Finding the Right Company Culture for You

A company is defined not only by its profits and policies, but also by its unique corporate culture. Every company has its own style of leadership, standards for employee relations, and priorities in social interactions. Company culture is one of the most important aspects of any workplace. In many offices, executives deliberately set standards for culture. In others, the culture springs up organically from staff members lower on the chain of command. Culture is a major influence on everyday operation of a business, so as an employee at any level, it's smart to be aware of your company's cultural tendencies. Once you've figured out which culture helps your company succeed, you can capitalize on its strong points and fit in even better at work.

Here's a helpful guide to the four most common cultures in today's corporate sector.

Hierarchical Culture

Most often seen in larger corporations and widely used by the nation's traditional business leaders, a hierarchical culture depends on structure. Focused on productivity and rational decision-making, this culture emphasizes accurate records and precise use of time. If regular time reports are a part of your daily routine, your corporate culture probably has aspects of this classic style. A hierarchical culture prioritizes efficient systems and keeps operations as consistent as possible. This style of business knows what works and sticks to tested processes to ensure success. A hierarchical culture is a great fit for someone who works well with direct, professional communication, strict requirements, or clearly defined roles. It's a predictable and familiar structure many find reliable, but others might find restrictive. At larger businesses, this culture is especially helpful, keeping disparate elements in line and everyone pulling the same direction.

Market-Driven Culture

Most common in highly competitive industries and niche fields, a market-driven culture is internally as well as externally competitive. A company with this style of culture is an intense work environment, expecting top performance from every employee. A market-driven culture is especially common in service businesses that depend on successful client relationships to survive. Such companies need to provide top-quality service in their respective fields to ensure repeat business and stay afloat in the marketplace. High-speed and high-pressure environments found in market-driven cultures reward ambitious, dedicated employees who flourish under demanding requirements. Market-driven cultures can be taxing for some employees, but for workers who thrive in this type of environment, pressure to achieve ever greater success inspires camaraderie and hard work no other culture can foster.

Clan Culture

Defined primarily by teamwork, a clan culture is about relationships. Unlike its market-driven counterpart, though, clan culture emphasizes internal relationships within the company. More than any other culture, clan structure invests in employees and promotes development through training initiatives and staff education programs. While hierarchical structure prioritizes tested, precise methods, and market-driven culture rewards dedicated effort, clan culture makes collaboration its major goal and main means of creating success. This culture is perfect for people who care for and rely on others—employees who feel comfortable entrusting their professional welfare to other members of a team. Ideal for smaller companies or teams within larger corporations, clan culture welcomes empathetic, sociable employees who love to be part of something greater. Connected to the community that supports them and committed to the workers that comprise them, businesses with this culture put people first and encourage lasting relationships.

Flexible Culture

The primary aspect of a flexible culture is a focus on innovation. Unlike the traditional model of hierarchical culture, flexible culture consistently seeks to refine and change its methods as needs of the business evolve and change. A flexible culture demands creativity—each employee needs to contribute from his or her unique perspective to drive progress. A business with this style of culture is always looking toward the future and planning around emerging trends. Flexible culture is most closely associated with startup businesses and is most effective for small companies. This type of business is defined by its agility and adaptability; with a smaller staff and a more malleable structure, a startup can change its practices on short notice to take advantage of an opportunity or respond to an unexpected setback. Employees in a flexible culture have to be able to deal with rapid-fire changes and accept new tasks and roles as they arrive. Those who appreciate variety and adapt quickly will be appreciated and enriched in a flexible culture.

You can mix and match aspects of these four major archetypes to create a culture that's unique to your business. Just noticing trends at work in your office can bring about serious, positive change on a daily basis. Keep your culture in mind as your business develops and you can build structures you need for success.