Sadly, many so-called "top" companies today would probably flunk a 'spiritual audit'.
Hidden behind the endless talk of organizational values are profit-driven, high-pressure labor camps trading paychecks - and diminishing perks – for your soul. All of which means that uncovering a company's corporate culture is a critical task for today's job searcher. As important as the job itself.
To find a company that recognizes you have needs and desires beyond the workday – children, aging parents, personal interests and self - start with the highest level view of the qualities that make any organization spiritually rich.
Does the organization foster a sense of trust, active participation, mutual respect, and a feeling of belonging? Does it encourage open, honest communication flowing up, down and across? Are its stated values are healthy and consistently practiced? Does leadership emerge - and is it welcomed at all levels?
The cumulative result of these four patterns is a high "group intelligence" which produces organizations that are flexible, responsive, and able to react to change quickly. These companies respect you as an individual and are productive, profitable entities.
Three Steps To Uncovering Cultural Truth
You may never completely know a corporate culture until you have worked at the company for a while, but you can get darn close with the right kind of research. And do be pro-active. If there is an organization that you have even a inkling that you might like to work for – take them through this three-step process.
1. Know your own cultural values. Use the list of questions below to create your own prioritized "cultural checklist".
Community Spirit/Mutual Respect
- Do employees at all levels address each other by first names?
- How are new employees assimilated into the company?
- What programs or events exist to foster team spirit?
- How were you greeted?
- What do employee' voice mail greetings sound like?
- Is there a flex-time program?
- Is teleworking an option?
- Is there daycare?
- Is there a corporate wellness program?
Open, Two-Way Communication
- What mechanisms does the company have in place to get feedback from its employees?
- Is salary information accessible to all employees?
- How are decisions made - and how are those decisions communicated?
- Who sits where at meetings?
- Is it relaxed or formal?
- Is there a casual dress code? Does it operate at all levels of the organization?
- Are you free to drop into your bosses office? His boss?
- Are all employees on a first-name basis?
- To what degree does the company emphasize results?
- What opportunities exist for training and personal development?
- How do employees learn/know what is expected of them?
- Is there latitude for creativity and innovation?
Inclusion vs. Exclusion
- Are people of various backgrounds and personal preferences welcomed?
- Is there a Diversity program?
- How successful has the organization been at fostering diversity?
- What is the percentage of (women or minorities, etc.) in management positions?
Rewards and Recognition
- Are employees appropriately rewarded and recognized?
- What is the basis for rewards and recognition? (i.e., individual vs. team vs. organization based; performance vs. tenure)?
- Are non-sales based contributions recognized?
- What recognition programs are in place?
- Does the physical environment provide comfort and inspire productivity?
- Is the space attractive, clean and well-kept, with equipment in good working order?
- Are there differences due to status or function?
- Are personal office/cube spaces decorated ?
Groups and Networks
- How political is this company?
- How are promotions earned?
- Are there collegial groups within the company?
- Does the company have a sense of history…of legacy?
- Is it communicated inside and outside the company?
- What are the stories and myths that people talks about?
- Are these shared internally and externally?
- In what ways does the organization fulfill its social obligations to the community?
2. Research the company's culture. The obvious sources are the company's annual report and website, but take these with a grain of salt. These are institutional views used to "woo" shareholders, clients and potential employees. For greater objectivity, talk to company employees, or try WetFeet.com or Vault.com.
3. If you're asked to an interview, arrive early - unannounced if possible - and spend time observing how current employees interact with each other, how they are dressed, and their level of courtesy and professionalism. During your interview, ask questions from the grid above to get a feel for the corporate culture.
If you get a chance to meet with employees, ask one or more of these questions:
1. What 5 words would you use to describe your company?
2. What's it really like to work here?
3. What skills and characteristics does the company value?
4. Do you feel as though you know what is expected of you?
5. How do people from different departments interact?
6. What behaviors get rewarded in this company?
7. How effectively does the company communicate to its employees? Your decision to work for a company is a very big deal. Look beyond the job and the paycheck - and make sure it's a match worth your commitment.