the employees.

The different types of corporate culture

There are 4 main types of corporate culture: adhocratic, clan (family), hierarchical and market culture.

The “Athena” adhocracy:

The adhocracy is a system of internal organization symbolized by the Greek goddess of wisdom and war “Athena”. An organizational culture based on the expertise of the participants in a project instead of the respect of norms or a well established hierarchy. Moreover, in this mode of organization, managers declare war on the competition by ensuring that their teams are permanently motivated to go into battle. A culture that favors both employee autonomy and individual innovation and creativity.

The clan culture “Dionysus”:

The clan culture, also known as family culture, places the human being at the heart of its functioning. The choice of this organizational culture does not focus on the organization, but on the contrary on the human. The objective is to promote team cohesion and to unite the teams around common values, and to motivate them to surpass themselves in order to achieve their objectives.

Each employee is free to work in his or her own way, managing his or her job judiciously according to his or her character and work style. The emphasis is on mutual support and solidarity between all members of the company. In such a work environment, freedom is considered a factor of creativity which implicitly affects the development of the company.

In the clan model, the manager plays a central role and must ensure the cohesion of the team. Moreover, team building can be a good option to weld the employees and to teach them to know each other better. A good manager will ensure that well-being is the norm by resolving any internal conflicts as quickly as possible in order to increase efficiency.

The “Zeus” hierarchy

When we say Zeus, king of the gods, we visualize the hierarchical corporate culture. This time, the will is clear: rules are defined and each employee must stay in his place

The hierarchy is probably the best known corporate culture model. This system is based on clear guidelines and a rigid framework. Although this structure still has an authoritarian character, it is reassuring for both customers and employees of the company. Each participant is assigned a specific role and knows what is expected of them. There is no room for the unexpected as everyone has their place in the pyramid hierarchy, and one or more leaders must be validated to achieve the best result.

The “Apollo” market

As the name suggests, the market culture also focuses on the company’s results. This strategy, focused on customer satisfaction and service quality, aims to make the company a leader in its sector. Every action is meticulously planned, the rules to be respected remain strict and risk taking is reduced to a minimum. This method is reassuring because of its clearly defined framework, although sometimes the company does not measure up.

Building and maintaining a positive culture

Your leadership team and HR team play a crucial role in creating a positive company culture.

Here are some things to consider if you’re unsure of your vision or think you need help reshaping your norms, values and plans.

Highlight your core values

Inform your current staff and all potential candidates of your core values.

You can do this by using HR resources such as your website career page, training, brochures and descriptions of your performance management program. You can express your value proposition and build and share your employer brand using any of these media.

Develop your value proposition

Have a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that is true to your organizational structure, encourages top talent to choose you over your competitors, or motivates current employees to stay with you.

EVP development is organized around the following 5 areas:

  • Opportunity: Ways for staff members to grow in their positions.
  • Organization: The company’s reputation as an employer in its market and field
  • People: The effectiveness of the company’s leadership, management, colleagues and work environment
  • Work: The interest, difficulty and reward of the work.
  • Employees are rewarded with salary, bonuses, benefits and services.

Hire with culture and diversity in mind

However, don’t just hire new talent with your vision in mind. Include cultural enrichment in your employee recruitment strategy.

Progressive companies look to hire people who will enrich the workplace culture and promote diversity, bringing new perspectives to the company’s growth. This means hiring people who share your values, have relevant experience and support diversity in the workplace. Look for dynamic, active people who get things done and represent your company even outside the office.

Offer meaningful benefits

Benefits that really matter to employees include providing amenities such as a gym, free lunch, life coaching sessions or daycare. According to 57% of those surveyed, a company’s benefits package must be meaningful for someone to join.

Join a cause

It is no longer necessary to consider financial success as the sole motivation for your business. Your company needs to redistribute its wealth, whether it’s by donating money to charities, sharing your knowledge with associations and NGOs, volunteering or doing one-time actions for a particular cause.

Companies that are dedicated and “give back” generally take fewer sick days, which increases productivity within your company.

Be grateful by rewarding

Learn how to praise employees who perform well, whether it’s voting for the best employees of the year or simply expressing gratitude for a job well done. Employee recognition is part of the real engagement and experience of drivers.

In addition, make sure that HR teams ensure that workers who largely meet their goals and promote your company’s values receive the appropriate rewards.

Examples of corporate culture

Apple’s culture of innovation

The Apple brand is known for innovation, excellence and secrecy; it always manages to keep its new products secret to pique the interest of its followers. While Apple champions excellence and creative innovation, it also champions core principles such as environmental sensitivity and supplier responsibility.

The alliance of well-being and performance at Google

Google is one of the most well-known organizations for its strong internal culture. The company values the well-being of its workers and was one of the first to advocate for welcoming workspaces decorated in soft hues to inspire productivity. With its common spaces, wide range of free services and participatory management, the company openly displays its commitment to maintaining a corporate culture.

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