One of the most important jobs of management is to make the organization a decent, enjoyable, productive, and creative place to work – in other words, to foster and nurture a positive corporate culture.
If your most important work values aren’t shared by a company you’re considering, think twice before signing on. This issue is so important that you shouldn’t rely on the accuracy of what you’re told by the hiring executive or recruiter. You need to speak to your own business contacts, present and past employees, and company vendors and customers.
Try to find out:
· How do the company’s leaders describe the company’s culture (in recruiting materials or the annual report, for example)? How does this compare with the way rank-and-file employees, former employees, competitors, customers, and suppliers describe the culture? (A major difference here may forecast trouble.)
· Are employees treated like partners, with respect for their individuality, creativity, and personal needs? Or are they treated like interchangeable parts, “troublemakers,” or wayward children?
· What is the working environment like? What kinds of working spaces do most employees occupy? How great a gap is there between the accommodations of the top executives and those of lower-level employees? How well are shared spaces (meeting rooms, lounges, cafeteria) maintained and supplied?
· What is the mood of the offices like? Does a visitor notice joking, laughing, music, conversation? Or is the atmosphere tense and hostile?
· How do the employees dress? How do they decorate their offices, desks, cubicles, and other working areas? Is there an atmosphere of personal expression or one of regimentation and corporate control?
· How does the company help employees develop professionally? What investments are made in training and education? How are mistakes viewed?
· How do employees at various levels describe their work and the company’s mission? Do most employees regard their work as “just a job?” Do they view themselves as “changing the world?” Or is the prevailing attitude something in between or altogether different?
Compare the company’s self-image with its outside reputation. (The latter is often more accurate.) Both you and the company benefit if the cultural fit works and your values are aligned.