Business Thoughts

What is Company Culture & Why Does it Matter

“Since 1998 the 100 Best Companies [to work for] have outperformed the S&P 500 index by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1,” according to a study in Fortune

Businesses on the “Best Companies” list earned their spot by building a strong, company culture. If youfresh out of college’re or feel stuck in your lackluster job, company culture may seem less important, foreign, or reserved for the select few. However, in 2015 the business landscape reveals that culture is a key element to building a long-lasting successful company – and career. But what does “company culture” really mean and how can you apply to it your work?

What Defines a Great Company Culture?

It’s helpful to understand that there are differing definitions of company culture. Many companies define their “casual culture” as jeans and sweatshirts in the dress code, bring your dog to work or catered lunches on Fridays. However, what would happen if these things disappeared? Would the defined culture disappear, too? Cool stuff around the office and lax dress codes may seem like culture, however, these perks simply represent the workplace environment.

Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz, agreesHe believes that “cultural fit should be defined by shared beliefs, shared priorities and stylistic cohesion” and not by “fun things people who work together might have or do.” (Source: Moz). In other words, company culture should be defined by the shared values that are carried out through the company’s team member’s actions.

Unfortunately, other business experts, like Ron Friedman, view shared company culture as an un-achievable myth. In his Harvard Business Review article, 5 Myths of Great Workplaces, he wrote: “if all the people in an organization are very similar to one another – in personality, attitude, values, thinking style, background – it can lead to complacency, overconfidence, and a lack of creativity, and that it can become an excuse for hiring to fulfill existing prejudices.”

Frankly, I completely disagree.

“Similarities” in people don’t define company culture. The dictionary definition of organizational culture is “values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.” Similar people aren’t hired to fit culture – it’s about finding people who share the same values.

Culture teaches you how diversity can bring teams together. A team member could be a great cultural fit, but still be different from others they work with. That’s because culture is not synonymous with one-size-fits-all. Culture allows people to focus on the core beliefs and priorities they share with one another.

As Rand said, “cohesion isn’t about finding lots of people who are the same, but about making sure there’s no one on the team that detracts from others & that many get more enjoyment and progress from the diverse perspectives their co-workers bring.”

Why should you care about Company Culture?

50 percent of Americans spend up to 50 hours per week at work. With most of your hours of the week spent at work, it’s important to really love what you do – and the work culture you’re apart of for 5/7th of the week. 

Companies that understand culture, place more emphasis on finding candidates who fit the culture, more so than screening them on their ability to check off a list of qualifications or skills. Culture guides how employees think, act & feel. If we think right, act right and feel right, we can potentially make the biggest impact in our organization and hopefully, our community.

At Seer we have 11 values that help unite us as team; to name a few we “empower each other, grant the gift of failure, and welcome disruptions.” If you are nodding your head in agreement – awesome! If you are shaking your head, then Seer probably wouldn’t be the best place for you. That’s cool too – culture-fit is about finding a company that aligns with your values.

Tips to Uncover A Company’s True Culture

You’ll never love what you do if your company’s culture is terrible – or if it’s not real company sh*t. Companies aren’t perfect and it’s okay for them to make mistakes (except not these Lululemon mistakes).

Lululemon spoke about empowerment and happiness, but their true culture wasn’t in line with the perception they gave. The peaceful, accepting Sanskrit yoga phrases written in their employee handbook didn’t quite match up with founder, Chip Wilson’s statements on shaming women’s bodies after customers complained of see-through leggings. Lululemon’s marketing was on point and its projected culture seemed right – but clearly their values weren’t in line with their actions.

How can you see through the bullshit and pinpoint a company’s true culture?

  1. Sign up for the company’s newsletter
  2. Subscribe to the company’s blog
  3. Follow them on social media
  4. Interact with a of couple employees – do they respond?
  5. Analyze their lines of service

For an example, if a digital marketing agency offers SEO services, how’s their website’s SEO?  Are they producing and ranking well for great content? What vertical does the company align with? Are they attending big conferences in that vertical and making their presence known?

Once you’ve done research on discovering a company’s true culture, you can better understand what’s important to the company and what makes them stand out.

Next, look inside yourself: understand what beliefs, priorities and stylistic cohesion mean to you. Learn how to identify them during the interview process. Ask yourself: what environment will I thrive in? Do I want to be an impact player?

During the interview, don’t be afraid to ask the employer if they walk the walk. You found community outreach featured on their website? Ask them where they volunteer in the community. You found a marketing agency with an outdated blog? Ask them what’s up with that. If a company isn’t being honest about their beliefs & priorities, don’t be afraid to ask. Bad culture-fit is real and you don’t want it to happen to you.

Final Company Culture Takeaway

Culture fit works and brings people together in a special way. For example, I’m surrounded by people who help me grow my mind every day. At Seer, I don’t feel like a lonely nerd anymore (and I’m not saying we’re all nerds, but we’re definitely all here for a reason).

Have a different take on company culture? Share your comments below or tweet me @alexis_wolfer to talk about culture-fit and company culture experiences.