When it comes to finding a new position or employer, it doesn’t all boil down to just figuring out whether your skills and experience are a good fit for the job. Those factors definitely play a big part, there’s an equally major consideration that is sometimes overlooked: company culture. Company culture is essentially the personality of a workplace—its values, working style, attitude, and any number of characteristics that make a particular company unique. Where your skills and experience help you land the job, fitting in with the company culture helps ensure that you have a positive, fulfilling work experience for the long term.

Exploring new career opportunities but haven’t given company culture much thought yet? We’ll walk you through why it matters, how to evaluate workplace culture, and how to determine what aspects of culture are most important to you.

Four people sitting on stills on a stage giving a leadership talk. One person in a yellow jumpsuit is talking into a microphone.

Why is cultural fit so important?  

Workplace culture affects more than just how you feel about a company—though that certainly matters too. When there’s a good fit between employees and the companies they work for, employees feel more enthusiastic, engaged, and connected to their work and team members. Working somewhere that aligns with your values and beliefs means you’re more likely to be motivated to get the job done (which in turn leads to higher productivity from you and your team). And when employees are happy and have found the right corporate culture, they tend to stick with the company for the long term. 

On the flip side, a cultural mismatch results in negative outcomes for both the employee and the company. Employees who feel disconnected from their workplace culture often feel stressed, alienated, or frustrated, which can cause mental health and overall job satisfaction to take a hit. That sense of dissatisfaction leads many employees to leave for another position; for companies, that kind of high turnover both disrupts operations and causes costs for recruitment and training to balloon.

Repercussions like these are exactly why so many employers take cultural fit so seriously; they’re keenly aware of its impact on business performance. Recently, Korn Ferry surveyed 500 executives from the World’s Most Admired Companies (WMAC), and respondents cited culture as the most underrated determinant of a company’s future success. Not only that, but nearly two-thirds attributed 30% or more of their companies’ market value to culture, with another one-third attributing 50% or more.

How can you uncover more about a company’s culture? 

If you’re on the hunt for a new job, it can feel difficult to figure out a company’s culture. After all, you’re still in the interviewing and applying stage and haven’t seen it for yourself yet.. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take now to understand the workplace culture and whether you’d be a good fit for it down the road. 

  1. Do your research and explore their online presence: There’s a wealth of information out there across the company's website, social media profiles, and review sites. Spend some time reading through them to begin gathering some insights into an employer’s values, mission, and overall workplace environment. In particular, things like employee testimonials, company events, and organizational initiatives can provide valuable clues about the company's culture and how employees are treated.


  2. Take a look at the job description and benefits package: The job description itself can be a useful tool! What kind of language do they use? Is it formal, informal, results-oriented, people-oriented? What kind of values and priorities do they highlight in the job description? Do you see a focus on innovation, collaboration, flexibility, or work-life balance? If you don’t feel like you’re getting much from the description, take a look at the benefits package. Often, these detail out some of the specifics that can affect culture more directly. Perkslike flexible scheduling, professional development opportunities, and wellness programs can indicate the company's commitment to supporting employees' well-being and growth.


  3. Ask about culture during the interview process: If you’ve reached the interview stage, feel free to take this opportunity to ask questions that relate to the company's culture. What are the team dynamics like? Is there a particular management style that you’d be working with? Asking about employee satisfaction, opportunities for advancement, and the company's approach to diversity and inclusion can also give you an idea of the workplace culture.


  4. Take note of how people interact with each other—and you: Don’t overlook your personal experience and gut reactions when considering how to assess company culture! When interviewing, notice the office vibe and interactions between employees, as well as interactions between you and your interviewer! The way that employees communicate and interact with others during your office tours or interviews can either indicate a positive and supportive atmosphere—and a healthy work environment—while signs of tension or disengagement may suggest otherwise.


  5. Reach out to current or former employees: Nothing beats a firsthand perspective when it comes to corporate culture, and a current or former employee can likely give you a much more nuanced and accurate answer than you may come up with on your own. Think through whether you know anyone who has worked for this employer; don’t forget to double-check by visiting the LinkedIn page for the company and seeing if you have any common connections. 

By combining these tactics, you can gain a more complete picture of the company and its culture, giving you one more data point in your job hunt. 

Woman attending video call business meeting online with workmates to plan project

How to guide your job search by defining your own values 

Figuring out how to assess company culture is just one part of the process, because you also need to define what matters most to you when it comes to culture. Until you’ve done that, all the information you’ve collected will lack the context you need to make a decision. 

Take a moment to reflect on what matters most to you in the workplace. Some common priorities you may want to consider can include:

  • Are you looking to spend more time in the office or more time remote? 
  • What kinds of opportunities for growth and development matter most to you? 
  • How much autonomy do you want, or do you prefer a working relationship that’s more hands-on? 
  • Do you prefer environments that emphasize teamwork and collaboration, or are you more drawn to independent roles? 
  • What's a deal-breaker for you? Is it micromanagement, lack of flexibility, a fully remote or fully in-office schedule, or something else?

Identifying these priorities will help you to zero in on employers where opportunities line up with your values and preferences.

Don’t forget to consider the stage of your career and life circumstances. For instance, if you’re early in your career, you may be looking for opportunities for learning and advancement, while someone with family obligations may place a higher emphasis on work-life balance and flexibility. Considering these factors helps you to further refine your search to those roles and employers that meet your specific needs and goals.

Now that you’ve done all this, take all of the information you’ve defined and use it to create a checklist of "must-haves" versus "nice-to-haves.” Refer back to your checklist often throughout your job search process to help you keep your values top-of-mind and lead you to the roles and organizations that offer the right cultural fit and support your professional and personal growth.

What to do when your values don’t align with your employer

It’s one thing to be searching for a new role where you can evaluate corporate culture with fresh eyes, but what about when you’re already in a position where you suspect it’s not the right fit? If you’re in this position, you’re probably well aware of it and may be feeling disconnected from your employer, facing conflicts with colleagues or management, or just generally feeling like you’re undervalued or unsupported.

In these situations, one way to address the issue is by attempting to first adapt to the existing culture. Be candid with your colleagues or supervisors about your concerns or the difficulties you’re facing, and express your willingness to explore potential solutions. Sometimes you’ll be able to find a relatively easy fix, like making some small changes to foster a more inclusive and supportive work environment, or getting the kind of feedback or attention from your supervisors or teammates that you’re looking for. 

If your attempts at resolving your cultural issues are unsuccessful, you may want to consider whether there’s an opportunity for you elsewhere in the organization in another role where you may find a better cultural fit. If there isn’t, it may benefit you to instead seek an entirely new position at another employer. 

Leaving a position is a big decision, think of this as your last resort after exhausting all avenues for addressing cultural fit. Before you take any concrete steps, make sure you’ve considered any potential impact that a major move could have on your career growth, financial stability, and overall well-being. If you do decide to find new employment, stay professional throughout the job search and interviewing process, fulfilling all your job responsibilities and maintaining relationships with colleagues and supervisors. 

There’s one final position you could potentially find yourself in: One where you haven’t been able to successfully address your cultural fit, and you also haven’t found an employer where you think you’d be a better match. For instances like these, work on a backup plan where you can explore options when the right time comes. For now, you can spend your time working on professional development, networking, and skill-building to make you a more attractive candidate in the future for a wider mix of potential roles. 

Company culture is more than just a buzzword

Clearly, there’s a lot more to cultural fit than you may think. By spending the time to take stock of what matters to you and of an employer’s workplace culture, you’re more likely to find positions where you feel motivated, engaged, and able to grow and develop. This may not be a quick process, but when you find a workplace where values align, collaboration thrives, and you feel valued and supported, you’ll uncover a truly fulfilling and satisfying work experience.

Need help finding the position or employer where you’re a good cultural fit? Contact your local Spherion location to speak to one of our expert recruiters!