Culture. Dictionary.com defines culture as “the attitudes and behavior characteristics of a particular social group.”
When we hear the word, our minds automatically go to things like “American Culture”, “Southern Culture” and others. But do we ever think of work culture? If we aren’t talking about it now, we really need to start. In an article for Entrepreneur.com, written by Greg Besner, it states “Company culture is more important than ever. It’s not that company culture was ever unimportant, but it’s quickly proving to be a “must-have” rather than a “nice-to-have.”” Put it this way, company culture is becoming so important to employees that any business looking to hire and retain quality talent NEEDS to make culture a priority.
According to Danielle Hegedus of Association for Talent Development, “Employees today are keenly aware that 30 percent of their lives are spent working, and no one wants that time to be miserable.” People are no longer just looking for fulfillment from their career, but also at their career. This attitude is a marked shift from the mentality of the second half of the 20th century. Just a few short decades ago prospective employees held that their hopeful employer held all the power in the interview and work relationship, until such a time arrived that the employee had proven their value. Now it is common for the interviewee to interview the company.
With corporate climate shifting towards having emphasis on culture, job seekers would be behaving with personal irresponsibility if they didn’t shop around for culture benefits, and companies would be costing themselves some of the most qualified candidates if they did not provide some of these benefits. Remember, the 40 hour work week came from Henry Ford wanting to attract the best employees from his competitors. Prior to this the standard was 48 hours a week. It became such a demand that unions and other companies jumped on board, and eventually 40 hours became the norm.
So what exactly are job seekers looking for in company culture? A whole plethora of items ranging from Leadership development to free snacks in the break room. The list could fill a few chapters of a book, maybe more. A better question to ask would be “if I’m looking for a new career, or a new company to work my career at, how much priority should I place on culture and what benefits should I look for?” I’ll try to concisely answer the first part of that question, then give 4 main categories for the second. This won’t be an exhaustive list OR answer, but what I think are the most important and most realistic to expect.
How much priority should I place on culture?
Some would say the answer to this is “All of it”, but I feel that is a lazy answer. You need to know (and be confident in) the value you are bringing to the table. If you are fresh out of school or college, have little relevant work experience, or have been changing careers every year for a bit, you are in no position to hold out for the perfect, “unicorn” company. Places that invest more in their employees expect more from their employees. If you can’t meet the expectations, you won’t last long. Be happy with finding a place that gives back to you in one or two ways, and take advantage of your time there to increase your value. It’s been said that “this job is to prepare you for the next job.” Make sure that happens.
Conversely, if you have plenty of relevant experience, proven results to market yourself with, and an overall increased value that you bring, feel free to expect more from the company that you partner with. Reward is based on value, so act appropriately. Hold out for the higher level of climate benefits, and never stop increasing your value. If you fall into this category, it is not inappropriate to say that eventually you and your peers will SHAPE the culture, and make it into what you want.
Benefits to Look For
- Skills Cross-training
There are few things better than working for a company that sees your overall value rather than your specific performance metrics. When companies value their people more than the work, they will want to find the best place for that person. If you have an accounting degree, but have extraordinary interpersonal skills, the company may want to move you over to Customer Service because your interpersonal skills are more valuable than your accounting. The more career training you can receive, the better value you will bring to your organization.
- Corporate Recreation
“The family that plays together, stays together” isn’t only true at home, but in the workplace as well. Sometimes, work can be a grind. It can be stressful, and un-addressed stress is bad for people. Look for companies that give you ways to deal with that stress. Whether it is a flexible break policy so you can take a walk after dealing with a difficult client, or going farther by providing things like Table Tennis, work out facilities, team building events and happy hours. The company providing events and policies that promote you having a healthier work life will help lead to a happier life overall.
- Personal Development & Leadership Training
One of the most valuable benefits, in my opinion, is the high level cultivation. Leadership training in the form of books, audio programs, evening seminars, multi-day conferences, guest presenters, and packaged “do it yourself” learning programs. These tools are not extremely expensive (though off site events can cost thousands of dollars per person) generally speaking, but they aren’t free either. And what is better than having someone else pay for you to get educated?
- Growth Opportunity
No one wants to pour their heart and soul into a company that will never let them grow their career. Sure, as your resume grows, you can find a different company to work for and advance at, but finding a new job is a fair amount of work. It would be simpler to find a company that you can increase your value at AND advance you down your career path. Ask them if they have growth projections for the coming 2-5 years, as this implies advancement potential. Then check if they promote from within vs recruiting.
You may not be able to lock down a career at a company that gives you everything you want, but if you make it a non-negotiable that where you work provides some of these benefits back to you, you will quickly identify companies that have the same priorities as yourself. From there, it is only a matter of selling your value, and now you get to have a mutually beneficial work environment with your employer.