Company cultures, the good, the bad, and – well in the interest of being nice we'll leave it at that – have been the focus at Great Place to Work® for the last 25 years, since Robert Levering and Milton Moskowitz researched their book The 100 Best Workplaces in America. What their research revealed is that the key to creating a great workplace revolves not around the building of a certain set of benefits and practices, but through the building of high-quality relationships in the workplace, relationships characterized by trust, pride, and camaraderie. What we call a great company culture. As Erin Osterhaus, researcher for HR technology reviewer Software Advice, points out in her blog about a recent survey, the term "company culture" has seen an astronomical rise in use since 1980, due in part to publications like The 100 Best Workplaces in America, as well as companies' recognition that culture has a direct impact on how happy, and healthy employees are– and, how well they perform. With the rise in attention to the topic of company culture, enter the adoption of roles created specifically to focus on company culture. As Osterhaus points out, Google, #1 on the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For List for the last three years, was one of the first companies to adopt such a position (Chief Culture Officer) in 2006.
Considering all the research and data that surround the term "company culture" today, Software Advice surveyed 886 U.S. adults to learn how they define company culture, and to better understand what culture means to the group it impacts the most: employees and job seekers. What did they discover? Most survey takers described "company culture" as a value, belief, or habit of employees that worked at an organization, or the overall feeling of the environment at that company. The majority of respondents listed their ideal company culture as "casual or relaxed" followed by "family oriented," "fun," "friendly," and "honest and transparent." However, when asked which of these five attributes would most likely convince them to apply at company, respondents stated that "honesty and transparency" would be the biggest influencer.
So while "casual/relaxed" and "fun" ranked over honesty as the most common definition of an ideal company culture, the fact that "honesty and transparency" are the bigger influencers on whether a prospective candidate actually applies at a company highlights what we've known about company cultures all along... that trust and values matter most.
Software Advice's data prove once again that it is fostering trust and building honesty and transparency that ultimately create a sense of camaraderie amongst employees and the fun, family feel environments that respondents report as their "ideal company culture." As Leslie Caccamese and Katie Popp state in Great Place to Work's recent whitepaper, Five Lessons for Leaders as they Build a Great Workplace, "What people often think makes a great workplace isn't actually what makes it so." While great amenities like workout facilities, foosball tables, and 4 star catered meals may initially come to mind when people think "great company culture," it's ultimately evidence of trust-based interactions between leaders and their employees that Great Place to Work looks for when evaluating companies for our Best Companies to Work For lists in nearly 50 countries around the world.
I'll leave you with another quote from our recent whitepaper: "...by all means, install slides and fi¬reman poles; scatter about lava lamps and bean bag chairs. Bring in the manicurist and the barista, and cater to people's pets. Just make sure these things aren't happening in lieu of deeper, more substantial practices like involving employees in workplace decisions, keeping them informed of important issues, tending to their ongoing professional development, and sharing profi¬ts fairly. These types of practices will go much further in helping employees feel that theirs is a great workplace."