Take a moment and list the top three companies that you’d want to work for (if you weren’t so invested in educating future generations, of course). Did you make your picks? What do they have in common?
You can find lists produced annually by companies like Fortune and Glassdoor of the best places to work. There are many well-known companies who populate the lists, and many more that have not entered the public consciousness. When we think about these companies, our minds are often drawn to the perks they are known for. We think of the snacks and game rooms of a Google or the fun-loving antics of a Southwest Airlines.
The truth, though, is that it’s not really about any specific benefit. To explain what really draws us to a company, it comes down to company culture. Each culture is unique and expresses itself in myriad ways. The study of organizational culture has been developing for decades. Culture in an organizational setting, which has roots in psychology, sociology, and anthropology, is “the shared values and basic assumptions that explain why organizations do what they do and focus on what they focus on” (Schneider, Gonzalez-Roma, Ostroff, & West, 2017). These values and assumptions might be explicit, but they also might be hidden beneath the surface. Leaders and employees might not even be consciously aware of assumptions.
Researchers have elucidated a number of specific manifestations of organizational culture. This is a partial list of ways that organizations communicate their underlying values. These cultural cues can be used to evaluate existing cultures and, used strategically, can help leaders mold the culture they hope to create.
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