What Does Workplace Culture Mean to You?

Sep 25, 2019

By Elizabeth Harkness, HR Manager

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A Home Away from Home

Accountants are notorious for spending long hours at work, so much so that it can become like a home away from home, where certain creature comforts are sought. A paradigm shift from previous generations, the concept of workplace culture is now in the top 2 of priorities among all job applicants I interview, regardless of their level, from interns up through senior management. This is making companies more competitive, not only in terms of compensation packages, but also culture-related incentives to attract and retain candidates. In this blog post, I will share some tips for evaluating a company’s workplace culture to ensure it is the best possible fit for you.

What Do You Want In a Workplace Culture

Weinstein Spira is proud of the culture we have created in an effort to provide the kind of work environment that resonates with people’s wants and needs these days. However, it is not an exact science, as each individual seems to have their own idea of what “workplace culture” means to them. A wide array of conditions and/or policies can influence which company someone chooses to work for—ranging from the general philosophy/mission/vision realm to the physical office environment and practical matters like work-life balance, and even the “fun” factor.

While you may have a loose idea of what you are looking for, it is wise to do a “gut check” before going on an interview to clarify your personal thoughts around workplace culture. For example: 

  • What are you trying to find out?
  • What is important to you?
  • What would be a good fit for you?

The ultimate decisions of whether to accept a job offer in the short run, and whether to keep working at the same place in the long run, revolve around how well you fit in and how the company lives up to your expectations. 

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Questions to Ask an Interviewer

A back and forth dialog is needed for interviewees to be able to evaluate a company’s culture, and likewise for the interviewer to evaluate you from a culture perspective. Simply acknowledging that “workplace culture is important” is too vague. It will not get your questions answered, nor will it give the interviewer true insight into what culture actually means to you. It is best practice to clearly state your own definition of an ideal workplace culture as a starting point. 

Having specific questions ready to ask a potential employer is both impressive and informative, as it allows you to take the initiative instead of waiting to be asked about your preferred culture. Such questions will vary depending on the stage of your career. For example, recent grads may be curious about social aspects; whereas, experienced professionals are typically more interested in advancement.

Here are some culture-related questions you may ask a prospective employer:

  • How would you describe your workplace culture?
  • Are there policies in place that govern the company’s values, ethics, etc.?
  • What is the office setup (assigned desk, conference room, etc.)?
  • Is it an open- or closed-door environment?
  • Is it a team approach, or does everyone work independently?
  • What is the reporting structure like (hierarchical versus flat)?
  • What would a typical day look like for staff in XYZ position?
  • Do employees take work home? Do they work on weekends?
  • Does the company offer training/continuing education?
  • Is everyone assigned a mentor or coach? How often do they meet? Is feedback provided?
  • How about learning style? Do people stick with one specialty or move around?
  • Are there after-hours events and/or networking opportunities? Does management attend?
  • Is working from home allowed? If so, how often?
  • What are the core work hours, and is there flexibility?
  • Is travel required? If so, what is the frequency, duration, and destinations?
  • What is the best part of working at the company (not obvious from a tour or Google search)?

Questions like these should give you enough data to see if a company aligns with your values and expectations, culture-wise.

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A Two-Way Street

Trying to find a good fit is definitely a two-way street between job seeker and hiring company. Note that the interviewer may probe further into the topic of culture to ascertain alignment from their point of view, i.e. can they provide what you are looking for, now and in the future? 

Weinstein Spira hiring managers are especially interested in seeing if our workplace culture fits your definition and vice versa. Our policies are designed to support many facets of life: maternity leave, flexible time, working from home, coaching, dressing for your day, and banking your hours towards extra vacation days (to name a few), as well as opportunities for personal/career growth and fun, entertaining activities that make work more enjoyable. 

In Conclusion

Workplace culture means different things to different people, and it is to your benefit to land in a company with a culture that best suits your unique definition. Therefore, be intentional and ask thoughtful questions on this subject. It will show that you are a serious candidate, who cares enough to evaluate the inner workings of a company beyond the job description and salary. 

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Category: Culture