Here's what it means to work somewhere with a positive culture.

By Maggie Seaver
October 30, 2019
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Whether you work at a small startup or a booming legacy brand, company culture directly (and indirectly) affects everything from your everyday job performance to your overall quality of life. But why? What exactly does it mean when people talk about “culture fit” or “office culture”? 

Sure, a company’s culture can be reflected in its more superficial offerings, like free beer taps in the common space or casual Fridays—but a truly healthy, positive company culture is rooted in something much deeper. 

“A company’s culture is the combined values, attitudes, and goals people in a workplace share,” says Christina Hall, senior vice president and chief people officer at LinkedIn. “The most positive work cultures are aspirational and create an environment where employees feel more engaged and in tune with one another.”

LinkedIn research revealed that 70 percent of American professional wouldn’t work at a leading company with a negative workplace culture—in fact, they’d rather get paid less and suffer a title demotion than deal with subpar office culture. If these stats don’t validate the significance of positive company culture, we don’t know what does. 

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Signs of a Positive Company Culture

Talent retention speaks volumes about the quality of an organization’s culture. Organizations with good benefits, an appreciation for work-life balance, and a dedication to fostering a sense of belonging will entice employees to stay—and attract new talent too.

“One of the top factors keeping professionals at their company for more than five years is having strong workplace benefits like paid time off, parental leave, and health insurance,” Hall says. “[Employees] are also proud to work at companies that promote work-life balance and flexibility, foster a culture where they can be themselves, and have a positive impact on society.”

These big, sweeping missions—the company's deep values, sense of direction, and overall purpose—should ultimately parallel what you think is important.

Signs of a Negative Company Culture

If talent retention indicates a good environment, the opposite is true for negative places. "If people are leaving an organization in waves, culture likely plays a part in this exodus," Hall says. It's possible the unrest is coming from only one or two people, but if they're high enough up in the organization they'll be the ones setting the tone for everyone. 

Is Your Current Company Culture Right for You?

Hall insists that feeling a sense of belonging at work is essential to your success. "When employees feel a sense of belonging they feel empowered and inspired in the workplace, which provides a significant advantage to the bottom line," she says. If you're constantly asking yourself, what am I doing here?, or find yourself disagreeing with the company's overall priorities and direction, it could be time to step back and reassess. "Take a step back to reflect on the exact area making you feel uneasy," Hall Says. "If it's a larger issue regarding values, then it may be time to look for a new opportunity." 

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How Can Job-Seekers Learn About a Company's Culture?

You can't really succeed if your personal values and preferences don't match up with your company's, but it's hard to tell if you don't work there yet. If you're job-seeking, all you need to do is ask (the right way). "I'm a big believer in asking questions during the interview process—especially about a company’s culture," Hall says. "Candidates should ask what the company culture is like from the interviewer’s point of view and decide if this aligns with their own values."

But don't forget to do research before your interview. "Many companies have a career page on their website that details company-wide benefits, learning and development programs, ongoing culture-related initiatives, and information on employee resource groups," Hall adds. If you want to go a step further, see what former employees say on job review sites like Glassdoor (though you should take reviews with a grain of salt).

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