Job Seekers' Unexpected Top Priority Right Now: Company Culture
As of late June, 42% of the U.S. labor force was working from home full time, and a third was unemployed — making it a work-from-home economy. During that time, TopResume monitored job satisfaction factors, asking 118,650 job seekers: "What matters most to you when deciding which job to take next?" They found an unexpected winner: The most prioritized factor reported was company culture.
Between January and August, company culture became increasingly sought after. It beat out factors like flexibility and benefits. As the coronavirus pandemic continued, it gradually became a couple of percentage points more important to workers than the previous leading factor: salary.
“Culture itself is not the mission posted on the wall, it's not the values or principles hanging in the conference room, and it's not even the break room birthday party or the monthly pizza party,” Juvet said recently on business podcast More Than A Chair. “It's this highly complex factor of workplace experience, that all these things come together to inform the culture.”
Even in the virtual environment, she said, elements of this experience remain relevant — and it has a lot of sway over how employees feel about their jobs.
“Workplace culture is one of the preeminent factors that defines how you feel at work; how you feel about your work itself; how you feel at the end of the day; and it also informs the behaviors and norms that you show up with in how you work with your colleagues — so it's certainly a factor that is still at play, regardless of us being remote,” Juvet added.
TopResume's survey data indicated that finding an employer that is compatible with one’s personality, preferred work style and value system is indeed increasingly important, and TopResume Career Expert Amanda Augustine said that isn't as big of a surprise to her as it may seem at first glance.
“Recent events have spurred many professionals to re-examine their priorities, particularly when it comes to the type of company they want to work for,” Augustine told Bisnow.
“From the coronavirus outbreak to the death of George Floyd and the subsequent #BlackLivesMatter movement, many professionals are evaluating their employer’s response — or lack thereof — to these events and are searching for work with a new set of criteria for their next employer.
“In addition, when your entire company is working remotely, any leadership issues or other pain points tend to become painfully obvious,” she added.
“For example, if your employer struggled with poor communication prior to the pandemic, the transition to a fully remote workforce has only exacerbated this problem — something that many professionals have reported as having contributed to their desire to find a new job.”
Those job seekers will be looking for a sense of a new company's workplace culture in the interview process, and that is tricky for HR personnel and hiring managers who used to convey their company's collective attitude and values to newcomers through in-person tours and casual moments and quick hellos around the office, and now find themselves restricted to a series of emails and Zoom meetings.
SquareFoot Vice President of People Eugenie Fanning said company culture plays a major role in the interview process, even during the past six months while the company has been remote out of necessity, and it is part of the reason SquareFoot is so eager to get back to an in-person work environment.
“Our employees are coming back to the office now, where they’ll get to meet our past seven or so hires for the first time in person," Fanning told Bisnow.
In those remote recruiting and hiring processes, Fanning said the company made sure their interview process was extremely structured and as similar to the "normal" process as it could be. Part of that involved including employees outside of the open role's department in the hiring process to give candidates a larger sense of the culture beyond those who happen to be in their direct working group.
"We also try to include both veterans and newcomers to SquareFoot in the process because each can bring different sets of answers and perspectives to share,” she said.
“We really want a candidate to get a true feel for what SquareFoot is like as an employer."
The ideal net effect of the interview phase, she said, is that candidates come away with a comprehensive understanding of what SquareFoot stands for and the culture they can expect.
Juvet said that Gensler has also onboarded people during this entirely remote period and that she has wondered how different their kickoff experience at the company has been from her own in-person experience when she first started there.
“Some of the things that we're really focusing on are that culture is directly informed by the overall organizational design, and so little cues come about in how you address each other, how you talk to your boss, how you sign off your emails," Juvet said. "All of these things are really influential even more so because we're in such a virtual, written environment. So, the way that we're really making sure we're connecting and bringing people aboard is allowing for those coffee hours, allowing for time to interact with each other, and really promoting it.”
At Gensler, she said, the team is trying different systems and platforms to let that culture shine through and thrive despite physical distance.
“There are different things that we're trying, but there's no one-size-fits-all,” she said.