5 Ways to Determine Corporate Culture

on December 10 2009 11:00 AM

Many companies today promote building teams over individuals; respecting the entry-level mailroom clerk and the top salesperson equally. They consider failure the beginning not the end of developing talents and careers and that 'Values' are not fads.  Still in other companies you will find a lack of esprit de corps where departments operate as fiefdoms and do not work in partnership with one another; where leadership is assigned not earned; where secretaries still bring their bosses coffee ala the 60's, and where you are only as good as your last sale.  This is Company Culture.

Here is my list of tell-tail characteristics of company culture.  Learn what you are getting into before you accept your next position.

1.  Key Job Aspects & Workplace Characteristics

Determine to what degree the following will play a role in the job and the workplace. One way or the other, combined, they all play a role in determining culture. Tip: Assign a value from 1 to 5, 5 being the highest degree you require for your job satisfaction.  There are many more aspects of a job and workplace you may want to consider.  This is only a short-list to start you thinking.

  • Telecommuting
  • Workspace design
  • Personal items in the workspace
  • Competition
  • Teamwork
  • Professional Development
  • Defined career paths
  • Employee interaction
  • Esprit de corps

2.  Company Website

Some companies promote themselves by discussing their corporate culture on their Website or in their annual report (usually on the website if flattering).  On its own, the web site may not be telling enough as it is the company selling itself.  However, combined with other tail-tale characteristics it can be valuable.

3.  Other Characteristics to Look for in the Workplace are,

  • How decisions are made
  • How decisions are communicated to the employees
  • How employees are recognized
  • Interaction among departments
  • Interaction among managers
  • Interaction among top management

4.  Researching Behind the Scene

Using LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social media and networking sites, try to connect with people from the company and get their perspective on culture.  I like to ask a few questions in particular. They are,

  • What 5 key words or key phrases best describe your company?
  • What would you guess would be the 5 key words or phrases that your (husband/wife...) would use to describe your company?
  • What is your favorite day of the workweek? Why?

5. Other questions you can ask employees are,

  • Do you feel your work there, your contribution, is important?  (Everyone says yes) How do you know?
  • Are you encouraged to spend time on training and education outside the office?

Finally, how the company measures up to your Best Company Culture profile is very personal.  Teamwork, for example, may be a lot less important to you than the flexibility of telecommuting.  Define the motivators and incentives that are important to you in the job and the workplace; define that which inspires you most.  It may be a code of ethics or glittery perks that dazzle you. It's for you to define, and this will start you off in the right direction.

Hope this helps!

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