contributed by Melissa Lucas, senior staff writer
If you’re in the market for a new job, you probably have a list of “non-negotiables” in mind as you scour the internet for employment opportunities. These might include salary, schedule, benefits, commute, or paid time off. All are important factors when deciding on your next career venture. But don’t make the mistake of overlooking one of the most important pieces to the puzzle – workplace culture – which can make or break your experience with any employer.
Company, or workplace, culture is the set of values and norms that can be observed within a business entity. This includes things like policies and procedures, mission and vision, or a code of conduct.
But the company culture definition encompasses more than just what can be put down on paper. It’s also about the way it feels within a particular workplace – the work environment, leadership styles, team morale, transparency, trust, and so on. Workplace culture is usually a combination of deliberate planning and cultivation as well as the result of decisions made over time.
When a workplace culture supports positive day-to-day experiences, employees are more likely to be productive, effective, and efficient. Furthermore, employees who love where they work are more likely to self-report a good quality of life. In short, a positive company culture is a win-win for the employer and employee.
In all honesty, you can never fully grasp workplace culture until you’re immersed in it. However, if you want to know how to determine a company’s culture, there are a few simple ways to assess what it might be like to work with them.
Arrive early for your interview and take the opportunity to watch and listen. You can tell a lot about office culture by simply observing employee interactions. Do you see smiles and laughter? Silence? Or worse, hostility? How employees interact with you is equally important. Do you feel engaged and respected? Dismissed? Overlooked? You may not see it all, but a few minutes in a waiting room can tell you a lot about a company’s culture.
You can learn quite a bit about a workplace by evaluating the way they are viewed by their clients and team members. There are so many places to leave online reviews these days. Check them all: Yelp, Google, Facebook, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed. Definitely keep the content of reviews in mind, but also pay close attention to if (and how) the company responds to their reviews.
Another way to see what a company is all about is to investigate their social media pages, namely Facebook and Instagram. Pay attention not just to the content they post, but the ways in which they engage with users.
Ask if they’ll let you speak to other employees, or better yet, clients. Employees might not be willing to give detailed answers to questions about company culture, but you should still ask. If you pay attention, the way in which people respond (more than the content of that response) will tell you all you need to know. Clients, on the other hand, might be a little more candid. Regardless of the answers you receive, be sure to follow them up by asking why someone feels the way they do, as this can provide significant insight as well.
Any company that has been around for a while is bound to have at least a few unhappy customers and employees. It’s the nature of the game. When conducting your unofficial company culture assessment, keep in mind that one bad review amid a bunch of good (or even neutral) reviews doesn’t necessarily mean much. While several negative reviews sharing similar concerns could be a red flag.
The importance of company culture cannot be understated. However, understanding a company’s corporate culture won’t do you any good until you understand what type of culture suits you best.
A company can have the happiest, most collaborative, supportive workplace culture that includes open workspaces, after-work happy hours, and foosball in the break room. But if you prefer to work alone, this type of environment isn’t going to cut it. Similarly, a company that boasts a work culture that puts flexibility above all might sound good in theory, but it could be a terrible fit for someone who thrives on structure.
Before you can determine what all of your research means for your job prospects, you’ve got to get real with yourself. Determine what type of workplace culture will support you best. Then you can use all of the information you’ve gathered to decide which companies or jobs are a good fit for you, and vice versa
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