The right workplace culture could make your career soar. There’s a body of evidence to suggest that employees who are aligned with business ethos and have good relationships with their colleagues are more likely to stay with the company longer, work harder and be happier. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to identify a good fit — especially with the rise of remote working.
To help you pinpoint your ideal workplace culture, we invited a panel of experts to discuss the topic as part of the ongoing Your Future webinar series.
Victoria Sprott (Talent Acquisitions Director at Robert Half) was joined by panellists Emma Howard (HR Professional), Claire Blissitt (Director and Executive Coach at Get Unstuck), Sheryl Miller (Transformation Director & Career Coach, author of Smashing Stereotypes) and Kristen McNamara (Senior Director for Staff Development, Leadership Development and Talent Acquisition at Robert Half).
They explored the idea of workplace culture, how you can identify which companies are invested in building a positive environment, and future trends for the post-pandemic workplace.
Webinar: YOU – Workplace culture
What is workplace culture and why is it important?
The culture of a company is its personality and values — the things which make it unique. A positive culture attracts talent, drives engagement and affects performance.
The core elements of what makes a job ‘good’ are more than a high salary and attractive benefits. Workplace culture is the catalyst for your remuneration package, as well as the opportunities you are offered with the company and the level of happiness you feel when working there.
Know your own values before you begin
Working out a company’s culture can be difficult. To find the right cultural fit, you’ll need to enter the interview process with a very clear understanding of yourself and your values on a granular level.
Knowing this will help you understand what's truly important in the job you take and to know the specific questions you’ll need to ask during your interview to find the best fit.
Kristen says: “You should be asking questions that guide you to uncovering what they prioritise. That's going to show you a little bit about the culture, how they measure success, how they measure accountability, how valuable relationships are. You want to try to understand and uncover how they make decisions and how they solve problems.”
Do your homework
There are two key areas to look into before you apply with a company:
1) Conduct background research before you apply
Head to the company website and find out what they prioritise; you can use public statements around diversity, sustainability or inclusion to help build a picture of the culture.
“If you're applying to a company and they don't have that on their website, maybe that's an indication [the culture is] probably not a priority for them,” says Emma.
2) Check Glassdoor
Websites like Glassdoor can provide prospective employees with an unfiltered, transparent view of company culture.
“No one is going to tell the truth about their culture in an interview,” says Emma, “every company says they’re progressive, flexible, optimistic, trusting. Everyone says the same thing. What I always like to do is to ask the interviewer what they enjoy about working [at the company], because it normally catches them out a little bit and it's very personalised.”
Explore company social activities
The company social calendar reveals a lot about how they reward staff, how well staff bond with one another and whether the company puts time and effort into building team relationships.
“One of the questions I started asking was ‘what do work colleagues do together for fun’? How do they socialise, how do they spend their time?” Sheryl says.
“I can guarantee if the answer is that they don't, that tells you a lot about morale, or what it's like to work there. Even if it's a very successful company, it probably points to a culture which is very much about individual performance”
Pay attention to how well they can pivot
A company’s ability to pivot and meet a challenge can demonstrate how agile, innovative and collaborative the team is. If you’re looking for these specific characteristics in the DNA of a potential employer, searching for tangible examples will help you validate cultural claims.
Claire’s company switched from manufacturing point-of-sale for retailers to designing and manufacturing face shields for the NHS within a two-week period. “The only way we could have done that is probably down to all the work we did prior to COVID in engaging people,” she says.
Craft brewer, BrewDog, represents another good example of a company that was unified and innovative enough to pivot quickly at the start of the pandemic.
“They've got a very strong culture and I think it's probably because they're quite founder-led in terms of how the company is run,” says Sheryl, “that came through consistently even though they had pivoted to do something different.”
Identifying workplace culture authenticity
You can often identify an authentic workplace culture by looking into the legacy that company has built over the years they’ve been active. When company culture is genuine, business leaders are more likely to walk away from deals or business opportunities which aren’t a good fit for their brand.
“Companies who know their values are brave enough to say yes or no, but I think they're also brave enough to try to understand and make decisions that they feel they could be proud of,” Kristin says.
Similarly, if you’re a poor fit for your current workplace culture, you may need to consider walking away from it and choosing a new opportunity.
Begin with an open mind
Once you’ve landed your new job and begin to steadily integrate with a new company culture, Kristin recommends ridding yourself of any baggage associated with your last job.
“If you come with a closed mind, it's going to be really hard to make yourself part of a new culture, because you're going to say ‘well ,that's not how we did it at my last company and I don't see why we would do it that way’. An open mind is really, really important,” she says.
Integrating with a new culture remotely
Working from home often makes it feel slightly harder to integrate with a new workplace culture — we don’t have the opportunity to chat with people around the watercooler. Micro-interactions throughout the day are often what makes us feel connected to our new colleagues.
“My advice would be: in those one-to-ones, or in those Zoom meetings, share more stories about yourself,” advises Sheryl. “Be more open than you would normally be because that's how people will get to know you.”
It’s also important to understand that remote working flexibility is both give and take — understanding the workflow of your colleagues and integrating that with your own productivity timeline.
“Working from home doesn't mean a free for all for everybody,” says Emma. “It means understanding what the team flow is.”
“Working from home, for me, is actually getting the schedule together so that you know what are the peaks and troughs that we've got in terms of things that we need to do.”