How Do You Describe Your Culture To Prospective Employees?

June 21, 2021
June 21, 2021 Staff Writer

How would you describe your workplace culture to a promising prospective employee? Is it friendly? Challenging? Motivating? Collaborative? Some organizations use their mission statement as a description of their culture, but we don’t believe that a mission statement really reveals what it’s like to work somewhere. Of course, a mission or values statement can give a prospective employee an overview of the organization’s aspirations – and that’s important – but it doesn’t really help with the question of fit.

Just for fun, let’s take a look at 3 examples from the corporate world.

A Culture of ‘People First, People Always’

Here’s a company known for its button-down reputation: Ernst & Young. It’s a huge international corporation but EY seems to work hard at providing guidance for new employees.

An intern wrote this about EY on Handshake:

Since I have started my internship, I have been assigned a peer mentor, a counselor, and a specific team to help me learn my new job functions. There is always someone I know I can reach out to when needed. EY is a huge company, so having this contacts [sic] is critical to not feel lost.

EY also devotes space on its website to corporate culture. The corporate culture page reads, in part:

Stating values is one thing; living them every day is another. Corporate culture is defined by unwritten rules that set expectations for how people decide and behave. It is reflected by what people actually do every day, by what’s celebrated, emphasized, and overlooked. 

We would agree with EY’s definition. They go on to describe their ongoing efforts to create a healthy culture and how they plan to help it evolve as their business changes. They include articles about cultural challenges and leadership.

EY has a “What it’s like to work here” page that focuses on the people aspect of culture. EY staffers talk about their roles in diversity and inclusion, corporate responsibility, innovation-driven careers, and how their experiences have helped them personalize their careers.

In the “What we offer” section, EY discusses their personalized career development, flexible and mobile work arrangements, benefits, and alumni connections. And the culture portion of the EY website is filled with images of happy people at work.

A Culture of What?

By contrast, the culture portion of The Coca-Cola Company’s website is text-heavy and looks very technical. It lists the top reasons to work at Coke, complete with subheadings like “2.1 Development Programs” and “2.2 Growing from Within.” We’re sure the legal team vetted the text before it was posted. Our assessment – it’s thorough but lacks personality.

We wonder if that statement describes Coke’s culture. The company lists its values, using words like leadership, passion, integrity, accountability, collaboration, innovation, quality, and diversity. All good thoughts, but we can’t get a handle on the day-to-day aspects of working for Coke. How much can we infer from how the company presents its thoughts about culture on its website?

We know a number of Coke employees, both past and present, and the company seems to be a great fit for many of them. They talk about the great training they’ve received and how exciting the special events were. What no one seems to mention are the massive layoffs that seem to come every few years and the uncertainty that accompanies them.

A Culture of Servant Leadership & Diversity

The final company we reviewed is Delta Airlines. Delta published an interview with Joanne Smith, Executive VP and Chief People Officer, about its culture. By publishing the interview, Delta gave a face and a voice to their diversity efforts and their general culture, making the company seem very approachable.

When asked if a high-trust culture benefits the bottom line, Smith said:

Yes, it gets back to our culture of servant leadership and living the values of the Rules of the Road. Delta people have great respect for our company, our customers, and one another. It’s an innate sense of caring that really gets us focused in the right direction. Delta people are laser-focused on meeting our goals. This is the power of continuous improvement, which is in our DNA, and driven by engaged Delta people.

In website articles about diversity and inclusion, Delta highlights work they’ve done with Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ issues, and ABLE, the company’s hiring practices for disabled workers.

Former Delta CFO Paul Jacobson wrote:

Culture is not something you put on a memo and dictate to the organization that this will be our culture. Culture is ultimately what’s born out of the values of the company. And as we focused on serving others and we focused on serving each other that’s where the culture is born.

Communicating Your Organizational Culture

So what is your culture? At PROPEL, we define culture as the collection of words, actions, thoughts, and “stuff” that clarifies and reinforces what is truly valued within an organization. We help our clients focus on what’s working for them and changing what’s not.

We can help you communicate the key aspects of your culture internally so everyone is on the same page and can hold each other accountable. We can also help you effectively share your culture externally, for branding or talent acquisition. To talk culture, get in touch with us.

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