Creating a culture statement that accurately reflects your organization’s identity is valuable for nearly every aspect of your company. It serves as a guide for leaders and workers to follow, allows companies to find and retain top talent, and helps increase employee engagement and satisfaction.
But an impactful culture statement isn’t something you can easily write out in just a few minutes. It takes an understanding of your culture and business goals—and perhaps reading some culture statements from other companies for inspiration.
To help you create a strong company culture statement that effectively communicates your culture to others, here’s what you should know:
What is a company culture statement?
A company culture statement is a guide that defines and describes the aspects that make up an organization’s culture—including its mission, core values, code of conduct, beliefs, and practices. It highlights the qualities and characteristics that are most important to an organization’s identity and how it conducts business.
Culture statements are often found in employee handbooks, proudly displayed on company websites, and explained to new hires during the onboarding process.
For those who are unfamiliar with an organization—like, say, a prospective job applicant or investor—reading culture statements can help them understand whether a company is a good fit for them.
Culture statements are an important resource for job seekers in particular, as culture is one of the most important factors candidates look at when researching potential employers. In fact, LinkedIn research shows that 41% of US job candidates factor company culture into their assessment of new job opportunities.
Internally, corporate culture statements are used to guide employee actions and business decisions. Thoughtfully-designed ones unite everyone in an organization under a common mission, help them understand the culture they should strive for, and keeps members accountable for their behavior.
With this in mind, it’s little wonder that the ability to effectively describe your company culture is so important.
What should a great company culture statement include?
While company culture statements are as varied and unique as the businesses that create them, you can expect to find one or more of the following key elements in them:
- Mission statement: The overarching goal and purpose that drives the organization and its work
- Company vision statement: A description of the company’s long-term goals for the business and its impact on the world
- Core company values: The most important beliefs a company uses to guide its decisions and actions
- Code of ethics: The behaviors and practices a company wants its employees, managers, and leaders to adhere to
- Company history: The story behind the organization’s creation, which often provides context for the company’s culture
- Work environment: A description of the kind of workplace the company aims to provide for its employees
You may decide to include other details about your company in your statement—such as the characteristics that make your workforce unique or the quality of the relationships built within your organization—if they’ll help your reader understand why your business operates the way it does.
Together, these elements lay the foundation for your company culture statement.
3 tips to help you describe your organizational culture
Describe your company’s personality
Company culture is often referred to as the “personality” of a company—and for good reason. Your personality influences your identity and how other people perceive you and every personality has unique traits and quirks that set it apart from others.
So, if you’re having trouble describing your company culture, use the following trick to your advantage.
Take a moment to think about what your organization would be like if it were a person. How would you describe your company’s personality? What characteristics or memorable qualities would it have?
If you’re a scrappy new startup with resourceful and adaptable employees, then you might describe your company culture as “entrepreneurial.” Alternatively, an organization that encourages free information exchange between all employees might have a transparent and open culture.
By going through this exercise, you begin to start thinking about the words and phrases that come to mind when you think about your culture.
Ask for input from your employees
When it comes to your culture, no one is more knowledgeable than your employees.
After all, they have the most exposure to what your company culture looks like on a day-to-day basis. And as the bulk of your workforce, their experiences and beliefs have an outsized impact on the culture that develops in your company. So, an accurate culture statement is impossible to create without your employees’ feedback.
Before you write your culture statement, make an effort to understand your employees’ actual work experience. Observe them in their work environment and get their input on your culture with tools like employee surveys and focus groups. (Here’s a list of nine company culture questions you can ask them.)
Then, before you finalize it, you’ll also want to ask for their feedback on your culture statement draft. This ensures that your description of your company culture remains as accurate as possible.
Including your employees in developing your culture statement helps you create one that’s authentic, clear, and compelling.
Get specific with your culture statement
Because they describe intangible elements of a business, it’s surprisingly easy to create company culture statements that are too vague or ambiguous. This defeats the purpose of this initiative, as these kinds of statements prevent readers from understanding what your culture looks like.
For example, you might say you have an autonomous culture, but what does that really mean? Do employees have the freedom to structure their day according to their needs? Or does that mean they have the authority to make on-the-fly decisions without consulting their manager?
Avoid this by adding descriptive details to your culture statement. Use specific examples to demonstrate your company culture vision or tell stories to show what your culture looks like in action.
Explaining what you mean provides clarity for your reader so your culture statement can stand on its own.
What words can you use to describe your company culture?
The words you use to describe your company culture are important. In addition to its dictionary definition, every word has an implied meaning too—so the ones you choose can either build a greater understanding of your culture or confuse your reader.
And for those who come across your company for the first time, like job seekers or potential customers, the words that make up your culture statement build a first impression of your business long before they actually interact with you.
Here, we’ll look at 14 words you may find useful in describing your organization. Do any of them align with your company culture?
Alternate words: fast-moving, adaptable, nimble
When applied to company culture, “agile” refers to an organization’s ability to quickly adapt to change or pivot into new opportunities. This adaptability might also indicate less structure within the organization itself, with employee projects changing quickly and often.
Alternate words: engaging, stimulating
A challenging company culture implies that workers regularly take on rigorous but rewarding opportunities that push them out of their comfort zone and encourage growth.
Note that “challenging” may be a red flag for some job seekers. The same term could also imply that people are overworked, or that tasks are difficult because employees don’t have enough resources—so being specific with the kind of culture you mean will be helpful.
Alternate words: cooperative, team-based
Describing your workplace culture as “collaborative” suggests that employees work closely with their colleagues and people on different teams on a regular basis. They’ll be expected to share ideas and updates regularly, and people might find themselves joining meetings and impromptu brainstorming sessions in this work environment.
Alternate words: service-oriented, customer-centric, customer-driven
Customer-centric companies prioritize their customers, rather than their bottom line, in everything they do. This sentiment permeates every aspect of their culture too. These organizations aim to build lasting relationships with the people who support their businesses and are always looking for ways to improve their customer experience.
Alternate words: casual, relaxed, laidback, informal
Easygoing companies go with the flow and strive to make their employee experience a relaxing one. As you might imagine, they’re more likely to give employees the freedom to create a work arrangement that fits their lifestyle because it makes them more productive.
Because of their easygoing culture, these organizations tend to attract younger workers who appreciate a laidback work atmosphere and casual dress code.
Alternate words: dynamic, energetic
When people think of a fast-paced work culture, they imagine an energetic workplace where there’s always something to do. Employees might be expected to juggle multiple projects simultaneously, so they’ll need to manage their time wisely to succeed.
And while there might be numerous opportunities for growth and advancement, chances are the work never ends—for better or worse. So, make sure to explain specifically what “fast-paced” means and looks like in your organization.
Alternate words: supportive, accommodating
In company culture statements, “flexibility” often refers to employee working conditions—and, in particular, how well the organization adapts to the needs of its workforce. Think along the lines of flexible schedules, remote work arrangements, and overall work-life balance.
This is the kind of company culture many people look out for, as it shows that an employer will prioritize building a better work experience for employees and supporting their well-being.
Alternate words: playful, lively, enjoyable
A company that advertises its company culture as “fun” doesn’t take itself too seriously. It sends the message that, while the job itself is still the priority, finding joy in where and how you work is important too. Perhaps the organization offers fun activities and social events to break up the workday, or it might offer unconventional perks like “bring your pet to work” days or beer on tap.
Alternate words: learning-focused, feedback-rich, fostering, nurturing
Growth-oriented companies focus on helping employees grow, both in their careers and as individuals, to help them realize their full potential. They create a culture of learning and feedback—giving employees the freedom to take risks and make mistakes—because they see the value in these experiences.
They invest in their workers and give them the resources they need because when they succeed, so does the business.
Alternate words: friendly, welcoming, respectful, open-minded
Inclusive companies make an effort to make people feel welcome and accepted in the workplace from day one, no matter who they are. Team members treat each other with respect, courtesy, and empathy. Meanwhile, candidates might expect a great onboarding experience from these companies.
More candidates are intentionally seeking out inclusive and diverse workplaces too: According to Glassdoor, company diversity is an important consideration for 76% of workers when evaluating employers and job offers.
Alternate words: daring, cutting-edge, pioneering, progressive, visionary
Innovative companies think outside the box. They might already be well-known as a pioneer in their industry, or they push the boundaries of what’s considered normal or expected in their niche.
These businesses tend to operate in a nontraditional way too. Perhaps they promote themselves as a remote-first workplace or they give employees the freedom to work on personal projects—and job seekers are often drawn to the novelty and excitement they offer.
Alternate words: motivating, purposeful, passionate, inspiring, ambitious
A mission-driven culture suggests that employees are passionate about their company’s mission and the work they do. Because most of these companies strive to leave a positive impact on the world or in their communities, their people come to work every day energized and motivated to do their best. As a result, these companies tend to have higher employee satisfaction and engagement too.
Alternate words: performance-driven, high-performance, results-driven, achievement-focused
Results-oriented companies prioritize hitting their business goals and keeping their employees motivated and accountable to these milestones. These organizations tend to place heavy emphasis on goal setting, strategy, metrics, performance reviews, and employee recognition.
Managers at these companies might meet with their teams regularly to assess their progress and performance. They’ll seek out ways to motivate them to perform at their best, while also offering resources and mentorship opportunities to support their team.
Alternate words: autonomous, empowering
Businesses with a trusting culture give employees a lot of leeway in their roles (read: no micromanagement!). They empower workers to make their own decisions because they trust in the skills, knowledge, and work ethic they’ve hired them for. In return, their people work hard to reach the company’s goals and avoid breaking the organization’s trust in them.
10 company culture examples to use as inspiration
“Apple is organized by functional specialties rather than business units — rare for a company our size. We’re experts leading experts: hardware experts lead hardware, software experts lead software, and design experts lead design. This differs from most other large companies, where general managers oversee managers. Apple is Apple because those with the most expertise in an area of work have decision rights for that area.”
“Change is a constant throughout your career at Apple, and you may choose different ways to grow. You can seek even greater depth within your expertise, change scope in your current position, or even explore a new opportunity here. Whatever you decide, you’ll play the lead role in your growth, and we’ll be behind you all the way.”
“Our purpose: To drive integrity by being honest & transparent in every interaction.”
“Our success is possible because of the hard work and dedication of our 25,000+ associates nationwide. If you join our team, you’ll join a culture of transparency, integrity, and an unwavering focus on doing what’s right for each other, our customers, and our communities. We’re committed to helping you innovate, learn, grow, and shape your career in ways you haven’t even imagined.”
“Three little words sum up one big mission: Keep Commerce Human. Etsy is the global marketplace for unique and creative goods. We connect creative entrepreneurs from nearly every country around the world with buyers shopping for something special.”
“Tackle unique problems alongside talented coworkers and teams. We’re large enough that you’ll focus on meaningful, complex challenges, but small enough that you can make a rewarding impact. See your work make a true difference in people’s lives.”
4. Four Seasons
“We have chosen to specialize within the hospitality industry by offering only experiences of exceptional quality. Our objective is to be recognized as the company that manages the finest hotels, resorts and residence clubs wherever we locate. We create properties of enduring value using superior design and finishes, and support them with a deeply instilled ethic of personal service. Doing so allows Four Seasons to satisfy the needs and tastes of our discerning customers, and to maintain our position as the world’s premier luxury hospitality company.”
“We’re a thriving community for workplace conversations, driven by a simple mission: helping people everywhere find jobs and companies they love.
But the way we do it? That’s not so simple.
Every day, we’re inspired by a vision to make positive workplace change through radical transparency. Through the products we make and the communities we create, we’re breaking down barriers that lead to discrimination, pay gaps, and toxic work environments. Together, we’re fostering a world where people have the support and resources they need to find a job that loves them back.”
“At Patagonia, we appreciate that all life on earth is under threat of extinction. We’re using the resources we have—our business, our investments, our voice and our imaginations—to do something about it.”
“Earth is now our only shareholder. We’re standing capitalism on its head. The full value of Patagonia is now going to protect the source of all wealth—and our one and only home.”
“We believe now is the time to reimagine money and democratize financial services, so that managing and moving money is safe and accessible for everyone. We’re driven by this purpose and support employees by valuing inclusion, innovation, collaboration, and wellness, so they can ensure that every person can participate in the global economy.”
“Our mission is to unlock the potential of human creativity—by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.”
“We’ve made it our business to make some noise. We’re not content to sit idly by and wait for others to forge new paths – we want to learn faster than the world around us is changing. In short, change is our constant. We’re dedicated to relentless innovation, ensuring our technology stays relevant, easy to use, and easy to scale.”
9. Trader Joe’s
“Trader Joe’s is a national chain of neighborhood grocery stores. We are committed to providing our customers outstanding value in the form of the best quality products at the best everyday prices. Through our rewarding products and knowledgeable, friendly Crew Members, we have been transforming grocery shopping into a welcoming journey full of discovery and fun since 1967.”
“We want our customers’ experience while shopping in our stores to be rewarding, eventful and fun. Our helpful, friendly Crew Members take care in maintaining safe and inviting neighborhood stores; in crafting creative, informative signage to support our customers’ understanding of our products; and in creating a store environment that imparts adventure, humor and a warm sense of community.”
“At Zappos.com, our purpose is simple: to live and deliver WOW.
Twenty years ago, we began as a small online retailer that only sold shoes. Today, we still sell shoes — as well as clothing, handbags, accessories, and more. That “more” is providing the very best customer service, customer experience, and company culture. We aim to inspire the world by showing it’s possible to simultaneously deliver happiness to customers, employees, vendors, shareholders, and the community in a long-term, sustainable way.”
When it comes to company culture, authenticity trumps all
While it’s helpful to borrow inspiration from the world’s top companies, remember that your culture statement should be an authentic representation of your culture as it is right now.
It’s important you don’t stray from what your company culture actually looks like. Case in point? A 2022 report from Jobvite found that 34% of new employees who left a job within the first 90 days did so because the company’s culture was not what they expected.
Show off the unique characteristics that set you apart from your competitors by using the language employees and customers use to describe you. This helps ensure that your culture statement both resonates with your people and builds credibility with those who are unfamiliar with your company.
What’s most important when creating your culture statement is communicating your culture in an authentic, thoughtful, and inspiring way. By doing so, you’ll find that your efforts will engage employees, customers, job seekers, and stakeholders alike.