A strong, vibrant and well defined culture isn’t a nice to have, it’s a must have.

Corporate Culture Examples: 3 Best Practices To Learn From And One To Avoid


The war for talent is on.

In today’s highly competitive marketplace for great employees, it’s not enough to have competitive pay, good benefits and extra vacation time. Today’s top talent also requires a fantastic corporate culture. A strong, vibrant and well defined culture isn’t a nice to have, it’s a must have.

While every culture is distinct, there is a lot to learn by studying those that have done it well. There is a reason why Zappos, Netflix, Google, and REI always rise to the top of the best places to work list. There are also some warning signs to pay attention to from the Enrons of the world.

Here are some best practice workplace cultures and what I believe helps transform their corporate culture into their competitive advantage internally and with their customers.

Warby Parker: The company that transformed how we shop for eyewear, and what we pay for them, is built on a solid foundation. If you go to the culture page on their website you’ll see their values. My favorite is the following:

#3: Get out there
No company is an island. Serving community is in our DNA - from distributing a pair of frames for every pair sold to sponsoring local little League teams (Go Giants! Go Skyscrapers!). We also work with Verite to ensure that our factories have fair working conditions and happy employees.

If you talk to people that work at Warby Parker they’ll tell you that they are encouraged to get out there and talk to people, be a part of their communities and think of their work inside the building as part of the greater outside world.

The result, a corporate culture that feels less corporate and more community. A place people feel really good about about working for.

REI: An outdoor enthusiast's dream and where I spent a couple of years working the floors when I first moved to Denver (I wanted to meet people).

REI is not like traditional organizations. It's a cooperative which means it’s member-owned. Their bigger mission, beyond selling outdoor gear is to educate the world about nature and help people fall in love and preserve the great outdoors.

I know this first hand from my experience there. They hired people that had a love and/or curiosity about mother nature. When I was working there, a colleague in the rock climbing department submitted a grant to go on a grand adventure and won! That’s right, REI paid for their excursion. Think about that for a second. A company is not only losing an employee for an entire month in this case, they have to pay another employee to fill that space while they are gone and pay for the adventure.

The result, a culture that retains people for years and a big reason why everyone from outdoor enthusiasts to weekend warriors go out of their way to shop there.

Netflix: A binge watcher's dream and streaming media channel. Netflix went from sending movies in the mail to being the go-to content streaming platform.

In all that time, the one thing that has stayed steady is their culture. You can view their culture deck on their website. There you will find a well laid out story of who Netflix is at its core. They state at the very beginning:

“Our culture focuses on helping us achieve excellence.”

This statement clearly defines the power of a strong and defined corporate culture. Before even getting into the values, mission and vision they set the stage for why culture is of the highest priority. This is an example of a strong corporate culture anchored in why it matters.

The result, a company that continues to push the boundaries and test out new ideas. Remember, most of those new ideas come from their employees. A strong corporate culture sets the stage for that type of innovation.

Enron: Best known for cooking the books.

Enron became an infamous example of what not to do on many levels. There was fraud, deception, and backstabbing happening at all levels of the organization, especially leadership. But do you know what values they had plastered on their wall….in the lobby for all to see?

  • Integrity
  • Communication
  • Respect
  • Excellence

That’s right, the opposite of how the people behaved. Your values are more than just statements on the wall. The ones listed above should be cost of entry, not the foundation of a strong corporate culture. Of course people should have integrity in their work and treat each other with respect. Those aren’t enough anyway and in this case, not true. Take the warning. Create a culture that is more than the baseline of how we should show up in the world and treat each other. And please, no lobby plaques.

The organizations I mentioned above that are doing it well have strong corporate cultures that are embodied each and every day.  And I’m sure you noticed that they also have something else in common. Their values and hence culture put an emphasis on innovation, the room for their people to tackle big challenges, think differently, be curious and try new ideas.

Innovation is a key building block for leading organizations that are out there creating the curve.