Culture is one of the defining elements of your life: the cultural background of your family or the subcultures that shape your nights and weekends. But what can you say about the culture that dominates the most of your time – your company culture? While it’s easy to assume that all companies have well-crafted values, how many of us can recite our company’s mission and describe the driving principles of our workplace? The payoffs of a well-developed corporate culture include better financial performance and employee retention. Also, companies that have highly engaged employees score up to 34 percent higher in customer satisfaction ratings. So why is it that culture isn’t endorsed alongside salaries, benefits and office perks?
Not only has social media changed the way that companies work, it has completely altered corporate branding and public perception. With transparency (and Glassdoor reviews) becoming much more prevalent, it’s in an organization’s best interest to constantly develop and promote its corporate culture. If a company values culture, you’ll more than likely know it from their job postings or LinkedIn company page. But what you can’t glean from a curated online presence, you might be able to uncover with your own eyes. A great indicator is the office itself. Is it an open plan, collaborative and filled with bright colors and modern furniture? Or is it mostly outdated, small cubicles and corner offices that indicate a hierarchical workplace? Is there a steady din of work, with people laughing and going on coffee runs? Or is everyone silently slumped over a keyboard, with the sound of a pin dropping somewhere in the distance?
When an interviewer inevitably asks if you have any questions, it’s the perfect time to inquire about culture. If they didn’t make it a point to describe how great the company is to work for or skipped entirely over core values, it’s worth taking the initiative and asking. Are they eager to have people join their amazing teams, or does run while you still can seem like the overall sentiment?
While a culture varies by organization, defining core values will help employees understand what role they really play. If every member of the company is involved in the decision-making process, this open and inclusive culture gives way to innovation. The values may be set by the CEOs, but it’s in every employee’s interest to take control of the culture. For instance, highly engaged employees are 21 percent more likely to partake in personal wellness. That equals reductions in sick leave and an uptick in productivity and an overall healthier culture. If everyone is invested and held accountable, the returns will keep coming in. The key is to make sure that culture is constantly reassessed and redefined and that those who help foster work culture are recognized for their contributions.
Culture takes time to create, but without nurturing good intent and consistency, it’s very unlikely to maintain a success in the long run. It’s one thing to claim that a company has great culture (say, ping pong tables and unlimited snacks) and it’s another to deliver on those promises and create something more meaningful. If you find the right culture, you’ll be a happier employee and your career will progress, along with your company. While work is work, wouldn’t we all be better off if work could occasionally be more cultural, meaningful or just fun for a change?
Esteban Gomez is a marketing consultant with interviewstream. He loves learning and has a passion for traveling, having visited many countries including China, Colombia, Italy, and Peru.