Organizational Culture Examples

Let’s now take a look at some real-world examples of organizational culture across various industries.

Zappos

No list of organizational culture examples would be complete without Zappos.

The company is best known for its exhaustive screening process where it only recruits employees who are dedicated to the cause.

Those who are successful must undertake a month of training in a call center where they are instilled with 10 core values that relate to customer service, communication, passion, humility, determination, and creativity. 

Former CEO Tony Hsieh famously instituted several policies to ensure Zappos culture was characterized by productivity and innovation.

One of these was known as “The Offer”, with individuals paid $2,000 to leave the company if they were unhappy after the four-week training period.

Southwest Airlines

The culture of Southwest Airlines is one of its most celebrated assets. It was established by former CEO Herb Kelleher who recognized the link between employee happiness, customer happiness, and profitability early on.

Southwest Airlines’ culture is underpinned by three elements: 

  1. Appreciation – every employee is appreciated via so-called “culture committees” to promote a fun and healthy work environment.
  2. Recognition – this occurs in formal and informal ways. Employees can be nominated for prestigious company awards and milestone anniversaries are also celebrated.
  3. Celebration – employees are encouraged to attend fun and creative events such as Southwest rallies, chili cook-offs, and spirit parties.

The company’s culture is not only successful but extremely difficult to replicate.

It enjoyed a record 44 straight years of profitability before the COVID-19 pandemic and routinely ranks #1 for the lowest number of customer complaints among major airlines.

Adobe

Creativity and multimedia software company Adobe is consistently featured in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

In 2022, for example, it was ranked #32 among the likes of HubSpot, Bank of America, and Red Hat, Inc.

The company was also considered one of America’s best large employers after a Forbes and Statista survey of 38,000 employees.

Adobe’s culture is based on a people-first approach to business where employees are seen as the company’s greatest asset.

The diverse and inclusive workplace enables individuals to feel comfortable, happy, appreciated, and motivated to bring the best version of themselves to work.

Here are some of the pillars of Adobe’s organizational culture:

  • Commitment to values – the brand is driven forward by employees who embody the Adobe core values of Involved, Innovative, Exceptional, and Genuine.
  • Progressive policies – the company is a leader in pay parity across gender and ethnic pay parity for employees in underrepresented minority groups.
  • “Adobe For All” – this is a vision that enables Adobe to advance its diversity and inclusion objectives. The company strongly believes that employees should be respected and treated equally irrespective of cultural background, race, religion, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
  • COVID-19 response – at the height of the pandemic, Adobe pledged to protect the health of its employees and, instead of laying off workers, redirected them to different areas of the company where they could best be utilized. The company also offered free meditation apps, counseling, and every third Friday off to address employee fatigue.

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Organizational Structure Case Studies

Airbnb Organizational Structure

airbnb-organizational-structure
Airbnb follows a holacracy model, or a sort of flat organizational structure, where teams are organized for projects, to move quickly and iterate fast, thus keeping a lean and flexible approach. Airbnb also moved to a hybrid model where employees can work from anywhere and meet on a quarterly basis to plan ahead, and connect to each other.

eBay Organizational Structure

ebay-organizational-structure
eBay was until recently a multi-divisional (M-form) organization with semi-autonomous units grouped according to the services they provided. Today, eBay has a single division called Marketplace, which includes eBay and its international iterations.

IBM Organizational Structure

ibm-organizational-structure
IBM has an organizational structure characterized by product-based divisions, enabling its strategy to develop innovative and competitive products in multiple markets. IBM is also characterized by function-based segments that support product development and innovation for each product-based division, which include Global Markets, Integrated Supply Chain, Research, Development, and Intellectual Property.

Sony Organizational Structure

sony-organizational-structure
Sony has a matrix organizational structure primarily based on function-based groups and product/business divisions. The structure also incorporates geographical divisions. In 2021, Sony announced the overhauling of its organizational structure, changing its name from Sony Corporation to Sony Group Corporation to better identify itself as the headquarters of the Sony group of companies skewing the company toward product divisions.

Facebook Organizational Structure

facebook-organizational-structure
Facebook is characterized by a multi-faceted matrix organizational structure. The company utilizes a flat organizational structure in combination with corporate function-based teams and product-based or geographic divisions. The flat organization structure is organized around the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, and the key executives around him. On the other hand, the function-based teams based on the main corporate functions (like HR, product management, investor relations, and so on).

Google Organizational Structure

google-organizational-structure
Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.

Tesla Organizational Structure

tesla-organizational-structure
Tesla is characterized by a functional organizational structure with aspects of a hierarchical structure. Tesla does employ functional centers that cover all business activities, including finance, sales, marketing, technology, engineering, design, and the offices of the CEO and chairperson. Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, decide the strategic direction of the company, with international operations given little autonomy.

McDonald’s Organizational Structure

mcdonald-organizational-structure
McDonald’s has a divisional organizational structure where each division – based on geographical location – is assigned operational responsibilities and strategic objectives. The main geographical divisions are the US, internationally operated markets, and international developmental licensed markets. And on the other hand, the hierarchical leadership structure is organized around regional and functional divisions.

Walmart Organizational Structure

walmart-organizational-structure
Walmart has a hybrid hierarchical-functional organizational structure, otherwise referred to as a matrix structure that combines multiple approaches. On the one hand, Walmart follows a hierarchical structure, where the current CEO Doug McMillon is the only employee without a direct superior, and directives are sent from top-level management. On the other hand, the function-based structure of Walmart is used to categorize employees according to their particular skills and experience.

Microsoft Organizational Structure

microsoft-organizational-structure
Microsoft has a product-type divisional organizational structure based on functions and engineering groups. As the company scaled over time it also became more hierarchical, however still keeping its hybrid approach between functions, engineering groups, and management.

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