Defining Corporate Culture

What it is and how to determine yours.

Corporate culture refers to the social order of an organization, i.e. the values and actions that determine how employees and management work together.
More often than not, corporate culture is not explicitly defined, and it usually develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people hired by the company. Because of this it is shaped by national cultures, trends and industry, to name a few.

Let’s break down these three examples:

National Cultures

National cultures can influence a company either by where the company is headquartered or the culture of the people who work for the company themselves. For instance, according the Business Insider, American offices are usually more casual than U.S. offices. For instance, it would be considered rude to call a coworker by their first name. Also, the “business casual” dress code does not exist in Japan as many employees wear suits and button downs every day.


Two particularly common trends, especially among Millennials, have been the focus on sustainability and giving back. Many companies who are interested in attracting top talent or who are marketing to this target audience are shaping their corporate cultures around these tenets. Just in the last year, Amazon introduced their sustainability initiative after workers signed a letter urging their employer to act.


Consider the type of industry you’re in. A tech startup would be more likely to have a company culture of being agile and making quick decisions without a long approval process. However, an oil company would have a much larger focus on following safety protocol and would benefit from getting approval from a more senior team member before moving ahead with a decision.

Reflect on who you are as a business, as well as who you want to be, paying special attention to the employees, in order to determine your corporate culture. Then make sure they are reflected in every aspect of the business, from the dress code, to the office layout and design, to employee benefits, the recruitment process and the treatment of clients.

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