Types of Corporate Culture: The Basics And The Bottom Up Approach To Building A Strong Culture



Your organization’s culture is a direct reflection of the attitudes, beliefs and actions of your employees. There are two major types of corporate culture. A strong corporate culture tends to reflect a strong business, whereas a weak corporate culture is usually the sign of a struggling business reality.


I would suggest that there are a lot of ways to have a strong corporate culture. Your business values, the industry you play in, the personality of leadership all play a role. However, at it’s core are 3 fundamental elements.



First, in companies with a strong corporate culture employees feel empowered. They feel heard, valued and consider themselves contributors to the overall business goals and outcomes.



Second, a culture of innovation is part of the fabric of the corporate culture. Individuals feel as if they are capable of and responsible for bringing innovative ideas to their work. They also feel as if they have the room and support to continually improve both themselves and the work they do.



Finally, a strong corporate culture also includes investing back in their employees. The organization invests in personal and professional development on a regular basis. Employees have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs well.


The same is true for a weak culture. At it’s core a weak culture is driven by an air of distrust, a hierarchical structure that squelches individual contributions and a total lack of innovation.


Since you are reading this article, I’m going to assume that you are interested in creating or maintaining a strong culture that makes your organization a great place to work and drives measurable results.


When you know your core is solid, you can focus on adding that unique element that defines your corporate culture.


When you know your corporate culture you are able to:


Operate with Intention: It becomes clear what’s in and out of bounds and allows you to make smart decisions that are in alignment with the mission, vision and culture of the organization. It’s like the rudder of a boat that helps you steer in the right direction.

Uncover Gaps: If you are clear about your corporate culture, you’ll also be clear when you are out of alignment. This will help you uncover and fill those gaps. It’s perfectly natural to have them and equally important to address them immediately.

Discover Opportunities: A well articulated and lived culture helps employees know when there is an opportunity worth chasing. Like the gaps, it becomes very clear when an opportunity is in or out of alignment with the values and vision of the organization.


In addition to the above core values each organization has the opportunity to put its fingerprint on the corporate culture in a way that helps define it. Here are some examples of organizations that have a smart combination of the core - empowerment, innovation, investment - as well as their unique fingerprint element to create a strong corporate culture.


Costco: Team First

When you are hired at Costco, you are brought on to be a part of the team. While you may have come in to take on the role of cashier, you are also training to stock boxes, help in customer service, bring carts in from the parking lot. It’s a team effort and what needs to get done, gets done by the team.


You might be like Costco if:

  • Employees willingly help each other without seeking reward or recognition
  • Employees can shift roles based on needs of the organization
  • Success includes customer feedback or satisfaction


Zappos: Self Expression

If you’ve ever visited the Zappos campus you’ve seen how each employee is encouraged to decorate their work area in a way that reflects their personality. More interestingly to me, Zappos employees have the autonomy to solve problems, both internally and with customers, in a way that they see fit. Forget the processes manual, if you figure out a solution to a customer problem, you have permission to implement it.


You might be like Zappos if:

  • Employees are accountable for creating or evolving their own job descriptions
  • Employees have the autonomy to solve problems as they see fit
  • Each person feels valued and heard for their individual contributions to the organization


SpaceX: Achievement Focused

Elon Musk and his team are out there to shake things up. Because of this employees tend to be the best of the best, dedicated to achieving big things. In this type of culture disruptive ideas and achievements that move the needle are rewarded greatly.


You might be like SpaceX if:

  • Employees are always trying to improve current approaches, processes and products of the business
  • Leadership empowers their employees to try new things regardless of if they succeed or fail
  • The ability to disrupt current industry landscape is the ultimate success

Here’s the real truth about an organization's culture.

At it’s heart it’s about having employees that feel like their work is directly contributing to the organization’s bottom line. They feel that their voices are heard and that their effort is valued.  If you have this in place, great, I hope you foster it and don’t let it wilt and die like a flower that doesn’t get water after it starts to bloom.


If you are reading this and thinking, “Wow, we have some work to do!” you aren’t alone. Many of the clients who engage with LaunchStreet, especially our Innovation Quotient Edge (IQE)Assessment and online micro-lesson program, the IQE Pro Innovation Toolkit, are seeking transformation. They are leveraging powerful tools like the IQE to empower their employees, show them they are investing back in them and using the Pro Toolkit to provide them the tools they need to build a culture of innovation that pays off.


Making a culture shift can be challenging, especially if that shift comes as a mandate from the top down. The level of resistance and friction increases exponentially. But, when you have a bottom up approach, resistance to change decreases and the daily friction that can kill morale is minimized if not disappeared. This is why taking steps in the very beginning to empower your employees to feel heard, valued and a part of the process is so critical.


A bottom up approach, with a focus on innovation, greatly improves the corporate culture, especially during transformational times.