How to Assess a Company’s Work Culture

  • On July 21, 2022

Assessing a company’s work culture is more of a priority for many job seekers. A firm’s culture is founded on its leaders’ beliefs and values, which are translated into goals, policies and work behaviors that affect and can motivate the entire company. For example, the business you’re thinking about applying to is a small or midsize business. You may think organizational culture isn’t present or doesn’t matter, and applies only to big companies everyone may know, however, even the smallest companies have a corporate culture. Examples of company culture include a collaborative team environment compared to one where employees work on individualized specific projects. 

Another example is having a highly hierarchical and complex management structure versus a flat organizational structure that helps involve workers more in key decision-making moments. Or you may compare two opportunities in terms of formality with strict professionalism versus one that encourages fun and risk-taking. Focusing on the elements most meaningful to you is a key factor when considering a new position. Maybe you improved your work-life balance and prefer a leader who promotes flexibility. If sustainability or social movements are important to you, you might want to look for a company with strong commitments to the environment or diversity.

Any company that wants to hire you will emphasize its positives and downplay its negatives, but it’s up to you to determine whether an organization is one you want to be part of. Weeding out tons of research and sorting through those notes to prioritize your options can be difficult, so here are two ideas to assist in understanding a company’s work culture.

Utilize Your Network
Everyone should be using social networks to connect with other professionals and have an online presence in your industry. Utilizing these networks helps learn information about the company’s reputation and organizational culture before accepting a job. Doing your own research, including a deep Google, helps you get a fuller picture of a workplace, not just the one management wants to present. Some research ideas include:

  • Basic job satisfaction — Check reviews, if applicable, on sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to see what current and former employees are saying.
  • Work-life balance — Look at benefits regarding employee wellness and mental health, as well as the flexibility in the position.
  • Collaboration and team spirit — In a healthy organizational culture, leaders take responsibility for failure and share the credit for success. Look at the company’s website, social media and other messaging channels to better understand which way they handle those moments. 
  • Career development — Try to find out what the company offers in terms of training and further education, and how much of the cost they will cover. Also, ask your interviewer to explain any examples of how people have used the company’s programs to move up.
  • Proven leadership — If you know a current or former employee of the company, ask them whether they think leadership adheres to its own corporate ideals.
  • Effective office environment — The office space is a part of organizational culture, whether it is 100% remote or in-person, or something in between as it can affect how effective you are at doing your job.

Ask About Company Culture During Your Interview
The job interview process itself can provide a lot of insight into an organization. A disorganized interview process likely indicates other areas of the business are in similar disarray. A by-the-book approach may indicate that the company is bureaucratic and has little leeway for individual personality. Conversely, a smooth, warm interview can be a sign of a company with a positive organizational culture.

When you’re interviewing, be sure you have prepared questions for the interviewer that cover company culture in addition to the nitty-gritty of the new position. Here are six critical questions to ask:

  1. What do you like about working here? 
  2. What traits could have helped the last person in this position succeed? 
  3. How do you ensure remote and hybrid workers feel included in the team? 
  4. What do you wish you’d known before starting here? 
  5. How is this organization different from the competition? 
  6. What would you change about this company if you could? 

When it comes to evaluating organizational culture, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Know your priorities, working style and goals to determine whether you’ll succeed in a specific company. Research is your best friend, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and trust your gut as you evaluate this opportunity, making a fully informed decision about your next career step. 

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