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13 Ways to Determine if a Company Actually Lives the Culture They are Selling

By Regina Dyerly

VP, HR & Operations

When dipping a toe into the job market, whether by choice or necessity, there is typically a list of companies that we perceive to be desirable based on several variables. Company Culture is typically a top priority, and if it is not, it should be. A dream job can only be that if the environment is set up for employees to be successful and thrive.

So how do you determine whether the company you are considering working for has a good culture? Here are some telling factors to look out for:

Employee Attrition: Low employee attrition is typically the first indicator of a strong company culture. Always ask why the position you are interviewing for has been vacated and how long that person (and the person before) was in that role. Simply put, happy employees typically do not leave.

Communication: On many employee engagement surveys, poor or lack of communication is the number one opportunity presented by employees. In general, a lack of communication makes people distrustful and uncertain and can lead to employees leaving an organization. Companies with strong communication processes, even if it isn’t always good news, create more buy in.

Clear Mission and Core Values: Every company has a culture, whether planned or not. A great company culture does not just happen, it is intentional. When designing a great culture, creating a mission statement and set of core values that everyone can get behind is critical. Ensuring the mission and values are articulated and communicated throughout the organization is of equal importance. Every employee should also be able to relate their job to the company mission.

Professional Development: Savvy companies keep their employees satisfied and committed through employee growth and professional development initiatives. At smaller organizations, it could simply be time set aside for webinars or lunch and learns. At larger organizations, a more structured employee development program with career pathing may be present. Any thoughtful contribution to an employee’s growth speaks volumes.

Open/No-Door Policy: Employees want to know that leaders are available to them when they need them. They will also support leaders who are accessible, honest, and authentic with them. When leaders make themselves available to everyone, it creates a feeling that everyone is in it together.

No Jerks Allowed: Sometimes it only takes one person at an organization to ruin the entire experience. Is serious bad behavior tolerated by some employees for reasons that are not fair or appropriate? A good employer addresses these issues and holds everyone accountable to the same standards of behavior, especially if the behavior is violating their core values.

Diversity: Great companies with healthy cultures encourage diversity. Diversity in hiring, diversity in thought, and diversity in approaches. Companies that hire for “culture add”, rather than “culture fit” make for stronger organizations by having a diverse set of voices and experiences to tackle new initiatives and problems.

Office Politics are Discouraged, not Rewarded: Companies with positive cultures have little room for gossip, backbiting, and politicking. While some politics happen in any group setting, if it gets out of hand, culture driven companies address it immediately.

Foster Fun and Friendships: Research shows that employees are happier in their jobs when they have friendships at work. Having a friend or an environment where everyone is friendly truly makes it feel like it is more than a job. Superior cultures foster and encourage friendships and don’t stress about losing time to “chit-chat” or coffee klatch.

Employees Feel Appreciated: There is a very positive vibe when you enter a company where the employees feel like they really matter and are not just people filling tasks. You are often greeted with smiling faces and sincere well wishes. Even in tough times, like during COVID-19, such company cultures and their employees prosper.

Comfortable Workspaces: Ensuring employee office spaces, whether on-site or remote, are comfortable and fully equipped with everything an employee might need to perform their job is essential. It is a large factor in determining how people feel about their job and employer. Keep in mind, comfortable is not equivalent with expensive, but the effort to make the environment nice for employees contributes significantly to overall morale.

Workplace Involvement: Impressive company cultures provide fun and positive ways for employees to get together both inside and outside of work, without pressure to participate. Fundraisers, wellness programs, company celebrations and community outreach projects are some examples. If employees are participating and showing up, that is a good indicator that employees are happy to be there.

Rewards and Recognition: Exceptional companies have clear processes in place to recognize and reward employees. Some employers use recognition software for ease of use and to provide real-time feedback, while others use more traditional methods. Whatever the method, if it is happening regularly, it shows that the company is making it a priority to show the value that their employees bring.

The list above is not all inclusive and some items are easier to find out than others but invest the time to research. Also, if you are currently working for a company that does not check all the boxes, don’t underestimate your power. One person or one department, with small steps, can start a movement to change a negative culture for the better.

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