Investigate Company Culture
Author: Michael Scaletti
Have you had this happen? You go through an interview process, succeed, and start a new job excited about working for your new company, but as time goes on your excitement fades and is replaced by dissatisfaction due to the company's culture. Maybe it's because their task fulfillment process doesn't work the way you were lead to believe, maybe you are feeling unrecognized or exploited, or maybe you're struggling to connect with your coworkers. Whatever the case may be, the source of your dissatisfaction is an incompatibility with the company culture.
Company culture is about more than just ping pong tables and espresso machines. It describes the values and norms of a company, what actions and modalities will be rewarded, and what will lead to success, and culture incompatibility is one of the single biggest predictors of workplace dissatisfaction. Because of this, evaluating the culture of a prospective employer is one of the most valuable things you can do during your job search. Here are some categories to research before jumping into a new job.
One of the best ways to tell if a company has a positive culture is to look at its retention rates. How often are employees moving on? How long are they staying? What's the turnover rate in positions similar to the one you're considering. All of these will give you an idea of how enjoyable and rewarding other people have found working for this company.
Now, while most companies don't post this information publically, a little sleuthing can get you answers. Do a search for the company on LinkedIn and Indeed, looking for people who have it listed on their resumes, and see how long they were there for.
The bottom line is that the single biggest driver of company culture and overall work satisfaction is your boss. They dictate your workflow and will often be involved in every aspect of your day-to-day. It's also valuable to investigate leadership because the people promoted into those positions can serve as a bellwether for the values and culture of the company at large.
When interviewing with a potential boss, ask open-ended questions that will give you a sense of what the individual values, such as "what traits make a successful employee here, and what traits might lead to failure?" or "Can I hear an example of how the company has addressed mistakes in the past?". These questions can give you an idea about what your potential boss values, and whether those values align with your needs.
For example, if your potential boss were to tell you that they highly value people who can take direction well to accomplish set tasks and you are an individual who works best autonomously with minimal oversight, this may not be the position for you. You may end up feeling micromanaged, which can lead to resentment and frustration.
It's important to identify these potential conflicts before you begin your employment, as once you are hired on it can be difficult to further negotiate your situation, at least in the near term.
Growth and Development
Most people don't see their current job as the end of their career path. They want to continue growing, learning, expanding their connections and opportunities, and whether the company is willing to invest in that growth can be highly indicative of the culture you would be entering. Are there classes you want to take or events you want to attend that will expand your knowledge, skills, and network? Find out if the company is willing to pay for continued education, conferences, or similar things.
Some companies are more concerned with operational efficiency than they are with growth and fulfillment. This leads to a culture of fear where they are concerned with employees outgrowing their position or being exposed to other opportunities. This can obviously be a detriment to your personal and professional growth. What you want is a company that wants what's best for you and has faith that as you grow as an individual you will also be more valuable to the company. Any new skills or connections you build can ultimately benefit your company as well, so it really is a win-win!
No company has everything come easy all the time. There will come a time when challenges and adversity hit every business, and when that happens how does this company respond.
2020 was a great example of adversity hitting MANY different industries and businesses. Look into how the company you are interviewing with responded to the pandemic. Did they take steps to ensure that their employees stayed safe, or did they prioritize business over human safety? If people brought up concerns, were they ignored, or worse, fired? I had a friend who, as business began opening back up, brought some safety concerns to his boss along with several coworkers. They were subsequently dismissed. That is not an example of a business positively responding to adversity.
Remember, when things are going great, it's easy to have a positive work culture, but it's when challenges, especially unexpected challenges, hit that you really learn what a company's culture is like.
Glassdoor is a great site for researching how companies have responded to adversity, as is Indeed.