Dissecting the Tribe

Judging by the retweets, comments and direct messages, my post A Member of the Tribe--over at HRExaminer--resonated with folks. Seems we care about culture but we don't know how to define it, grasp it, understand it. Several you wondered about the job seeker role in this. If companies are bad at defining and communicating their own culture, can job seekers figure it out on their own?Yes and no. I actually spent quite a bit of time as a career coach and that's what's driving my perspective. I often told clients--don't compare job offers to each other--compare them to what you actually want from a company. I asked them to ponder: "what does belonging mean to you?" I also told them never to take a job without (a) making sure they interview with their future boss and (b) asking a series of questions about how work gets done.

There are ways to understand a company culture even if there's no manifesto or the clues aren't defined. Aggregating social data is one way--when I was at Marriott I asked many a data mining vendor if they had the ability to mine data from employees the way they do from customers on sites like TripAdvisor. None of them had ever done it before. Why? First, HR is usually about 18-24 months behind marketing in utilizing technology. Second, much of the way work gets done isn't documented in online mediums.

It's the sidebar conversations, the lunches with mentors.

Sure, sites like Glassdoor can be mined for insight, opinions, opinions strong enough to drive someone to write about them online. And that leads to trend aggregation. But unless you can mine--and make public--insider conversations (even on a medium like Yammer), you won't get the true extent of culture. You'll get generalities on the culture, not specifics on how work gets done.

Even now, when people ask me what it's like to work at Marriott Corporate HQ, my responses are tempered. I speak in general terms: "it's hierarchical, a buy-in based culture that pre-sells and moves slowly." But that's because the culture at Marriott, while strong, isn't well-defined in terms of how work gets done. There are core values that have created a foundation, but like most companies, they're lofty, positive and open to interpretation.

Employees aren't going to be open and transparent publicly unless the company is.

And for job seekers, anonymous content is just that anonymous. And at exaqueo, we're on a mission to change that. As organizations, we have a responsibility to define who we are and how we work--and be honest about it. Culture isn't all Zesty, hunky models, roses and candy. It's the warts, the thorns and the candy corn (I absolutely hate candy corn). But YOU might love candy corn and that's the thing. The more you know, the more you can decide if it's the right place. I'm a neat freak. My husband is the opposite, and yet we still married each other. That's fit. And for talent acquisition and HR professionals, this is the holy grail. And this is where culture comes in.

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