Why organizational culture matters in your job search

When job candidates size up potential employers, they measure multiple factors. There’s the list of job responsibilities and requirements, of course. Future workers are also taking a hard look at what the company’s organizational culture is like — and whether they want to be a part of it.

Why is organizational culture important?

We live in an age where anyone can disseminate anything online, and others will pay attention, regardless of whether it’s true. Current and former employees, both the happy and disgruntled ones, can also post anonymously on employer-review sites. It’s never easy to land top talent when a company’s public image is less than flattering.

It’s even harder in today’s tight labor market, when top candidates have a plethora of choices and often field multiple offers. Sure, candidates look for jobs with a competitive salary and benefits. At the same time, they know they’ll be happiest working for a company that shares their values. Companies, in turn, want satisfied employees because they are the most productive and loyal members of the team. A poor match results in a bad hire, which can cost lost time, productivity and money.

Characteristics of organizational culture

No two companies are alike. Besides offering varying products and services, they also differ in corporate values, hierarchical structure and communication style. Yet there are some broad categories that can help nail down the characteristics of organizational culture in any given setup.

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Most businesses fall under one or more of the following descriptions:

 Competitive — quick to pounce on opportunities, encourages employees to one-up each other
 Team-oriented — inclusive and collaborative, with consensus driving much of the decision-making process
 Supportive — a family-like atmosphere that acknowledges employees’ feelings and encourages both personal and professional growth
 Innovative — a workplace that embraces novel ideas, dares to do things differently and is willing to take smart risks
 Traditional — conservative and systematic, a deep respect for established methods and how things ought to be

Although workers are as diverse as organizations, they tend to seek out an office environment that offers:

 Transparency from management
 Open communication and feedback that’s honest yet kind
 A supportive atmosphere that understands the value of work-life balance
 Continuing education in the form of technical training and professional development

 Recognition for a job well done, even if it’s a simple thank-you

On the flip side, characteristics of an unattractive workplace culture are low morale, dwindling productivity, a blame-others mindset and a general lack of vision and direction.

How to shape a company’s corporate culture

To attract skilled talent and prevent top performers from walking out the door, here are some tips:

1. Take stock. Do you have a clear idea of what your workplace culture is like and — more importantly — how others see it? Find out the unvarnished truth by perusing employer-review sites and surveying the staff.

2. Evaluate your website. Many professionals, especially millennials, care about doing work that makes a difference, so emphasize corporate efforts in sustainability, diversity and community involvement. An organization’s public face should reflect what it stands for.

3. Stay on top of social media. Use an on-brand tone of voice on social media platforms. Respond to comments and hashtags whenever possible. Also keep an eye out for negative comments on employer-review sites.

4. Write a great job post. The job description may be the first time a candidate hears about your organization. Make it count by highlighting the positive workplace culture in addition to the competitive compensation and benefits package.

5. Hire for corporate fit. The best person for the job may not always be the one with the work history and technical skills you seek. Because every one of your employees influences the overall organizational culture, make sure the people you hire make a positive contribution. This is especially important when recruiting for senior managers, as they play a larger role in shaping a company’s values and direction.

Organizational culture matters to employees and job seekers, and that’s why it should be more than a buzzword or afterthought. For better recruitment and retention, make sure yours is as positive and attractive as it can be.

Michael Steinitz is senior executive director for Professional Staffing Services at Robert Half and the global executive director of Accountemps, a Robert Half company, based in Washington, D.C. Accountemps offers resources, including job search services, at roberthalf.com/accountemps.