The Definition of Company Culture

People working in an office

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Company culture refers to the personality of a company. It defines the environment in which employees work. Company culture includes a variety of elements, including work environment, company mission, value, ethics, expectations, and goals.

Some companies have a team-based culture with employee participation on all levels, while some businesses have a more traditional and formal management style. Other companies have a casual workplace without many rules and regulations. 

Why Company Culture Matters

Company culture is important to employees because workers are more likely to enjoy their time in the workplace when they fit in with the company culture.

Employees tend to enjoy work when their needs and values are consistent with those in the workplace. They tend to develop better relationships with coworkers and are even more productive.

On the other hand, if you work for a company where you don’t fit in with the company culture, you are likely to take far less pleasure out of your work. For example, if you prefer to work independently, but work for a company that emphasizes teamwork (or has shared office spaces), you are likely to be less happy and less efficient.

When you work at a company with a traditional management style, your job responsibilities will be clearly defined, and there may not be opportunities to advance without going through a formal promotion or transfer process.

At a more casual workplace, employees often have the opportunity to take on new projects, and additional roles, as time permits. If you're looking for a company that's fun to work for, the company culture will be a big component of your decision making when evaluating prospective employers.

Company culture is important to employers too because workers who fit in with the company culture are likely to not only be happier, but more productive. When an employee fits in with the culture, they are also likely to want to work for that company for longer. 

How to Learn About a Company’s Culture

It is not always easy to understand a company’s culture. Below are some tips for assessing a company’s culture during your job search:

  • Check out the Company Website: In particular, look at the company’s “About Us” page. It will often have a description of the company’s mission and values. Some company websites also have testimonials from employees, which can be a useful way to hear about the culture firsthand.
  • Do Some Research: Beyond looking at the company website, check out a number of online resources that provide details on company culture. Glassdoor, for example, provides reviews of companies written by employees. Publications and websites like Business Insider and Entrepreneur also create annual lists of organizations with the best company culture.
  • Ask Around: If you know someone who works for a company you’re interested in, ask to set up an informational interview where you can learn more about the company. Check LinkedIn to see if you have connections at the company you can talk to. College alumni, check with your career services or alumni office. You may be able to talk to alumni who are employed by your prospective employer to get a sense of what it's like to work there.
  • Ask the Right Interview Questions: The employer will likely ask you questions to assess whether you’d fit into the company culture. However, you can ask questions too. You might also ask about particular elements of the company that are important to you, such as the amount of independent work vs. teamwork, or the day-to-day schedule of an employee.
  • Shadow Someone: If you are offered the job and are still unsure of the company’s culture, ask if you can shadow someone in the department for a day or a few hours. This will be a useful way to see the office dynamics in play and to ask any remaining questions.

Make Sure There's a Good Fit

Jobs aren't just a paycheck, and, given the amount of time spent working, it's important for both the employee and the employer to make sure there's a good fit. If you're not going to be happy working at a job or for a company, it may be better to pass on the opportunity and move on. Before you accept a job you're not sure about, take some time to ensure it's a good fit for your skill set, experience, personality, and goals for the future.

Article Sources

  1. Harvard Business Review. "What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?" Accessed Jan. 16, 2020.

  2. "For Job Satisfaction, Culture Fit Matters." Accessed Jan. 16, 2020.

  3. Harvard Business Review. "Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive." Accessed Jan. 16, 2020.

  4. Harvard Business Review. "How to Tell If a Company's Culture Is Right for You." Accessed Jan. 16, 2020.