Why Culture Is Key
Learn about the importance of a company's culture when searching for your next career move.
I've talked about the importance of doing your research and knowing what types of roles to apply to, but there is a bigger underlying concept that really determines long term fit for a company. In your research about a company, in my opinion, the biggest part of aligning for a position really is the company’s culture. Many companies do the same thing in their given industry, but how they do it and why they do it are ultimately driven by the culture the company fosters.
Culture is the collective beliefs, values, attitudes and means of behavior as passed down from one generation to the next. I feel like this definition works for society and is applicable for corporations as well.
What is corporate culture?
Most companies have core values. Their beliefs are often reflected in things like company vision and mission statements. There is usually a code of conduct for companies that dictates behavior as well. And most importantly, it's something that is passed down through “generations.”
This is applicable for new hires especially. Hearing more tenured employees tell stories of how things got done shapes the culture for the present and the present shapes that narrative for the future. Ideally, these stories and ways of performing are consistent with the beliefs, values and attitudes that the company professes to uphold.
In talking to many candidates that are seeking new roles I often hear, “the culture changed,” as a large reason for wanting to leave company. There are a couple of things that run through my head when I hear this. 1) What did you do to keep the culture from changing? I think all employees are stewards of the culture. 2) Culture change is a huge reason to want to leave somewhere. Beliefs, values and attitudes are deeply personal. They shape who we are as human beings to our core.
This is no different for a corporation. If those things are out of alignment with who you are as a person, finding satisfaction at a company will be next to impossible. Your work will suffer, you may be asked to leave or you will find reason to leave before that point.
Making sure the company you choose to work for shares similar values and attitudes is critical. You spend more time working than anything else, from the time you enter the workforce until the time you exit, with the possible exception of sleeping (but that is assuming you are getting a full 8 hours of sleep, and anyone with a pet or kids knows that is not happening). Spending that much time with people that do not share similar values, attitudes and beliefs will create stress.
Knowing this before applying and focusing on this throughout the interview process should be of paramount importance. Do you want to work with the person that is interviewing you? Have they said things that go against your values or beliefs?
Equally, if you feel like the culture where you presently work is changing for the worse, you have an obligation to try to uphold it. Sometimes this is impossible, and there is something to be said for knowing when it's time to find a new opportunity that is more in alignment.
There are simple ways to learn about a company’s culture. Glassdoor reviews, their social media presence and even a simple Google search can turn up quite a bit about a company. Who they are partnered with from a charitable standpoint may reflect what they see as valuable in terms of corporate social responsibility. Do these things align with your values? It's critical to look this stuff up in advance to really know what you are going to be getting into.
Finding a company with a compatible and healthy culture is extremely rewarding on a personal level. Companies with sound culture also do better financially. This has been shown in multiple studies, but I find some of the information in an article from BDC Network to be very compelling.
When you consider 30 percent better employee engagement, 19 percent better operating income and 28 percent better earnings growth, it makes sense to have and to promote a healthy culture. And this is not to say that every employee will be homogenous in their values, beliefs and attitudes, but a healthy culture would be one that embraces diversity of people and thought.
As each generation grows within a company it is incumbent upon them to make sure that they are constantly aligned with the culture and that they pass it down to new employees. While new employees should be in good general alignment, the specifics for any company must be learned. Continuously working on these kinds of things is a hallmark of many great companies. Most great places to work are built on their culture and not necessarily the thing that they do.
Any group of people in any industry can produce goods or services — how they do it will determine how great a company they will be and how long they will do it for.