Searching for a new job can be an exciting task, but for many individuals, particularly working parents, the search can feel overwhelming. In addition to a job’s description, you have benefits, salary and flexibility to consider. Whether you are just beginning a career, making a change, or returning to the workforce as a working parent, discovering an organization’s culture is an important part of that search. In the following guest post, Mom Corps CEO Allison O’Kelly discusses how to uncover a company’s culture to see if it meets your needs as a prospective employee.
Pinpointing a culture of flexibility
By Allison O’Kelly
As with starting any new relationship, transparency and common values are more easily communicated and coordinated on the front end as opposed to attempting to make accommodations after the fact. Matching your desire for workplace flexibility with a potential organization is no different. While many professionals are content in current roles and not necessarily looking to make a change, I would venture to say that a large part of the workforce could be considered passive job seekers—willing to make a change if the right opportunity came along.
In our most recent workplace survey more than three in five working adults (61 percent) agree that flexibility is one of the most important factors they consider when looking for a new job or deciding what company to work for. But how can you tell for sure that an organization has a true culture of flexibility? That it’s not just a page in the employee handbook proclaiming support of such options. The key is asking the right questions and picking up on cues that point to a holistic philosophy around flexibility and work alternatives.
Uncovering true company culture
Where to start and what to ask? While flexibility in a professional environment is more prevalent these days, it is far from being considered an easy gig to land. If a company talks the talk, do they walk the walk? Is flexibility an interview talking point that not many people actually partake in? Has it become part of the organizational DNA all the way up the ranks? When seeking a company and work environment with a culture of flexibility, here are some things to ask and look out for:
- Study what they are saying. When conducting research as you would prior to any interview, or even before you get that far, include flexibility in the list of things to review and rate. Start with the company website and learn what it boasts as its most valuable cultural asset. If it holds work-life synergy and flexibility as priorities, that fact will be clear. Supplemental research should include all the Best Places to Work rankings such as Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies list. McKinsey & Company is a great example. There is a page on its website that addresses flexibility, stating: Like any fast-track career, working at McKinsey can be intense. Our clients rely on us during their most challenging times, and we go to great lengths to exceed their expectations. But meeting our commitments doesn’t mean putting our personal needs and interests on hold. And it goes on to discuss some of the firm’s philosophies.
- Social media is your friend. Search for your target companies’ Twitter profiles and see if they are commenting on any issues around flexibility and progressive work ideas. See what kinds of organizations they are following and any interaction there. Search for their Company page on LinkedIn for similar feedback and see what groups they are following. Also, visit websites like GlassDoor.com and TheFit.com that provide employee reviews of companies that include culture aspects (read as ancillary information).
- Look for the warning signs. You can tell a lot about an organization’s culture by the way they respond to your queries. Ask for 2-3 specific examples of how flexibility is being implemented; how long it has been in practice; who at the executive level participates in work alternatives. If your interviewer can’t answer these questions with confidence, or lacks passion in their explanation, there’s a good chance that a culture of flexibility isn’t a priority.
Remember the corporate “green” movement not so long ago when organizations were lauding their sustainability practices because it was the right thing to do? Some were sincere in their focus and implementation and to this day are better companies for it. The same applies here. Many companies are proclaiming a culture of flexibility, but in reality, it’s in name only. It may not be purposeful – there isn’t an internal champion; the executive ranks aren’t sponsoring it; HR just doesn’t know how to get started. But if done right, the effective and sustainable implementation of flexibility into a company culture will significantly change the “war for talent” in that company’s favor.
What has been your experience in getting to know a company’s culture during the interview process? Has anything you’ve uncovered made you re-think your opportunities there?
Allison O'Kelly is the founder and CEO of Mom Corps (www.momcorps.com), a national flexible staffing firm dedicated to connecting progressive employers with professionals seeking flexible work options.