A job is about more than clocking in, checking items off a to-do list, and hitting the road. A good environment is just as important as the actual work you’re doing, and it all goes back to company culture.
Company culture shapes everything an organization does, from the way problems are solved to the ways employees are treated. It defines the values, beliefs and overall vibes of the company and the people working within it. It might not always be clearly defined, like a written policy, but rather it’s shaped by the daily practices and overall mission of the organization as a whole.
Think of a company that has a strongly defined culture. Maybe it’s the innovative and can-do spirit of a Silicon Valley tech giant, or the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of a fast-food chain. Either way, the culture a company creates says a lot about the values of the organization and can go a long way in how it’s perceived to consumers.
Internally, if employees are not happy with the culture at an organization, they may feel less motivated and lack a sense of belonging, which may lead to lower employee satisfaction and higher employee turnover. On the flipside, a strong and positive workplace culture can inspire team members to do their best, feel a genuine sense of joy and fulfillment in their work, and continue with the company for a really long time.
There are many elements that go into a company’s culture, and it varies from organization to organization. But there are generally some consistent things to look for. Here are 10 indicators of company culture.
It’s crucial for companies to create an environment that fosters a genuine appreciation of diversity. And it goes beyond just hiring a diverse group of people. It’s about creating an organizational culture in which all perspectives, ideas and backgrounds are welcomed and valued. A strong indicator of this is when an organization has a diverse leadership team, because fostering a positive culture in this way starts from the top and trickles down to the hiring and treatment of all team members. Everyone has something to offer, and everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive, and a great company is one that recognizes this.
Whether it’s your lifelong friend group or a new book club you just joined, any group is made better by enjoyment of one another’s company, as well as genuine empathy for one another. Organizations with good company culture will aim to foster community by encouraging positive relations among all team members. Even if people solve problems or complete tasks differently, they can listen and respect each other. A positive workplace experience includes working with people who you feel a true sense of community with, and leadership can set an example by demonstrating these values themselves and making it an integral part of the organizational culture.
Respect for one’s time
While there is certainly an expectation that employees work a reasonable amount of hours to complete their duties and get the job done in a thorough fashion, approaching schedules too strictly or without regard for one’s time can be an indicator of a toxic or unsatisfying workplace. A respect for employees’ time away from work, whether it’s the regular weekend or vacation days, is a sign of positive company culture and something that can boost employee satisfaction and keep team members feeling valued and happy at the company for a long time. Another way this can be demonstrated is through clarity on one’s working hours and a consistent schedule.
Opportunities for growth
When employees don’t feel challenged, it can create a “Groundhog Day” vibe where every day feels the same. No matter the role, it’s important for team members to have opportunities for growth, whether it’s training to learn new skills, the chance to earn a raise or promotion or other perks, or investments like tuition reimbursement to encourage people to learn and grow. Challenges and opportunities are part of a positive employee experience, and the presence of them contributes to a strong organizational culture. When one person grows, we all grow.
It’s also important for these opportunities to be distributed or offered fairly. In an unhealthy workplace, an employee might feel like others are favored for unfair reasons, like personal relationships with management that can create bias. For example, if employees who go to social events like after-work happy hours with managers are consistently getting better treatment or opportunities, that could create resentment in the workplace, as not everyone can do that. Instead, if a company offers opportunities for growth based on merit or time at the company, that’s a much better indicator of positive culture.
If a company has clear channels of communication and policies are explicitly outlined and made available for all employees, it’s a sign of good company culture and enhanced organizational effectiveness. It’s also important that a company values timely communication so employees never feel out of the loop about the happenings of the organization of which they are a part. Healthy communication and transparency builds trust within an organization, so it’s important to be open with all team members about goals, how the company is doing, and what could be done better.
Organizations that have a strong and positive company culture will recognize that all team members are full people with needs, responsibilities and interests that go beyond the role they are performing for the company. One way that this can be acknowledged is through the encouragement of healthy habits, like limiting after-hours communication so employees can be truly off the clock when their workday ends, providing healthy snacks for in the office, and encouraging positive habits like walking meetings. An encouragement of work-life balance and letting team members know that it’s important to consider one’s physical and mental health in conjunction with accomplishing their work goals is an indicator that a company has a reasonable and well-rounded culture.
While every work set-up is different, it’s important that a physical office space is set up in such a way that all employees, regardless of work style or personality, can thrive. Open office spaces are popular and can contribute to a sense of community and ease of interaction, but this may not be the preferred arrangement for introverts who might seek a more private work environment. Regardless of what the office looks like, or even if it’s a remote arrangement, it’s a great sign of strong culture if leadership takes environment into account and wants everyone to have a comfortable situation in which they can be productive and truly thrive.
A place with good company culture will involve an appreciation for all team members and a recognition of valuable contributions, innovative ideas, or going above and beyond what is expected. Feeling rewarded is about more than just getting a paycheck. Awards (i.e. a staffer of the month award), perks for a job well done (i.e. a day off), or even just a simple thank you can go a long way in making employees feel valued and recognized for their accomplishments.
When employees are proud of the work they’re doing, it’s a sign that a company fosters a good culture. It’s important for team members to feel like they’re contributing to a common goal and a vision that they believe in. Part of being proud of one’s work is doing things ethically. Companies that identify and take responsibility for the role that they play in society are more likely to use ethics. Organizations that operate from a strong set of values and are working toward a vision that all team members can be proud of are likely to have good company culture.
Willingness to take feedback
While many don’t enjoy hearing criticism, learning about what’s working, what isn’t, and ways to improve on the latter is crucial for any evolving person or organization. A company that demonstrates the ability to self-reflect and gather feedback from employees, is signaling positive corporate culture because it’s showing that they are not above reproach. This can be accomplished through surveys or regular meetings. In addition to the value that this data can bring leadership in knowing what team members are thinking or feeling, it shows team members that their opinions and experiences are valued and that they will be listened to.
Company culture is different from organization to organization, and it can vary greatly between different industries. The values, atmosphere and goals of a company, as well as the types of people that make up the company, all play a role in its culture. Whether you’re seeking a new job and want to know what type of environment you’ll be working in, or you’re looking to more clearly define and shape up the culture at your own company, there are factors to consider as you go into making a determination.