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Company culture: What you need to know

You’re seeking a new job and have heard about researching ‘company culture’ before your interview.

What is company culture? What are the different types? Why is culture important for employers? Why should you care?

Jobseekers who research company culture and think about how they’ll fit into it do better at interview than those solely relying on hard skills to land a job.

This article puts company culture into perspective. It answers popular questions our recruiters are asked. It explains why company culture is increasingly important.

What is company culture?

Every organisation has a culture. It’s an organisation’s ‘personality’. It’s the way organisations behave, what they believe and what they value. Many summarise company culture by saying ‘It’s the way we do things around here.’

Great leaders recruit talent who fit their culture. They then motivate and support talent to thrive in that culture.

Successful companies have strong cultures. They live by those cultures every day. Unsuccessful companies often don’t have a clearly defined culture that is understood by their employees.

What are the types of company culture?

A lot of research has been done on company culture. Two researchers from the University of Michigan, United States, believe four types of company culture exist. Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron say organisations have a mix of all four, but a dominant one leads the way.

  1. Clan culture

This culture is collaborative. These organisations are friendly and act like one big family. Everyone’s views and ideas are valued. Employees support each other. Communication is clear and transparent. Everyone feels comfortable having their say. Employees are appreciated for their work and helped to improve.

  1. Adhocracy culture

This culture is creative, energetic and not afraid to take calculated risks. These organisations value change and are agile. They’re willing to experiment. Leaders are innovative and encourage employees to take risks. These organisations use their innovation to gain competitive advantage.

  1. Market culture

This culture focuses on goals and achieving results. These organisations are competitive and zero in on market share. They thrive on getting the job done and encourage employees to go the extra mile. Leaders are demanding and set challenging performance expectations.

  1. Hierarchy culture

This culture is structured. These organisations have a hierarchy that must be followed. They have a formal work environment with strict procedures. Their structure allows them to function efficiently and smoothly. These are often large and bureaucratic organisations.

Why is company culture important for employers?

A strong company culture is essential to success.

An organisation—public or private—that doesn’t have a strong culture wastes time and effort. They often lack trust. Employee satisfaction is often low.

Companies with a strong company culture keep staff longer. This is important because losing staff regularly (high churn rate) is disruptive and takes the company away from its core business.

Why is company culture important to jobseekers?

When applying for work, think about the type of company culture you want to work with. You’ll want one you respect and admire—one that makes you comfortable, happy and valued.

If, for example, you love a team environment, you might want to work in a clan culture. If you’re a creative person who wants to experiment, you may be better off in an adhocracy culture. If you’re a go-getter who loves to kick goals and meet targets, you might suit a market culture. If you’re structured and want processes to follow, a hierarchy culture might be best.

Why is it important to research company culture?

  1. You don’t want to waste your time or an organisation’s time. Applying for jobs in an organisation with a culture that isn’t a fit won’t make anyone happy.
  2. You don’t want to be interviewed without knowing the company’s culture and how you fit. This will throw up a red flag that you haven’t done your homework.
  3. You’ll likely be asked how you fit into a company’s culture during interview. Researching and preparing will position you to answer with confidence.

Special note: Employees who don’t match a company’s culture typically have a hard time finding their place once hired. It’s not uncommon for them to leave—or be asked to leave—within a short time. This is difficult for everyone. It may mean you’ve missed the chance to accept a position in a company with a perfect fit. So don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to a job offer if the company’s culture isn’t right.

Want to learn more?

Cultural fit: Techniques for getting it right

Cultural fit or more money in your next job?

Mapping professional development

10 reasons employees will stay (besides $)

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