Workplace Culture Versus Corporate Culture: The Difference in the Details

April 2, 2018 Derek Heim

When you hear about “workplace culture,” what comes to mind? Do you imagine ping-pong tables in the break room? Healthy and delicious snacks available for free? What about when you hear the phrase, “corporate culture”? Are these two concepts different or similar? 

Corporate and workplace culture are by no means a foreign idea to modern institutions. In fact, quite recently, the two have been given a significant amount of attention. A Huffington Post article claims that a positive workplace culture results in employees being 54% more likely to be engaged in their work. 

At Appirio, we actively work to understand the subtle differences between workplace and corporate culture. Kim Heger, our Head of Global Worker Experience, is an expert in organizational change, talent development, and business transformation. She is passionate about driving business results and positive workforce experiences, through the implementation of innovative processes and technologies. Her career is spent working with organizations across the world in a variety of industries, advising them on the design and execution of successful technology change and cultural transformation programs aimed at nurturing tomorrow's talent.

Naturally, when we wanted to help spread the value and difference of workplace and corporate culture, we turned to Kim for guidance. 

1. What is the difference between workplace culture and corporate culture? 

Kim Heger: Oftentimes you will hear these terms used interchangeably. However, I believe there are some differences. Corporate culture refers to the shared values, attitudes, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization. This can be a set of "unwritten rules" and perceived expectations that will drive specific behavior. 

Workplace culture is locally influenced or created by the leaders and individuals in their actions and how they show up each day. Workplace culture can be described as the personality of the business. For example, when employees are faced with challenges or problems to solve, it's the cultural norms that may influence our success in solving problems. If we value an open and transparent environment, people are more likely to share information and work collaboratively to get the best result.

2. Who plays a role in creating corporate culture? 

KH: While executive leadership is responsible for setting the tone, establishing the values, and demonstrating their commitment to those values in their day-to-day interactions, I don't believe they actually create the culture. The culture evolves through shared experiences and mutual understanding.

3. Who plays a role in creating workplace culture? 

KH: I believe everyone is responsible for workplace culture. This is not owned by or created by an individual or group, but rather demonstrated by how we show up and treat one another in the workplace. 

4. How can employees feel engaged in the development of their workplace culture?

KH: Find a way to be the best example of your work culture that allows you to do your best work. Treat others how you want to be treated. Be an ambassador and culture warrior in all that you do. Make suggestions on how to enhance the work environment, and be an active participant in all the company has to offer.

5. How does corporate culture impact the Customer Experience? 

KH: Engaged workers who feel a personal connection to the organization will create a positive experience for the customers they serve. A healthy corporate culture creates an environment where employees feel supported, even when things are not perfect. They will go above and beyond to ensure customer success.

6. What can employees do everyday to ensure a strong workplace culture? 

KH: Exhibit behaviors that amplify the desired culture. Be mindful of what creates positive results at the individual, team, and corporate level, and incorporate into your day-to-day interactions. Be supportive of the mission and vision. And when you see behavior that is disruptive or not in alignment, speak up and encourage the desired behaviors.

Be an advocate for workplace culture

Are you being an advocate for your organization? Are you living out the values and experiences that you want to see in your day-to-day activities? Are you a part of your workplace or corporate culture? Knowing the differences — and how to help spread the two — is crucial to the atmosphere of an office. Work everyday to make sure your everyday work is rewarding and excellent. 

At Appirio, we invest a lot in out Worker Experience. Do you want to learn more about the intersection of technology and culture? Register for our Experience tour today! 

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