In the modern world, job applicants tend to know a great deal about prospective employers before even stepping foot in the door for an interview. One of the chief things they investigate is organizational culture — a company’s values, norms, expectations, shared beliefs, and practices. This understanding of “how we do things around here” assists applicants in figuring out whether or not their own needs and interests match with that of the company.
When salary and other factors are equal, a good culture fit often tips the scales in favor of one employer over another. Candidates get excited about the work environment and what they can contribute to it. When the company lives up to these cultural expectations, new hires experience a sense of belonging and true employee engagement. Loyalty and retention result.
But do not mistake corporate culture for tossing together a list of perks and hoping new employees will find them exciting. A strong company culture involves more than monthly pizza parties and Casual Fridays. Promoting your workplace culture involves first gaining a clear sense of your company’s mission and what management and staff do to support it. Then, get out the word to top talent through means such as:
Social media channels
Your company’s website
Company review sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed (ask happy current employees to contribute)
Inclusion on lists of great company cultures
Word of mouth, such as through LinkedIn networking
To get an idea of how all this takes shape, let’s look at some well-known company culture examples. What defines them, and what can other businesses learn from them?
To say that this online retailer takes work culture seriously might be an understatement. As Zappos notes on its website, “Humbly speaking, creating a positive, productive culture is our bread and butter. We’ve learned that if you identify your company’s core values, hire by them, onboard team members by them, and truly live by them; then your business is on a long-term path to success, profit, and growth.”
Its core values, developed through a poll of its employees, include:
Deliver WOW through service.
Embrace and drive change.
Create fun and a little weirdness.
Be creative, adventurous, and open-minded.
Pursue growth and learning.
Build open and honest relationships with communication.
Build a positive team and family spirit.
Do more with less.
Be passionate and determined.
Zappos has put these ideas into practice in a variety of ways. It was a pioneer in enriching the customer experience by offering free next-day shipping, free returns, and a 365-day return policy. Its Zappos for Good initiative provides postage-paid labels for customers to donate or recycle shoes, clothes, and other items. In the office, impress a colleague and that person can reward you with a $50 company bonus for going above and beyond. And job candidates should not be surprised if their interviewer poses the question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you?” (which is a nice way to ask if you approve of video games embedded in the elevators and dressing up for Tutu Tuesday).
Takeaways: Bring employees into the process of defining your work culture. They offer first-hand knowledge of what makes your organization a great place to work. While highly personalized cubicles and a colleague or two in footie pajamas will not be every job seeker’s cup of tea, honestly promoting who you are will attract good fits.
Workers looking for a Clan Culture can’t help but notice the family atmosphere that permeates this chain of food markets. The company is quick to point out that its history goes back to two Wegman brothers starting a fresh produce pushcart business in 1916, and members of the family continue to lead to this day.
Seeing workers as part of the “family,” Wegmans invests in employee well-being and development. Its scholarship program has given more than $100 million in employee tuition assistance. Healthy culture programs help improve eating and movement, and free employee healthcare screenings translate into about 90 percent of employees knowing their blood pressure. Employee testimonials tout feelings of camaraderie, emphasis on work-life balance, and dedication to serving the community.
Workers aren’t the only ones singing the employer’s praises. Wegmans is a staple on a variety of impressive lists, from the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2022 to People Magazine’s Companies that Care.
Takeaways: Many job seekers want to find a place where they feel welcomed and cared about. Building a corporate culture that promotes this sense of belonging can provide an edge. Also, establishing yourself as a type of culture that merits attention can lead to great free publicity through inclusion on various lists at the local and even national level.
Do a search on “Netflix company culture” and you will see many interesting links. One entitled Netflix Culture – Seeking Excellence takes you to a company-produced document that covers what the organization views as special about its culture:
1. Encourage decision-making by employees
2. Share information openly, broadly and deliberately
3. Communicate candidly and directly
4. Keep only our highly effective people
5. Avoid rules
It goes on to state, “We believe a company’s actual values are shown by whom they hire, reward or let go. Below are the specific behaviors and skills we care about most. If these values describe you, and the people you want to work with, you’re likely to thrive at Netflix.”
The values include judgment, selflessness, courage, communication, inclusion, integrity, passion, innovation, and curiosity. Under each heading are examples. The document goes on to talk about honest, productive employee feedback being a way of life. It also outlines the “keeper test” used by management: If a team member was leaving for a similar role at another company, would the manager try to keep them? Those who do not pass are given a generous severance package so that the company can find someone even better for that position.
Sound like either a dream environment or something on which to take a pass? That original search also yields links to articles such as one in Forbes entitled “Netflix’s Company Culture is Not for Everybody and That’s Exactly How It Should Be.”
Takeaways: Company culture is not one size fits all. Painting an accurate picture through an honest mission statement and truthful description of how you operate encourages employee retention by attracting people who feel they could thrive in that work environment.
Also, organizations of all sizes should regularly perform online searches to learn what applicants encounter when they do research. A small business or startup may not yield as many results as Netflix, but it pays to know what is being said out there about your employee experience.
Ever heard the saying, “At Amazon, it’s always Day 1”? According to the website of this retail giant, this means “Our approach remains the same as it was on Amazon’s very first day — to make smart, fast decisions, stay nimble, innovate and invent, and focus on delighting customers.”
While some people find such an environment too high-pressure or chaotic, others thrive. Using Cameron and Quinn’s Competing Values Framework, the Society for Human Resource Management labels Amazon as an Adhocracy Culture that is flexibly structured and externally focused on customers. Adhocracy cultures typically value growth, variety, and stimulation, which encourages risk-taking, creativity, and agile ways of thinking.
Reviews on various job sites confirm the notion that certain people find working at Amazon quite invigorating. Employees mention things such as “really smart people,” “opportunity for growth,” “encouraged to think big,” “great for those who are self-motivated,” and “challenging but rewarding.”
Takeaways: Few businesses can be everything to everybody. Develop solid company goals and seek out like-minded employees committed to the company’s success.
Finally, remember that positive company culture isn’t something unique just to private firms. The government employs a huge number of people at the local, state, and national levels. Like any organization, it needs to attract and retain workers.
For over a decade, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has taken top honors on the Partnership for Public Service’s list of Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. Employee surveys show NASA workers scoring the agency particularly high in areas such as supervisor leadership, performance, and innovation. The organization actively supports the idea of a variety of people coming together to “explore the extraordinary” and has received a variety of awards for developing a diverse community and reaching out to under-represented segments of the population. In fact, NASA lists “inclusion” among its core values, which also include safety, integrity, teamwork, and excellence.
Takeaways: Public-sector workplaces often fall into the category Cameron and Quinn call Hierarchy Culture (also known as Control Culture). Such work environments tend to operate like well-oiled machines with defined roles and a clear chain of command. Workers understand their duties, routes to advancement are clear, and communication is to the point.
By their nature or because of the regulations imposed upon them, some industries need to be more “by the book” than others. If yours is one of them, embrace the ability to offer a stable and efficient work environment. Also, look at what else you can offer — such as a highly inclusive workplace and pride in serving the public.