Organizational Culture: What it is, Different Types And How To Define It

The organizational culture influences the achievement of a brand's growth and interpersonal relationships among all those involved with it, such as employees, suppliers and customers. For this reason, the definition must be objective and strategic. Check out how to define your organizational culture and learn more with some examples to follow!

Updated: May 20, 2022
organizational culture

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The search for results in an organization involves financial, strategic and operational aspects, but organizational culture is a central matter that many companies experience difficulties aligning.

The first problem happens due to a lack of understanding of the concept, which makes a successful strategy in this area unfeasible.

To deal with this and other challenges involving your organizational culture, follow the reading, as we will tell you what it is, what types and how to define it in your company!

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    What is organizational culture?

    The difficulty in conceptualizing organizational culture is due to the fact that there is not a single definition for it. Still, it is possible to understand it as the manifestation of the company’s values ​​in practice. According to The Business Dictionary:

    “The organizational culture includes the expectations, experiences and philosophy of the organization, as well as the values ​​that guide the behavior of the members and are expressed in its self-image, internal functioning, interactions with the outside world and future expectations”.

    Therefore, organizational culture involves actions in the work environment, the formal and informal rules followed by teams, beliefs, customs, habits, vision, values, norms, symbols, language, physical structure, among other elements that make the company what it is.

    An organizational culture is expressed by the people involved in its processes, especially the employees, and not by formal rules or by what the company would like it to be.

    Culture can be understood as the set of elements that determine how a business works in practice.

    For example, if a marketing company has innovation among its values, but does not use social media and technology to interact with the customer on a daily basis, such as a CRM, then it is not faithful to the proposed culture. Instead, it looks like an environment that is averse to innovation in everyday life.

    So, the organizational culture is not defined only by what the company preaches in its manuals and values, but what it exercises in daily life, with employees, managers, customers, suppliers and society in general.

    Why is organizational culture so important?

    Human resource management is one of the most important aspects of a company, but also the most difficult to manage. The goal of organizational culture is to assist in these processes, directing internal relations and allowing employees to follow a common path.

    Thus, it must be seen by managers as a resource that contributes to achieving the established goals, both for the teams and for the business as a whole.

    If a company aims to be at the forefront of its industry, for example, it must innovate, take risks and provide conditions for these changes to take place based on everyday values.

    By making strategies, branding and process transformations feasible, the organizational culture affects everyone involved, from the employees themselves to external agents who interact with the brand, such as suppliers and clients.

    A misalignment between the proposal and reality makes it more difficult to reach the business goals, as the actions carried out daily go against what the company proposes.

    The importance of organizational culture is recognized by managers. A survey conducted by Duke University with 5,000 American and European executives revealed that 90% believe it is important for the results.

    Still, for only 15% of them, the organizational culture at their company was adequate at the time of the study.

    What are the types of organizational culture?

    Due to the difficulty of aligning organizational culture with reality and business objectives, it is essential that managers know the different currents in this field.

    It is important to keep in mind that there are no proposals considered right or wrong, but strong or weak. Additionally, this depends on how closely the proposal is aligned with the actions taken. Companies with stronger cultures are also those considered to be more successful, as they manage to develop their strategy more efficiently.

    Below, there are some types of organizational culture and how they are developed in the business environment.

    People culture and market culture

    A people-focused culture values ​​horizontal structures, where people are the most valuable assets of the organization. In this case, value is associated with how business and interpersonal relationships with employees, customers and society are conducted.

    Although it also values ​​these relationships, market culture is focused on generating results, with attention to competition and the execution of activities.

    Adaptive culture and adhocracy culture

    In adaptive and adhocratic cultures, new ideas and team member individuality are valued, with increased freedom in decision-making and decentralized management.

    In the case of the adaptive type, we go back to action and transformation, increasing the chances of adapting to changes in the scenario. Adhocracy, on the other hand, is related to an entrepreneurial proposal and focused on innovation and pioneering.

    Culture of power, culture of roles and culture of hierarchy

    These types of organizational culture have common principles, which are the respect for the corporate hierarchy and centralization of decision making in leaders. They can be differentiated in the following ways:

    • power: high strategic and functional concentration in the role of the leader;
    • roles: bureaucratic model in which employees exercise operational functions and report to leaders with a focus on efficiency;
    • hierarchy: similar to the culture of roles, the focus is on efficiency and stability, not providing openness to change.

    These models are quite common, but it is necessary to pay attention to the business’ unique traits. For example, a company that seeks innovation and alignment with digital transformation trends is unlikely to be successful in adopting these approaches.

    Task culture and clan culture

    In task and clan cultures, the basis is a collective commitment to business goals. In the task culture, the focus is on small specialized teams to solve specific demands, while in the clan culture, the structure is more family-like, with collaborative construction and mentors.

    What are some examples from successful companies?

    As we said above, there is no right or wrong when deciding on organizational culture. However, some work better for some business models. Because of that, we present below some examples of organizational cultures that are considered successful. Check them out!


    It is to be expected that Google, which is frequently mentioned here when it comes to digital marketing and SEO, also has one of the most recognized internal cultures in the world.

    The company achieved this status by placing the employee at the center of the actions, with the offer of free meals, spaces for interaction in the offices, bicycles to go to work, among other benefits.

    The goal is that, with these advantages, the professional becomes more motivated and builds good relationships with colleagues, encouraging a more collaborative and creative environment. However, this model is more functional for startups, for example, because they focus on values ​​connected to innovation and technology.

    Southwest Airlines

    Southwest Airlines is an example of an organizational culture that has worked for over 40 years. The reason for the company’s success is an environment in which the employee is the most valued agent, including in relation to customers and partners.

    As a result, the employees feel like they belong, show commitment and pride in the company, which reflects in customer service excellence.

    In order to cultivate these results in the long term, the company combined operating strategies with innovative HR technology and solutions, to keep up with the new external scenarios that have been revealed in the last decades.


    Another example of a successful company for combining its business philosophy with the employees’ daily lives is Nike. The brand’s goal is to be at the lead of its market and, for that, it encourages curiosity, innovation and autonomy for its teams.

    Independence to create and take risks makes employees innovate without the company discarding ideas that do not work. In turn, this culture makes professionals feel committed to creating and delivering new solutions, feeding the feeling of belonging.

    Therefore, the most successful companies when it comes to organizational culture are those that integrate the defined proposals of the brand’s mission and the way in which employees work on a daily basis.

    How to define your company’s organizational culture?

    As you have seen so far, the organizational culture can be an important ally for a company’s consolidation and growth. But, for this to happen, it is important that values ​​and actions are aligned not only among managers, but the entire team.

    Probably, even without having been planned, the company already has a modus operandi, and this aspect should be considered when defining its organizational culture. Professionals already have habits, processes, values ​​and guidelines, so these factors must be included in the proposed formal organization.

    Below, we highlight the steps to define your company’s organizational culture. Check them out!

    Founders and leadership mentality

    Inevitably, the culture of an organization arises from the founders’ mentality, considering the initial proposal and the business differentials.

    Google’s culture, for example, was thought of by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, while Apple’s is directly related to Steve Jobs’ proposals. So, despite the inspiration, culture is closely related to each company.

    In addition, leaders have a central role in spreading the organizational culture among employees. On a daily basis, factors such as motivation, balance between inquiries and rewards, feedback, clarity in processes, hierarchy, among others, will determine what the company’s internal culture is and how it evolves.

    Hiring process

    After defining the company’s values, managers have an idea of ​​what attributes are expected on the teams. Thus, the dissemination of culture is directly related to the hiring of employees who correspond to this idea.

    For example, if the company proposes more autonomy in the processes, it needs to hire people with more initiative. In addition, the leaders of the future are the new employees of today, so such care affects the long-term success of the proposal.

    Business differentials

    If the organizational culture must be aligned with market objectives, it is essential that both consider the business differentials in the planning stage. These are the unique elements of the proposal and of the teams that add to the daily life of the company, allowing the results to be sought every day by taking these competitive advantages as starting points.

    Work routine

    The work routine is what allows you to reinforce the beliefs and values ​​of the professionals in the company. This does not mean doing the same thing every day, but rather the daily ability to live within the values ​​shared by the business, which starts to be reflected in all the teams’ actions.

    It is simply the coexistence, small and large daily decisions, relationships, improvements, etc. that make up corporate culture and, for this reason, these values ​​must be present every day in the developed processes.

    Feeling of belonging

    In the three examples of companies with successful cultures, a common aspect is the professional’s feeling of belonging. This happens when they get involved with the brand proposal, adopting the company’s success as part of their personal success.

    This unit should be encouraged both in the collaborative construction and in the rewards and promotion of daily coexistence.

    What are the main challenges in the process?

    Some aspects demand attention from the founders and leaders when the goal is to build a solid organizational culture. With this in mind, we have identified the recurring challenges in this process below.

    Internal communication and marketing

    Internal communication and marketing are central elements in a strong organizational culture. This is because they depend on the continuous relationship between leaders and employees, seeking more freedom to express their opinions and contribute to building solutions.

    These factors are also present in feedbacks offered, team awareness, training, transmission of company values ​​and meetings.

    Therefore, communication impacts business transformations and the possibilities of strengthening the organization’s identity and culture.

    Culture transformation

    A company’s culture is influenced by its employees, market, customer needs, technological progress and other elements. This makes it changeable and prone to transformation.

    The ability to incorporate changes and new elements into the internal culture is one of the biggest challenges for companies, as it is this factor that makes it durable in the long run and really strong, as in the example of Southwest Airlines.

    Negative behaviors

    Just as recruitment is important for the company to have employees with compatible values, it is essential to monitor negative behaviors to cut them.

    For example, if a professional is rude to colleagues without the company taking action, this becomes the leveling of what is accepted.

    With this in mind, preventing employees with inappropriate behavior from becoming the benchmark for others is also a challenge and should be the goal of a conscious and active leadership.

    Thus, it is clear that organizational culture has a central role and must be defined based on values, professionals and business goals. Thus, it becomes an important ally in fulfilling the brand’s mission, providing more solidity and results.

    Now that you know how to build an organizational culture inside your company, it’s time to invest in your branding. Download for free our brand guidelines bundle!


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