Read our advice before you say “yes” to that job offer!

You've breezed through the application process, aced the interview, and got the call you were waiting for. The hiring manager was cheerful when you picked up and, after a couple of pleasantries, they uttered the words you'd been dying to hear: “We'd like to offer you the job!” Your stomach somersaulted and you can't believe you've finally done it.

While the news is certainly cause for celebration, there's one box that you may have left unticked. Do you know anything about the company culture? If you haven't taken the time to learn about this crucial piece of the puzzle, you may want to pause. Before you graciously accept your new position, it's time to do some investigating.

The company culture is make or break for many employees. In fact, 46% of job seekers say it's a decision factor in the application process. These candidates may consider turning down their dream job if the company culture doesn't hit the mark.

If you're new to this term, or simply want to make sure you're up to speed, you've come to the right place. In the following explanatory guide, we will be looking at a complete company culture definition, why it should matter to you, and how to figure out what type of company culture a business has. Get comfortable, grab a cup of tea, and let's get started.

What is company culture?

Before we go any further, you need to know the basics. Let's kick things off with an easy to understand company culture definition. Also known as organisational culture or workplace culture, this is the term given to the values and characteristics of a business. 

Company values and culture tend to go hand-in-hand. The values are the guidelines that set everything else in motion. For example, some businesses may value professional growth while others value giving back to the community. The leadership of the company will determine what these guiding principles are and you will get a “trickle-down” effect. 

Company culture shifts dramatically from business to business. Some businesses will have an energetic, collaborative culture while others may be more subdued and quiet. It's important to recognise that the culture affects everything from the work you do to the management style and the atmosphere of the workplace as a whole.

Of course, one of the hardest things about company cultures is that - on an individual level - they can be hard to define. You might not know exactly why a culture is working for you, you simply know that it is. That's because there are so many different factors at play, from values and beliefs to the managerial style or workflow management structure. All of these elements come together to make one whole, AKA the company culture.

As a professional, you want to feel supported and satisfied with your job. That's a no-brainer. The best way to do that is to find a company culture that aligns with your work style and, indeed, your values. Get that part of the job down and you're onto a winner. 

Why should company culture matter to you?

Come for the job, stay for the culture. That's the ethos of many modern-day professionals. And it makes sense - if you're working in an environment that supports you and helps you to develop, why would you start looking elsewhere? The short answer is you wouldn't. 

The statistics speak for themselves. Research shows that the risk of employees leaving an organisation that has a good company culture is less than 14%. The fact is, you spend all too much of your waking life at work. If your workplace is a healthy one, you'll want to stay.

Yes, company culture can transform the way that workers feel about their jobs. But let's take a moment to get down to the nitty-gritty details. If you think that company culture is no big deal, we're here to change your mind. Here are a few of the ways that it impacts you:

Happiness and satisfaction 

How happy are you at work on a scale of one to 10? You might never have considered this question, but take a minute to do so. Believe it or not, the environment in which you work plays a role in how you feel each day. Research from BMC Health Services Research suggests that a positive company culture leads to higher levels of workplace satisfaction. 

It's hardly rocket science. if you're working in a toxic place where the boss is a nightmare and there's a culture of backstabbing, that will reflect in your mood. You'll start to feel anxious about all of the workplace drama. On the other hand, if you work in a company in which your boss and coworkers support you, you're more likely to enjoy your job. That's a simplified version of the theory, but it serves to highlight how your workplace impacts you. 

Growth and development 

You deserve the opportunity to reach your career goals. If your organisation has a good company culture, you should get the support and education that you need. We all want to climb the career ladder and develop professionally. Ask yourself whether your current company is giving you the chances that you need to succeed in the years to come. 

If it's a deal-breaker for you, you're not alone. 94% of employees say that they would stay in a job longer if the company invested in their learning and development. One of the biggest factors when it comes to company culture is whether staff members get the training that they need. When you are considering different company culture types, it may be worth looking for one that will help you to move forward in your career within the role. 

Low stress levels and support 

Work-related stress is the most common type of stress in the UK. That likely won't surprise you, since most of us have experienced high levels of pressure in the modern world of work. It's seemingly never-ending, from around-the-clock emails to looming deadlines. The latest statistics show that a massive 79% of Brits frequently experience work stress. Let's put that into simple terms: the vast majority of us are feeling stressed out by our jobs.

But wait, what does that have to do with company culture? While a business with a healthy culture can't eradicate stress entirely, it can help to support you through it. When you work in an environment where there's openness about mental health and plans in place, it can make a major difference to how you feel. Knowing that you can reach out to your manager and let them know how you're feeling is the baseline here. However, many workplaces will also offer mental health days, provide extra support, and offer counselling. 

The four main company culture types

Now that you're well-versed on how company culture can affect your working life, let's talk about the main company culture types. As you might have guessed, there's a lot of space for individuality here. It's unlikely that two organisational cultures will be identical. Despite this, there's a strong possibility that they will fall into one of four camps: 

1. Clan (or family) culture 

With a strong focus on teamwork and togetherness, clan culture puts relationships in the driving seat. Rather than having a hierarchical structure, this format puts everyone on a level playing field. To put that simply, the managers are more likely to rub shoulders with people lower down the ranks. You might even refer to them as merely “advisors.”  

This approach to work has become popular in recent years, as it takes away the barriers that are used in traditional workplaces. The idea is that everyone works towards a shared goal and plays their part in the process. When clan culture works well, it means that the team is fast to adapt, can progress together, and are always pulling in the same direction. 

Pros of clan culture

  • Collaboration and communication 

  • Positive workplace environment 

  • High chance of professional development 

Cons of clan culture

  • Lack of managerial structure 

  • Difficult in larger businesses 

  • Productivity may suffer 

2. Market culture 

Money, money, money - that's what market culture is all about. This type of company culture puts all of the emphasis on the bottom line. Every decision that the leadership team makes should be geared towards increasing profits and making the business efficient. 

Since the company culture is all about making the biggest gains, this structure often pits employees against one another. Picture a busy sales team environment. The team will be competing to see who can get the most sales each week and the one who succeeds will get a bonus. As you might imagine, this is a traditional (and capitalist) approach to work.

Pros of market culture

  • Can lead to higher profits 

  • Good for individualistic workers

  • Clear career progression 

Cons of market culture

  • Can lead to high stress levels 

  • Doesn't give room for collaboration 

  • Can be a toxic work environment 

3. Adhocracy culture

Most common in startups and new businesses, adhocracy culture is all about being adaptable and flexing your entrepreneurial muscles. This approach to work is all about taking risks, rising to new challenges, and switching up your role to suit the demand. Unlike market culture or clan culture, this is an unconventional, modern-day style. 

You might hear the phrases “blue sky thinking” or “the sky's the limit” when you work in a business with this culture. But that's not to say that leaders with this approach have their head in the clouds. Instead, the company culture is all about moving fast and moving accurately.

Pros of adhocracy culture

  • Countless learning opportunities 

  • Higher risk equals greater rewards

  • Fast career progression options 

Cons of adhocracy culture

  • The pressure may be high 

  • Learning “on the job” can be hard

  • Lack of overall stability 

4. Hierarchy culture 

Perhaps the most traditional of all the company culture types here, hierarchy culture is exactly what it says. This most clearly refers to the managerial style. You have an obvious line of who is in charge. For example, you will have workers, supervisors, line managers, managers, and so on. Everything is rigid and the dress code and working hours follow suit. 

The culture dates back to the advent of office work and, frankly, not much has changed. You can expect a formal approach in this type of workplace - there are no grey areas when it comes to who does which tasks. Equally, there is often a standard nine-to-five structure. The aim of the game here is keeping the business as stable as possible. 

Pros of hierarchy culture

  • There are no nasty surprises

  • Goals and targets are clearly outlined

  • There's a sense of overall security 

Cons of hierarchy culture

  • It may be too rigid for some professionals 

  • The company is prized over the individual 

  • Progression opportunities may be lacking 

Factors that contribute to a good company culture

Many ingredients go into the company culture cake. When you're looking at how a business operates, it's important to cover all of the bases. Let's take a look at the factors that determine whether a business has a good company culture or not: 

Values and vision 

As we've already mentioned, the business values will play the biggest role when it comes to the company culture. These are usually set out by the company founders and may also be adapted as the business grows and changes over time. The company values will feed into every aspect of the company, from its processes to its managerial styles. 

Behaviour and attitudes 

Often enough, the company vision will also impact employees' attitudes and behaviours. For example, when you work in a place with a good company culture, you may find that everyone has a positive outlook and a “can do” attitude. It's a bit of a chicken and an egg scenario, in that it's unclear whether this creates the culture or the culture creates it.

System and processes

Every business is unique when it comes to the systems and processes that are used. It should come as no surprise that these feed into whether a business has a positive company culture. In a clan culture, for instance, the systems will focus on collaboration. When it comes to a market culture, the systems will be geared to the individual instead.  

Leadership styles

How are the leaders running the shop? If you've ever had the displeasure of working beneath a toxic manager, you'll know the score. Research from the British Psychological Society (BPS) suggests that having a bad boss could negatively impact your health. It can also make you feel anxious, overworked, and overwhelmed. Yes, the leadership style that the managerial team adopts will have an impact on how you feel about your job role. 

Ways to find out about the company culture 

We've waxed lyrical about the virtues of a good company culture - and the dangers of a negative one. But how can you figure out what you're dealing with? If you're on the cusp of accepting a job offer, you need to make sure that you do your homework. Luckily, we've got you covered. Here are some of the ways that you can get the details you need easily: 

Start with a Google search

Yes, this is a basic tip but it's also the smartest place to start. Sometimes, the most straightforward answer is the right one. Google the business and see what results come up. You're looking for everything from Glassdoor reviews and Google reviews to articles and social media posts. Trawling through all of that content might be a slog; however, it will give you the clues you need to piece together what the company culture is like. 

Go beyond the obvious here. Sure, if you see some negative reviews or bad press, you should take note of those things. However, you also want to dig a little deeper. Has there been a change in management? Did a team suddenly disappear from the business? Was there a product launch that never actually happened? Look at all of the evidence you uncover.

Take note of the application process

How the team treats you during the application process will tell you a whole lot about the company culture. Is the hiring manager responsive? Are you getting the feedback that you need? How are the business' communications? For example, if the manager is already sending you emails with bolded-out instructions, what does that say about their approach?

Consider whether you have enjoyed the process so far. Have you felt valued and treated fairly? If the answer is no, you might want to be concerned about the company culture. After all, the managerial style of the business is certain to bleed into the hiring process. 

Connect with the right professionals 

Networking is one way to find out more about a business before you jump ship. LinkedIn is an excellent tool here, but you may also meet people in other ways. Connecting with professionals who already work at the business may give you the insights that you need. While you shouldn't directly ask them if they like their company, pay attention to how they speak about it. Are they negative or positive? Is there a murky undertone that you can pick up on? 

Look at the staff turnover rates 

Unfortunately, no business owner is going to straight-up tell you about their staff retention rates… especially not if they are poor. However, there's one way that you can gauge how often employees are calling it quits. If you see job postings for the same company again and again, there are two possible reasons. Either the business is expanding or the staff members are leaving. You can easily check if a company has grown. If you do the maths and work out that the business must have a high turnover rate, that's a real red flag.

Ask the right questions in the interview 

If you've made it to the interview stage of the application process, you have a rare opportunity. Remember that you're not the only one on trial here. You can also take the chance to ask the hiring manager some pertinent questions. Here are some examples: 

  • How does the team overcome challenges?

  • What are the career progression opportunities?

  • How does the management team support people's mental health?

  • What does success look like in this business?

  • How can I meet your expectations of this job role?

By asking the right questions, you'll have a chance to better understand the company culture. Keep in mind that the interviewer will be selling this role to you - just as you're selling your experience to them. However, their answers may surprise you. 

Check out the workplace vibe

Should the interview take place at the workplace itself, you can use that to your advantage. What's happening around you? Take in as much information as you can as you walk through the office. Do the staff members look happy? Are they working happily together or has a deathly silence fallen upon the office? Put simply, is there a bad vibe? If something feels off, that may not be enough to go on. However, if you combine it with some of the above signs that the company culture is negative, it's worth taking seriously. 

The takeaway

When you're looking for a new job, ignoring the company culture is a big mistake. It can change the entire atmosphere of the workplace and may significantly impact your mental health. While some businesses advertise their culture front and centre, you should always do your own research. In this guide, we've covered the main ways that you can find out more about a company's culture before accepting your next job offer. 

Looking for a new job where the company culture suits you? Take the hassle out of your job search with our bespoke CV writing services. Having an optimised application at hand is a sure-fire way to get ahead of the competition. If you've already written your application, send it over to us for a free CV review too! 

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