Whether you want to get back into the workforce after taking time off with the kids or you are just looking for a job change, there are several things to consider. As you begin your job search, you undoubtably will research salary, location, duties, schedule, vacation days, benefits and opportunities for promotion. But there is one very important factor that can cause you to either love or hate your job – and that’s company culture.
What Is Company Culture?
It’s hard to pin down a precise definition of company culture, because it looks different in each company. Company culture mainly refers to the work atmosphere and how employees are treated or valued within the company. An emphasis on teamwork might be part of a company’s culture. Another company might host regular events for employees to relax, have fun and get to know each other a little better.
Some companies actively define their culture and take pride in sustaining it. Others have no idea what their perfect culture looks like. But one thing’s for certain: all companies have a culture, whether good or bad.
Why Does It Matter?
Company culture affects the mood and outlook of the entire workforce. If you’ve ever had a job where you didn’t feel like you fit in with the values of the company, with the work environment or with your co-workers, you’ve experienced what a poor company culture can do to your motivation and happiness first-hand.
As a mom, it’s important that your supervisors and colleagues understand and appreciate the fact that sometimes your duties as a parent have to come first. You may need to leave in the middle of the day to pick up your sick child, for example.
It is an awful feeling to work in an environment where there is no understanding about life’s little hiccups. And with kids, those hiccups can crop up often. A flexible job is important so that you can take care of your work, your family and yourself without feeling undue stress about being passed over for a raise because your supervisor thinks you’re shirking your duties.
But most importantly, you need to be happy about where you work. Think about it this way: you spend an extraordinary amount of time at work. You owe it to yourself to not only do work that you enjoy, but to also surround yourself with positive people. Finding a job where you are a “cultural fit” means you’re less likely to dread going to work each day. And that’s no small thing!
How to Research Company Culture
Before you start looking at the culture of companies, take a moment to think about what your ideal work atmosphere would be like. Do you work well with a lot of social interaction? Then maybe an open office would be ideal instead of rows of isolated cubicles. Do you need to have flexible time off for child emergencies? Are you motivated by awards and recognition? These are all important things to think about.
Next, see what you can dig up online about various companies that are hiring. If you can Google the company and bring up bad reviews by disgruntled employees, proceed with caution. On the other hand, the company might actually list their core values on their website, which is infinitely helpful.
However, the best way to research company culture is to visit the workplace itself. Get a feel for how employees interact with each other. Does the atmosphere seem unusually tense? Are coworkers smiling and apparently enjoying themselves? Ask for a tour so that you can see different departments, especially the one where you’d be working.
Strike up a conversation with one of your potential colleagues, and ask your burning questions:
- How long have they been working there?
- What’s the turnover rate like?
- Do supervisors seem open to ideas?
- How are accomplishments recognized?
- Are there any company-sponsored social events?
- What are some unique benefits (e.g., tuition reimbursement, gym membership, coffee discounts, etc.)?
Try to get this information directly from an employee, or several employees, in addition to asking the hiring manager. The manager or recruiter might paint a very rosy picture for you, whereas the employees might have a completely different opinion.
Remote Positions or Online Teams
What if your job is a remote position? Does company culture matter if you don’t have to rub elbows with your co-workers? Yes! The attitudes of everyone you work with will still have an effect on your job. Is the team solution-oriented and forward-thinking? Or is progress slow because of a pessimistic approach?
Even if you work from your home or a local coffee shop, you’ll still want to know if there is room for growth and if any benefits are offered.
Cultural Fit Is a Two-Way Street
As you search for a job, remember that savvy companies will also be concerned about whether you, as a potential candidate, will be a good fit for their team. In many ways, personality is becoming a key hiring factor. When someone is easy to work with and has the right attitude, they can be mentored and educated in order to reach the full potential of their position. However, someone with all the education in the world might be a terrible team player. By the time the interview stage is reached, it’s all about deciding whether or not you’re easy enough to work with.
In other words, apply for positions that appeal to you even if you’re not entirely sure that you qualify. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Cathy Habas is a professional writer who caters to the up-and-coming businessmen and women of the world. Cathy would like to credit eVoice Australia for a few inputs.