Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
Nobody plans to work in a company that’s not awesome, but it happens. Sometimes it starts out well, then change comes and it tanks. Sometimes the company wears a mask to hide the truth. When you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore it’s time for some strategic planning. The best time to find a job is when you have one. Think about how you got there, form a clear exit strategy (If you don’t plan to stay) and prevent yourself from making the same mistake twice.
Discovering you are not in a healthy work culture and hoping it will become one is not a strategy. If you end up in a place that lacks awesomeness, you can’t fix it. Non-negotiable job criteria should include well-defined company values and culture and what that looks like to you. We don’t all want the same thing, but there are some basic tenets that define a great place to work. Don’t settle for less.
Awesomeness has its roots in culture, and a company that doesn’t believe culture affects their bottom line has their corporate head in the sand. Culture starts at the top. Senior leadership not only needs to grasp the importance of a strong, positive culture, they need to lead it and live it. Culture sustains employee enthusiasm, attracts and keeps talented people, and underwrites performance. You owe it to yourself to work somewhere awesome.
Company Culture Matters
Culture is a recruiting tool. A mediocre culture reflects a mediocre company. \Attracting talented people requires an open working environment with lots of transparency and employee autonomy. As soon as candidates enter an office they should see and feel the uniqueness of the culture. It also holds true that employers must feel a like-minded connection from the candidate. Not every applicant fits every culture and not all cultures are identical. Know what you want and need.
I don’t subscribe to the “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” idea. Work is not play. You can love your job and simultaneously recognize that it’s hard work. When we love what we do, we do it better, longer and with greater passion, but it is still a job. A company that understands why you work is a good one.
Figure that out and align opportunities with your talents and goals. Find a stable company with people you like, and where you, as an employee, will be recognized for your contributions.
So what does that kind of company look like? Here are four positive culture indicators. If these are missing there is not even a remote possibility of awesomeness.
Hire People that fit the Culture
Good companies understand that people and culture work together or they don’t work at all. One of my favorite culture czars, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, makes a great point when he notes the people you hire are ambassadors for your company. Word of mouth can be a positive or negative influence, and let’s remember where both end up and live forever—on the Internet.
When job seekers and employers place a high priority on cultural fit, candidate and company gain long-term benefit.
Create a Corporate Identity
Successful companies craft mission and vision statements that answer the questions What do we do and Why are we here? They communicate the Who, What and Why to management, team members and customers so everyone understands the framework that drives the company. Values support the vision, shape the culture and reflect the essence of the company’s principles and beliefs.
If you can’t form a clear sense of identity from your networking, web research and interviews, you will not discover it when you are hired because it isn’t there.
Empower Everyone to Contribute
Good ideas and decisions originate at every level. One person never has all the answers; a company where only senior management makes decisions is an oligarchy. A lot of companies are still managed this way but they are out of step with reality. This is where weak leaders that abuse their power hide.
Create a Motivational Work Environment
Awesome companies invest in awesome employees. Do not confuse culture with perks. Perks are great, but they’re false gods when it comes to attracting and keeping talent. If you look hard enough you can always find better perks, but they should never become a competitive advantage when choosing a place to work. Perks do not define a strong culture; they are simply part of one.
Work for a company that practices honest management, shares information, gives credit when and where it’s due and pays people fairly. If the company doesn’t uphold these principles, there will never be enough perks to make up for it.
Fortune Favors the Bold
Finding an awesome place to work requires effort and research. Do your homework and you’ll avoid ending up in a hot mess. Understand the kind of work environment you need, then reach out to colleagues for referrals and introductions. Your network knows the awesome places and the ones to avoid.
Ask questions. During an interview ask to speak to people in other departments. Ask them how long they’ve worked there. Find out why they stay. If the position is a replacement for someone, ask why he or she left. Be bold and ask them to describe their culture; then pay attention to the answer in case it sounds too scripted or too good to be true.
Enthusiasm is hard to fake, but a mediocre culture can hide behind hype. Get a vibe for what it’s like to spend eight hours a day there and trust your instincts. I’d be lying if I said the kick-ass espresso machine in the office didn’t influence me, but my company nailed all four of the must have’s and there were no surprises because I did the up-front research.
There are plenty of awesome companies out there. You deserve one.