10 Ways to Evaluate Company Culture

10 ways to evaluate company culture

how to understand company culture

In your job search, the environment at the company you work for is just as important as the job you do. Even if you’ve landed your dream job, doing that job at a company with hollow values and little regard for its employees can make the job impossible to do. Just like any other culture in the world, a company’s culture is made up of a shared set of values, goals, beliefs and behaviours – any or all of which can make or break your work experience at that company. Your effort, day-to-day productivity, happiness, and overall contribution to the company are all tied to your experience, so shouldn’t you be looking for a company culture where you’ll be the best off?

1. Values:

The company you ultimately decide to work for should share at least some of your personal values. Are you interested in social entrepreneurship? Media technology? Contribution to the arts? Browse your potential employer’s website to find out what its mission is, and browse its social media profiles to get a sense of what it shares with its industry and followers. If you don’t feel comfortable with its goals and values, you probably won’t be a great fit for the team.

2. Teamwork:

Gauge what it’s like to be on the team at your potential employer. In your interview, ask your interviewer about how projects get done and what it means to be a team player at this company. The answer will tell you a lot about the way its team operates. If they say everyone pulls their own weight, the team is probably focused more on individual accomplishments than collaborative projects. If they emphasise support or talk more about how the team achieved something together, they’re probably more teamwork-oriented. Depending on your style of work or preference, either can mean great things for you.

3. Communication:

When walking through the office for your interview, take a look at what’s going on around you. Are people sitting silently at their desks? Are they congregating at someone’s computer to look at a problem? Are they laughing and joking with each other? Of course, this test isn’t always accurate, since you’re only in the office for an hour or so at one point on one day, but it can be an indicator of how people communicate with each other. To get a better sense of it, ask your interviewer how often the team meets and how projects and timelines are structured.

4. Investment:

Are your potential employers invested in their employees? For many people, it’s important to commit to an employer who is committed to them. Ask your interviewer about opportunities for advanced learning or supplementary training.

To hire and keep great teams, companies will often sponsor their workers’ learning new skills and professional development. They should always want you to stay up to date on the industry and on the latest trends in your particular field. That way, you become more valuable over time as an employee, and they get a bigger return on their hire. Ask your interviewer about learning opportunities like seminars, conferences, or certification courses.

5. Team Bonding:

All work all the time is no fun for everyone. On every team, it’s important to have camaraderie and bonding experiences. No one is wholly defined by what they do. You should be able to get to know your colleagues on a personal level, as friends and acquaintances, as well as in a work setting. Check your potential employer’s Facebook page for photos or posts about any employee events, or ask your interviewer about opportunities for team-building outside of the office.

6. Career Advancement:

No one wants to work at a job that isn’t going anywhere. You should try to get an idea about this before you commit to an employer. It’s always a good idea to ask your interviewer about opportunities for career advancement and growth, but any interviewer will try to sell you on the company by painting the opportunities in a good light.

Pay attention to the words they use. If they say things like promotions depend on what opens up, you know there’s not much emphasis on advancing employees. If they use phrases like special training or demonstrating extra effort, you know it’s going to be some longer hours logged, and maybe some continued learning.

7. Rewards:

You should be rewarded for hard work and a job well done, and many companies and managers will make a point of recognising someone’s accomplishments. Ask your potential manager about the last time someone on their team did a great job. It’s the same kind of “gotcha” question they’re likely to ask you as well, and they won’t be expecting it. If they’re hard pressed to remember something great, it probably means they don’t go out of their way to reward or recognise someone for going above or beyond.

8. Flexibility:

Don’t spend all your time trying to wrangle yourself a work-from-home schedule, but it’s good to know whether or not a potential employer can go with the flow and be flexible. It doesn’t hurt to ask the question outright, but if you get the sense that it’s a touchy subject, don’t push it. In a lot of places, a flexible work schedule is earned over the course of a couple of years, or can be negotiated once an offer is made. Know what your ideal situation is, and what your deal breakers are before you go in.

9. Connection:

At successful companies, the newest interns and the highest C-level executives are all in communication with everyone on all levels. You should be able to ask your boss, or their boss, or the CEO, a question without going through miles of red tape and bureaucracy. Similarly, everyone should feel comfortable enough to approach someone in a different department or on a different level. Ask your interviewer how accessible the CEO is, or how easy it is to work with multiple departments.

10. History:

A really great company has retained its teams through thick and thin. Ask your potential employer about the history of the company. Ask them to share some anecdotes or tell you about how the company was founded. When a team knows where the company has come from in addition to where it’s going, it means the employees are fully invested in what they’re trying to achieve.

The bottom line is finding an employer that’s right for you is highly personal. What’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for the next person, so make sure you’re doing your research to not only determine what you want in an employer, but also whether or not you’ll fit in with their culture. Make your choice in a smart way. You’ll be happier in the long run.

What do you look for in a company culture? Let us know in the comments below! 

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum