Michelle Sheridan, Talent Development Manager at Urbint
As a versatile project manager and HR content writer, Michelle develops successful organizational development programs and shares insights with the world at large to facilitate healthy workplace cultures of diversity, inclusivity, and advancement. She has written about manager development, remote work, project & time management, employee well-being, and other relevant topics to help people excel in the modern workplace.
Pub: September 16 2020
. Upd: October 18 2021
When you’re looking to describe company culture for your own organization you first need to learn what company culture really is.
Company culture is an intricate mix of a company’s mission, values, ethics, and the overall work environment. It combines a company’s ideals with the more practical issues of how it actually conducts work. Culture shapes results across all facets of a company, from how they complete business processes, to how information is shared, to how they plan to grow in the future.
Company culture also contributes to an employer’s brand, one of the first things that potential employees look at when considering whether or not to join a company. Strong company culture can lead to improved communication, collaboration, wellness, and performance. So it only makes sense that you'd want to find the best words to describe the culture.
Finding the right words to describe company culture can feel like a nebulous task, especially in today’s day and age where companies are forced to be more adaptive to change. Consider the following as a baseline when trying to describe your company’s culture:
- Mission Statement: Does your company have a mission statement? Mission statements define the reason behind a company’s existence and its overall goal. Whether your company provides
- Values & Ethics: These two go hand in hand. Employee handbooks are a great way of defining a company’s values and ethics, and how employees are encouraged and expected to behave. Some examples here might be dedication, honesty, integrity, and accountability.
- Environment: The physical environment of your workplace has an equally important part in defining company culture. Is the work environment more casual or formal? Do employees feel like they can stroll into the CEO’s office to ask questions, or is there a more defined hierarchy?
After analyzing your company’s mission statement, values, ethics, and work environment, you’ll have a better understanding of the basis of your company culture. When it comes to defining it, we’ve created this list of 30 words to describe company culture to inspire you:
- Transparent: A transparent company workplace culture emphasizes clear communication and sharing information. This can manifest in a variety of ways, but it demonstrates that leaders in the company care that employees understand why things are done the way that they are.
- Results-Oriented: A results-oriented approach to company culture prioritizes actions and outcomes. You need to define the results that you want to achieve with your team members and then strategically execute on them.
- Performance Driven: Similar to results-oriented, a performance-driven company is motivated by team success and driving better business outcomes.
- Challenging: One of those words that could have either positive or negative connotations, so you should dig into the subtext. A challenging company culture, when positive, provides opportunities to develop employee skill sets and grow. When negative, it potentially creates stress through lack of communication, poor management, or lack of clear objectives across team members.
- Engaging: An engaging company culture keeps employees motivated and interested in their jobs. Strong engagement includes solid manager-employee relationships, frequent communication, healthy work life balance, and a feeling of belonging.
- Innovative: Your company looks for new ways to do things and isn’t afraid to go against the status quo in their quest for success. This word is usually associated with startups and technology companies.
- Autonomous: If employees are actively encouraged to complete projects on their own without managers micromanaging, you might say that you have an autonomous workplace culture that trusts that your employees can produce top results.
- Collaborative: A collaborative work environment emphasizes the need to work together and share information to achieve success, as well as maximize employee knowledge and ideas. This cooperation helps employees work across department or function lines which has a net positive impact on company performance.
- Inclusive: Inclusivity might be a buzzword in recent times, but it is a critical factor of company success and employee well-being. In an inclusive workplace, employee differences are celebrated and uplifted. They promote a sense of belonging where employees from all walks of life feel valued and respected.
- Flexible: If your company is okay with schedule changes, trying out different problem-solving approaches, or is generally not phased by big issues, you could describe them as flexible.
- Casual: Maybe your company places more importance on how quickly projects are finished rather than what employees wear to the office. Or maybe you’re a company that leaves early on Fridays for team happy hours or team-building experiences. Casual companies believe comfortable employees are hardworking employees.
- Motivating: Motivating work cultures encourage employees to always do their best by providing support and opportunity. It also leads to lower absenteeism and higher employee retention.
- Ethical: In an ethical workplace culture, you can be sure that every manager and employee upholds their world, and that all work is conducted above board. Company values and ethics are extremely important to ensure that there is a sense of trustworthiness.
- Curious: A curious company culture encourages employees to explore their interests and offers support to make that possible.
- Creative: Creative workplaces cultivate an atmosphere of innovation and imagination. This is not limited to artistic fields - any industry can foster creative culture by thinking outside of the box.
- Supportive: A supportive company culture actively supports their employees by supporting positive relationships and emotional wellbeing.
- Recognition: Do your managers actively offer feedback and support when employees are doing a great job? A culture of recognition recognizes when employees go above and beyond.
- Empowering: Empowering cultures encourage employees to reach beyond their normal day to day responsibilities and stretch their capabilities.
- Fun: Fun work cultures might provide perks such as unlimited coffee or office games to keep employees upbeat and playful. While fun is not the be all end all of culture, its important to find ways to inject fun into the workplace.
- Welcoming: A welcoming company culture quickly brings new team members into the fold, and consistently provides more tenured employees with opportunities to connect and engage with each other.
- Purposeful: Many employees want to feel as though their work has an impact. A purposeful company culture connects work to the bigger picture so that employees can see how they are helping the world.
- Formal: Most workplaces have some degree of formality - it’s unavoidable in the business world. However, formal work cultures require a type of dress code, tend to be more hierarchical, and might have more structured communication norms.
- Siloed: When teams work in a silo, they lose opportunities to collaborate. A siloed work environment does not encourage sharing information between teams, probably to increase team focus, but this often has the negative effect of reducing team efficiency.
- Unethical: Maybe managers take credit for their employees’ work, or maybe a team member cuts corners around certain projects if they know that no one will notice. Unethical cultures pave the way for problems down the line.
- Outdated: An outdated company culture might refer to technology, communication styles, company policies, or something else. It’s important for a company to maintain consistency, but also to evolve with the times.
- Rigid: Rigid company culture leaves little room for improvisation and is very rules or tradition focused. Quite often there is an attitude of “this is how we’ve always done things, and this is how we will continue to do it.”
- Boring: If employees are not challenged enough, or available projects do not spark interest, employees might become bored. A strong learning and development program that helps employees explore their curiosities can help combat this.
- Stressful: If employees feel like there is too much pressure, not enough resources, or not enough room to blow off steam, their negative stress levels increase. Stressful culture needs to be addressed quickly to prevent employee disengagement and burnout.
- Demanding: A demanding company culture expects too much from employees and may or may not offer them the necessary resources to complete this work.
- Toxic: Toxic company culture can quickly lead to burnout and disengaged employees. Excessive office politics, weak communication, or gaslighting can contribute to a toxic workplace where employees do not feel valued.
Your company culture defines the environment where your employees work and sets the stage for what’s to come for your organization. Defining what you want your company’s culture to be is the first step toward building a workplace that employees love—and hopefully these words to describe company culture, positive and negative, are a helpful start.
Defining your company culture and recognizing positive and negative aspects, in relation to your mission statement, values, ethics, and environment, helps you to identify what areas you want to develop and which to change. This improves your current employee engagement and employer brand.
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