I’d love to work at a company with a strong company culture, but my current company’s culture is non-existent. How can I ensure that my next job is at an organization that values creating a positive, distinct company culture?

The culture of an organization plays a big role in retention and recruitment. Elaine Varelas advises on steps you can take to ensure the culture of a company is a good fit for you.

Q: I’m currently job hunting as my current company’s culture is non-existent.  I really want to do my homework before accepting my next role. What are the best tools and ways to research a company’s culture?

A: The reality is that every company has a culture.  It may not be a culture you love or can relate to. It may not be an organization that you find enthusiastic or collegial or some of the words that are often used to describe culture. What this gives you is an opportunity. Most often the culture of an organization is set by their mission and vision.  Have you talked to colleagues to see if they agree with you? If you’re not alone in your views, consider talking to your manager or Human Resources and let them know that you think the organization could be improved by having a more defined company culture and that others agree even if they may not be willing to come forward.

Before you come up with suggestions, you may want to ask them what they think the organization’s culture is. They may let you know that the C-suite has set the culture that they want.  The message that you may want to convey to them is that the culture doesn’t permeate through the organization and that employees at different levels within the organization don’t relate to what that culture is. Share with them that you think you can strengthen the employee bonds within the organization by being more diligent about creating a culture that speaks to the mission and the vision of the organization.

Unfortunately, not everyone would agree with you.  Not every leader that thinks investing in culture is worthwhile.  Organizations that have grappled with recruiting and retention have recognized that increasing the success of their recruiting efforts and increasing their retention levels have come through the development of strong organizational culture. While some organizations don’t have a positive culture, leaders and managers may struggle to try to change that. It does involve Human Resources and leadership to take a strategic view about what defines the negative aspects of their culture and how they can work together to change that culture. Often interviewing longer term leaders at your own organization can tell you what the culture was under past leaders and what the aspirational culture was.  That might provide all the information you need to lobby your organization about being proactive.

There are so many ways that organizations measure how employees feel about them but that is often employee engagement, which is not the same as culture. Recognizing that employees know what to do without a manager telling them what to do is often the best definition of culture.  It’s the example of if no one is watching, do you know what you want to do?  Some of your favorite companies have been identified as having a great company culture as their employees often go above and beyond anything in their job descriptions or anything that a manager has told them as they have been empowered to create happy consumers.  That is a culture.

Having said all that, perhaps your organization isn’t going to change anything about their culture.  And as you said, you want to join an organization with a positive culture and need to understand how to get that information.  The only accurate way to get that information is to talk to people who currently work at the organization.  Recognize that different departments have different leaders, however talking to enough people at one company can give you a great understanding of what the real culture is and how that culture gets communicated via the onboarding process to new employees.  Another question you can ask employees is what types of benefits/perks a company offers as this can also provide insights into a company’s culture. For example, if a company offers partner benefits, that delivers a message about the beliefs within the organization. 

I commend you for taking this endeavor seriously because we spend so much of our lives at work. It truly makes a difference when you work in a positive, collegial work environment where you can thrive as an employee.  You might also consider looking at a company’s employee reviews on Glassdoor (each company has a Culture & Values rating), (each company has a Culture rating), ZipRecruiter (each company has an Overall Culture Score) which can offer insider insights, good or bad, as to what a company’s culture is really like. Take a look not only at what employees write in their reviews, but also how and if the company responds to and addresses the employee reviews.