Assessing Company Culture – Part 1

by Steve Chirpich and Paul Sears

Ever have the sinking feeling after you started a job that you should have checked into the employer further? Or the job is not what was advertised? Or you just don’t think you’ll fit in with these people? There is no greater let-down than to realize your new job is a mismatch. For both your and the employer’s sake, it’s important to research the company culture to ensure that you and the company are a good match.


What is Company Culture?

What does company culture mean to you? It might be the company personality, personal chemistry, or fit. Or maybe it’s whether you can play your favorite music or wear something comfortable to work. What about: “how do they get things done around here?”

Company culture exists at different levels. On the surface are important clues, such as:

  • Company websites and mission statements
  • How people dress
  • Job titles
  • Working hours
  • Technology
  • Printed job descriptions from a human resource office


Beneath the surface are deeper, and equally important, things, like:

  • Real-life job descriptions (which may be different from printed versions)
  • Management styles
  • Relationships among employees and departments
  • Company policies and politics


It’s important to know the real needs and values of the employer. What’s important to the employer? Is the direction they want to go the same as yours? Whatever the values of a work group may be, groups tend to accept others they perceive as having similar values, and reject those they regard as having opposing values.


The most significant aspect of company culture, the company value system, lies at the deepest level and can be the most difficult to uncover. How strong is the company ethics system? How genuinely does the company practice customer service? Does the new employee need to be of a certain political persuasion or join in after-work events to be accepted?


Why is Company Culture Important?

Company culture can affect success and morale on the job, impacting not only financial well-being but even mental and physical health. Links between workplace compatibility and health are well established. Most reasonable people consider a toxic work environment not worth the cost. If you’re shopping for an employer, you have a large stake in whether or not you and the company culture are a good fit.


Want more? Read the second article in this series on how to determine the culture of a company.


This article first appeared in Career Connection, a newsletter of the WorkForce Center System.


Steve Chirpich and Paul Sears are employment specialists at the Minneapolis WorkForce Center.


One thought on “Assessing Company Culture – Part 1

  1. Jamie Buss August 22, 2012 / 1:43 pm

    Love the itemized list of where you can find expressions of company culture. Very helpful. Thanks!


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