How to Evaluate a Company’s Culture

When I was a consultant at Price Waterhouse, I worked for a time in Mergers & Acquisitions. Not the deals, the actual coming together after the deal was signed, the integration. It was all about managing the human aspect. Could two cultures come together?

When I moved onto large strategy projects, much attention was made to the organizational chart. I learned there is the organizational chart on paper, the one that is promoted, and there is the one that shows how the organization actually worked (the one I had to figure out).

For the past 7 years, my brand strategy work has been mostly executive coaching (as much as I hate the term, “coaching”). I contend 25% of my work has involved the process of branding and 75% has been helping, directing, influencing, and bolstering the thinking and decisions of management.

This experience has produced a single insight…business is all about human psychology. I know, that is not earth-shattering but put it this way, every human is fallible. Every business is made up of humans. Businesses are, therefore, fallible, imperfect, flawed. And here is a branding secret, that is what makes them great.

Enough. I am rambling. What I want to get to, is the criteria for evaluating a company’s culture. This will help career seekers. It will direct and ease mergers and acquisitions. It will help clients pick providers and providers seeking clients. It is the way to calculate connection and fit.

Criterion Number One: How are the company’s restrooms?

Don’t laugh. When you buy a home, what is top of mind? When you recall your hotel room, what comes to mind? When you visit someone’s house, what sticks in your mind? Restrooms leave an impression.

A company can differentiate on its restrooms. Location, design, amenities, lighting, and cleanliness are all big factors. I consult to ad agencies who blow the facilities budget on the reception area and then have nothing left for the restrooms. Most company restrooms are cold, fluorescent, and boring. 

Ask yourself, why do restaurants do cool restrooms? They invest a ton to send a message, reinforce the brand, and make the “experience” memorable. Your restroom tells a story. What does yours tell?

Criterion Number Two: How are the company’s break rooms?

Foosball tables and beanbag chairs aside, break rooms are hugely important. Their purpose is to be a catalyst. What is your break room vibe? Do you want to treat your people to something special or have you created a hospital cafeteria? Does the space and atmosphere invite you to chillax and stick around or do you want them back in a cubicle in a few minutes?

I have to share a little side story. Years ago McDonald’s seating was designed to kick people out. Remember? The chairs were bolted to the floor so you could not adjust them in any way. They were slick, smooth plastic and positioned with a forward lean so you were literally sliding out. McDonald’s wanted turnover. Fast forward to today and now the chain is designed with comfort and lingering in mind.

How are the snacks? Are they free, subsidized or full cost? What are the snacks? Of course, not all businesses can go Google and offer free amazing full meals (I love visiting their NYC office…one of the best restaurants in the city and free!). Is whatever offered of quality? Your staff will escape to the outside world if the coffee is subpar. The same goes for chips, granola bars, cereals, nuts and more.

I contend that the Break Room is actually the BreakthroughRoom when done right. Staff will mix and ideas will be exchanged. Culture will develop and evolve. Innovations can result. It is worthy of investment.

Oh Culture

Yes, this piece is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it contains truth. Everything sends a signal. What kind of place do you want to work at, who do you want to do business with? Restrooms and break rooms (or BreakthroughRooms) tell a story.

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