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Teaching Workplace Culture

Culture, that elusive thing which defines and shapes a work experience and which can influence high employee turnover or retention. Workplace culture is a tough thing to articulate or describe, but it’s ever-present and all-important, which is why we try to teach this important constant in Cleary University classes, both undergraduate and graduate, for all business degrees.

First, what is workplace culture?

It’s a general feeling or atmosphere that transmits shared understanding of the organization’s goals and objectives. It’s that certain something that creates employee satisfaction and loyalty. Branding is a part of culture, but so are rituals, reviews from former employees, values and onboarding experiences.

Employees learn culture through team meetings, team-building programs and events, and how higher-ups respond when you speak up or offer ideas. Showing appreciation, gifting company merchandise, and establishing keen role models in leadership positions are some ways to share corporate culture. 

Since Cleary University focuses expressly on business for both undergraduate and graduate degrees, we teach students about the importance of evaluating culture before choosing a future workplace. By empowering students to realize that the job hunt is not just about finding an employer to make you an offer, but also an exercise in deciding where you want to work, we teach students that they have a say in their career.

Culture is a crucial element to understand.

Often people new to the work force feel like they don’t have many options and so they accept a position that may not be a real fit. Or, perhaps they’ve ignored rumors of ill treatment or unhealthy work environments just to get a job.

We want Cleary students to know that their careers are their own creation. They have choice and agency when job-searching. How can they discern the culture when they are interviewing? Here are a few tips for trying to figure it out:

  1. How do people behave? Whether you’re interviewing online or in-person, look around and notice whether people are smiling and giving off good energy, or downcast and quiet. 
  2. Ask about beliefs and values, the team ethos, the principles behind the brand. Listen carefully to the answers and feel free to ask follow-up questions. An organization with good culture can respond easily and effortlessly. Interviewers at an organization that lacks values and shared beliefs will stumble to respond.
  3. Ask how long the typical employee stays with the company. Ask about advancement opportunities and building a career there rather than just getting a job. 
  4. Ask about the top leaders and their career stories. Look for ways that those people brought others up behind and with them.
  5. Ask about team-building opportunities, staff retreats and professional development opportunities. Where there is good culture, these things abound.
  6. Ask how the company measures success. Business strategy, structure and outcomes should align with culture.