Company Culture: Why It Matters

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Company culture influences job responsibilities, employee relationships, company productivity, and more. Learn how to find the right company culture for you.

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Company culture influences how employees treat one another, the attitudes they share about their workplace and environment, subconscious assumptions made when making decisions, and the uniting values of an organization. Company culture shapes an organization in many ways, and finding a workplace with the right company culture for you can define your workplace experience.

To find the right company culture for you, you should first understand what company culture is and what defining traits separate one company culture from another. In this article, we’ll explore what defines company culture, the most common company culture archetypes found in our society, and why company culture matters.

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What is company culture?

You can think of company culture as the set of beliefs, values, goals, and attitudes shared by an organization. This is sometimes called the “shared ethos” of a workplace or the “company personality.” Company culture guides the activity of an organization and the way goals are expressed through values and beliefs. This helps professionals take collective action within their businesses and align their goals with larger company objectives. 

Company culture often dictates the social interactions of a company—what professionals consider appropriate, how employees interact, what behavior employees discourage, and how employees respond to change within their structure. 

Company culture is widely defined through four attributes:

1. Company culture is shared among employees.

Company culture cannot exist within one person alone. By definition, company culture shows itself through collective actions, values, and assumptions made within the company. It often encourages and shapes company goals and objectives, along with employees' expectations.

2. Company culture is pervasive.

Company culture is not only seen on an organization's top or bottom levels but is pervasive throughout the company structure. Company culture exists in multiple facets within the organization, including employees' behaviors, the company's environment, motivations behind actions, and unspoken assumptions. 

3. Company culture is enduring.

Company culture plays a significant role in shaping the hiring process, staff retention, and overall organizational structure. Employees are naturally inclined towards companies that align with their personal preferences and work styles, while employers actively seek individuals who will seamlessly integrate into their existing culture. As a result, company culture is not usually a temporary trend or passing phase; instead, it tends to be resistant to change. 

4. Company culture is implicit.

The nature of company culture is that it works in the background and is a type of silent motivating force. Therefore, it doesn't often have set boundaries or written rules. Employees can “feel” the cultural pressures and expectations and often respond instinctively. Company culture includes interactions, assumptions, and expectations.

Company culture styles

To organize and understand different company culture types, four subject matter experts at Harvard conducted a literature review to characterize different company cultures found across organizations. They defined eight types. Within these eight types, you’ll find key differences in how people interact (independently or interdependently) and respond to change (prioritizing flexibility or stability). Each style has aspects that may be advantageous for certain individuals or organizations and disadvantageous for others. The eight culture types are as follows [1]:


This work culture emphasizes employee trust and fosters a workplace that focuses on relationship building. A key component of this type of company culture is that employees support one another and act with integrity and sincerity. This type of environment is typically warm and welcoming. 


A purpose-driven company culture focuses on a positive purpose, typically to better the world. These environments are generous and optimistic, and employees are motivated by a shared goal to make a positive impact and contribute to the greater good. Employees are often empowered by one another and united by their collective goals.


A learning culture places the highest value on expanding knowledge, skills, and curiosity. This environment encourages employees to think outside the box and never stop learning. Employees often have a love for innovation and adventure.

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This type of workplace culture focuses on creating an enjoyable space. Employees are typically light-hearted, spontaneous, and encouraged to have a sense of humor. These environments usually have positive attitudes and high morale. 


Results-oriented company cultures focus on their outcomes and driving productivity. Employee performance and results are carefully monitored, and top performance is a sought-after goal. Leaders in this environment reward employee productivity and push employees to maximize their performance capabilities.


This type of work environment is highly structured, and senior employees have high levels of control over the employees they manage. There are pervasive themes of dominance and decisiveness, and workplaces are competitive. Employers desire boldness and confidence in this culture.


Safety culture is a top priority for companies with high-risk potential. These companies carefully plan each operation, prepare for all foreseeable events, and exercise caution in each step. Leaders in these organizations are averse to risk and tend to think logically. Employees move carefully and desire protection.


This type of company culture includes traits of structure, respect, and shared norms. People in this type of workplace desire to fit in with their colleagues and share methods with their peers. Professionals in order cultures tend to follow the rules carefully and stick with the status quo. Employees often use traditional procedures and methods.

Read more: 8 Management Styles in Business: Choosing the Best Fit

Why company culture matters

Company culture can enhance the workplace for employees and make a difference in whether employees engage within their organization. Company culture may influence the following factors:

Employee engagement

Employee engagement involves the connection and commitment an employee has to their workplace. This links to employee productivity, retention, and overall business outcomes. Employees who are part of a strong company culture often feel more engaged with their organization and colleagues. This helps employees feel their work is valuable and motivates them to go above and beyond to help the company succeed.

Read more: 15 Employee Engagement Ideas

Employee retention

Employees who enjoy their work and feel connected to their workplace are more likely to stay in their position. Several factors in a company culture contribute to employee retention. For example, employees with opportunities to learn and grow within their role may seek promotions or expand elsewhere less frequently. When looking for a company culture that fits you, you should consider what opportunities will allow you to grow toward your goals. 

Workplace productivity

Company culture is directly related to workplace productivity. When employees can see the direct impacts of their work on achieving company goals and missions, they are more likely to continue pushing toward collective goals. This differentiates between an engaged employee and a satisfied employee. A satisfied employee is happy with their current position, but an engaged employee actively works to increase productivity and help the company meet milestones. 

How to find the right company culture for you

Seemingly similar roles at different companies can feel drastically different due to contrasts in company culture. When looking for the right position for you, look beyond the job description and research intrinsic company values, cultural norms, mission statements, and perspectives from existing employees. 

1. Imagine your ideal work environment.

Are you interested in a flexible working environment or one with more structure? Do you want to socialize with your colleagues outside of work or keep your interactions in the workplace? Are you interested in an environment that encourages a sense of humor, or do you prefer a more serious workplace? Consider the eight types of workplace environments and pick out the ones that align best with your preferences.

Tip: When you are curious about a particular industry, job, or person, an informational interview can be a valuable tool for gaining insights that cannot be found in everyday research.

Put simply, it is a conversation that can help inspire and make informed decisions about your career. Learn more about how to set up and conduct an informational interview.

2. Analyze the job description.

After determining key factors that define a company culture that’s right for you, look carefully at the job description. Which words did the employer use to describe the position? Is the description written casually, or is it serious? Is there mention of work-life balance or how the company treats time off? Pay attention to keywords used to define the job, and consider the underlying implication of these terms. 

3. Read social media pages and job review boards.

Look for perspectives from current and previous employees and the type of posts the organization shares. Notice how companies respond to significant news events, whether they share team social events or any information demonstrating the company's values. Look for celebrations of employee success and indications that employers value and respect employees. Seeing yourself being part of the organization through its social media and reviews may indicate you could be a good fit.

Next steps

Learn more about company culture and leadership from top universities on Coursera. Build a team culture to maximize performance with Culture-Driven Team Building from the University of Pennsylvania, or learn to navigate the transition from start-up to scaleup with Building Culture in a Scale Up from IE Business School.

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Article sources

  1. Harvard Business Review. "The Culture Factor." Accessed October 19, 2023. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.