Imagine you quit your college part-time job and are now searching for a full-time job. When conducting a job search, it is easy to be attracted to a high salary and benefits. While these are very important aspects of choosing a job, workplace culture is also another part of the job to keep in mind.

What exactly is workplace culture? It is the “sum of a company’s values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes.” For example, when the CEO of Alcoa fired a high-performing business unit manager who didn’t report a safety incident to the rest of the company,  the rest of the managers were not surprised…not reporting violations went against the norms of the culture, and was widely understood to be a capital offense. At ZocDoc, the ‘work hard play hard’ motto is evidenced every day. Employees who work late can order in take-out, and charge it to the company. Trips to the company beach house are frequent. With the high expectations on the staff, these perks create a culture that shows hard work is rewarded. Some companies keep a fridge full of organic snacks, available to employees anytime; Kaboom has tire swings and ping pong tables so their employees can de-stress; and Hubspot values individuality and honesty. These are all examples of the types of environments these companies create for their employees to thrive.

The Internship gave a glimpse into the workplace culture of Google
The Internship gave a glimpse into the workplace culture of Google

One value that matters to most millennials – 97% of them, in fact – is working in a job that allows them to have an impact on the world. Companies are responding by making service an established part of the culture, giving employees paid time off to volunteer, or matching contributions make to charities. By providing opportunities for employees to make an impact, these companies attract top level candidates and promote job satisfaction. In turn, job satisfaction leads to more productivity!

net impact
Net Impact gives their employees 1 paid day off/year to volunteer in their community

How do you find out about a company’s workplace culture?

To get insight on how a company operates and what its workplace culture is like, take 30 minutes to do a web search. Conduct a Google search using phrases like, “What is the workplace culture of (company)?”, “How does (company) treat its employees?” and “What is a day in the life at (company) like?” You can also use GlassDoor to read actual reviews from employees on their own personal experiences. Last but not least, consider conducting an informational interview. During the interview, asking the interviewee these types of questions about their employer can get you some insight on what it is like to work there:

  • What does everyone here do at lunch? Meaning, do people sit quietly at their desk or do they socialize with one another?
  • Do people ever get together after work? Is everyone friends here?
  • What types of traits in employees does your company value? What do you want from a candidate other than competency?
  • Does this company support any causes? Is philanthropy an important part of your mission?

When you find a company that aligns to your values and where you feel you fit in, you will be in a place you can thrive. Decide if aspects such as reaching out to the community, getting lunch together with coworkers, or honesty and integrity are important values for a company to have and make your decision from there. Even checking out the body language of the employees when you interview can be a good indicator if the people seem happy there. Workplace culture is just another great example of how salary isn’t everything!



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