In Search of a Suitable Workplace Culture
3 research-based steps to find your next workplace.
Posted Feb 20, 2020
Workplace culture can define your workplace experience. Think about a time when your workplace culture was a poor fit. How did that poor workplace culture fit impact your psychological well-being? How did it impact your productivity? How did that impact long-term outcomes, such as your career progression? Most likely, personal and professional outcomes suffered if your workplace culture did not suit your personality, workplace values, social identities, and workplace interests.
This is because most individuals as social beings have fundamental needs from a workplace. These needs may vary, but they commonly include a sense of belonging, inclusion, engagement, and development. One of the keys to workplace and career satisfaction is finding a suitable workplace culture that meets your specific needs. Not all workplaces are created equal, and the search for the right workplace culture should be an informed process that you conduct during the initial phases of your job search process. Based on career development empirical research and practice, I will review three steps you can take to find the right workplace culture.
1. Find a workplace that promotes growth-oriented strategies and has the resources to pursue innovation
If you identify as a culturally diverse individual, in order for you to thrive in a workplace culture with diverse employees, the organization should have a growth-oriented strategy and resources to support that strategy. One research study (Guillaume, Dawson, Otaye-Ebede, Woods, & West, 2015) found that only under certain conditions did culturally diverse teams thrive in workplaces. Specifically, these conditions included an organization having the strategic goals and resources to implement changes that would drive growth for the organization. The organizations also had leadership that demonstrated inclusive and equitable behaviors.
Think of organizations that constantly seek to understand employees’ perspectives in order to truly generate change. For example, in healthcare settings with growth-oriented strategies, there is usually a drive to seek ways to improve the patient experience based on feedback received from healthcare employees from front-desk staff to healthcare providers. These types of organizations usually have the capability to effectively implement the feedback they receive in order to improve the patient experience from the beginning of the service cycle to the end. These organizations also effectively communicate any resulting changes to staff. Ultimately, teams effectively collaborate and have their voices heard within these types of organizations.
In your search process, find ways to understand how organizations of interest may implement feedback. How exactly does leadership involve teams in imperative decision-making processes, such as improving customer or patient experience? What is done with the feedback teams deliver to leadership? Do leadership teams demonstrate inclusive behaviors, and if so, how? These are questions you can ask during your interviewing process or you can follow up privately with current employees.
2. Find a workplace that incorporates your workplace values explicitly in their strategy and branding
The more you can eventually identify with the organization you work for, the better. An organization is an entity that you should ideally seek to proudly identify with as if it were one of your social identities. As you embark on your search for the right workplace culture, research organizations’ overall strategy and brands. For example, research current strategic plans and goals for the year, if available. You can utilize online resources to shed more light on these matters. Do these strategic plans or goals align with something you can support? Would you proudly identify as a member of this organization in the future? These are insight-oriented questions to ask yourself.
3. Search for a workplace that shows evidence (i.e., quantitative and qualitative metrics) of how they walk-the-talk in terms of positive workplace culture
Evidence is everything. If one cannot support one’s claims with evidence, one just has an opinion. There is nothing wrong with an opinion, but when it comes to searching for the right workplace culture, you do want to know that there is at least some evidence that an organization truly has the workplace values, leadership, vision, and mission they say they have. This is where metrics (e.g., retention rates, employee engagement levels, internal promotion rates) should be considered. Consider what matters most to you in a workplace culture. How would that be something that could be measured? By presenting this question to yourself, you can determine what metrics to look for or ask for from organizations of interest.
Consider asking those in your professional network if they know of someone working in your organizations of interest. Then request to be introduced so you may inquire further about the metrics that matter to you. You might also research any publications organizations have regarding their own metrics. These publications are sometimes available on their own websites or on websites that compile industry-wide information (e.g., https://www.vault.com/).
If you are experiencing a workplace transition, rest assured that the right workplace culture is out there for you. It will just take some time, information, and a little hope to find a workplace culture suitable to your whole self.
Guillaume, Y. R. F., Dawson, J. F., Otaye-Ebede, L., Woods, S. A., & West, M. A. (2015). Harnessing demographic differences in organizations: What moderates the effects of workplace diversity? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38, 276-303. doi: 10.1002/job.2040