Definition of corporate culture

Corporate culture is seen in an organisation’s behaviour and its structure. A hierarchical company may have individual offices, a formal environment and intricate rules regarding travel allowances and dress code.  It used to be said, for example, that you could recognise IBM employees when travelling for business because of their formal dark suits and ties.

Companies emphasising equality and innovation will demonstrate these values visibly too, for instance, Apple is famous for its casual dress and elegant product design.  At Intel, which is known for its culture of face-to-face open discussions, everyone, including the top executives, works in the same size office cubicle and even senior managers fly economy class.  Such symbols send powerful messages about a company’s culture.


In the global context, many companies must identify the DNA of their cultures – what makes them who they are – and invite their country operations to adapt the rest to local business culture. Agreeing on and strengthening the DNA is important so that  employees across operations will better understand corporate goals and the acceptable ways of reaching them. Such alignment leads to better and more consistent business results.

There are ways of trying to adapt to a culture, for instance, an European printing group wanted to be more relevant to their staff in China after unsatisfactory results from an employee engagement survey. They decided to focus on how the global corporate values applied locally.  One value was “being proactive”.

After extensive discussions, the Chinese managers suggested redefining this value for the local operation as “regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement.”

This helped staff take individual responsibility with the goal of helping the group. [1]

Employees who want exposure to the emerging countries such as the Brics - Brazil, Russia, India and China - "must decide whether to export existing corporate cultures or adapt to their varied local working habits.  For example, interruptions during presentations are welcomed in Brazil, where business cards should be printed in both English and Portuguese, but in India, where English is an official language, such behaviour is less acceptable. In Russia employees are entitled to 28 days annual leave, while in China workers are required to work at weekends to make up time lost during national holidays." [2]


Powerhouse economies lure staff

Case study: Zappos

Carmaking: Adroit in Detroit

Perspectives: IBM lasts out its stormy century