Culture Club: How Employers are Tweaking Perks to Meet Demand

Have you ever left a job you like to earn more money elsewhere — only to find yourself miserable once immersed in a completely different company culture?

All too often we underestimate the importance of such culture when job hunting, instead prioritizing more tangible elements like salary, benefits, growth opportunities and everyday job responsibilities. But this may be a good time to start getting pickier about what's being offered in terms of favorable working environments.

Analysts say company culture is becoming a competitive differentiator in the tightening job market as companies seek to attract younger workers who place a higher importance on work-life balance. As such, we’re seeing more non-monetary perks than ever before — including relaxed dress codes, work-from-home options, employee contests, parties, outings and volunteer opportunities aimed at propagating a sense of fun and enjoyment at work. 

While perceptions of favorable culture can be entirely subjective depending on your background, personality, morals and goals, a recent study outlined in Harvard Business Review found companies known for their productive cultures strive to meet the following worker priorities: play (a sense of enjoyment tied to curiosity, experimentation and the exploration of challenging problems); purpose (a sense that the impact of one’s work fits one’s identity); and potential (the sense that one’s work benefits one’s identity).

Boiled down, that might amount to aiming for feel-good environments in which workers are made to feel like valued team members.
“Nurturing a welcoming and accepting working culture will start to secure the needs of friendship, self-esteem, confidence and achievement,” advises Pearson Richard on “If people feel fulfilled and respected in what they do, they are more likely to remain motivated and loyal to the company for which they work.”

Such efforts can clearly pay off for the employer. A recent Columbia University study reveals the turnover probability at firms with favorable culture is an average 14 percent, while those with poor culture maintain a 48 percent probability.

How to go about ciphering a company’s culture before jumping in with both feet? While you should obviously listen closely during job interviews and company tours, due diligence calls for sleuthing out opinions from customers, partners, suppliers and current and former employees. Social websites that offer company reviews, including LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Indeed, might be your first stop for (mostly) uncensored opinions.

A few tips on what to ask interviewers and others when evaluating culture:

  • How would you describe your corporate culture in five words?
  • What positive aspect of working here may not be immediately apparent?
  • What personality traits are sought in ideal team members?
  • What kinds of people and personalities tend to succeed here?
  • Beyond salary, how does this company show appreciation for its employees?
  • Please describe the work-life balance of company employees (or lack thereof).
  • That is this firm’s approach to career development? To what extent does it offer opportunities for advanced training and education?
  • What makes your company leaders proud?
  • What are some examples of how teamwork is encouraged and implemented here?
  • How often do your different departments collaborate?
  • To what extent is risk-taking encouraged here? What happens when people fail?
  • Does this company regularly deal with any ethical issues? (Consider Googling to check for adverse news stories.)
  • How quiet is the workplace on a typical day? How informal/impromptu is worker-to-worker communication? Do workers here form friendships? Is humor encouraged and appreciated?
  • How flexible is this employer regarding PTO? What if PTO needs to be impromptu?
  • How exactly are employees evaluated? 
  • In what kind of philanthropy is this company involved?
  • How often are company-wide meetings scheduled?
  • Is the company's strategic approach driven most by processes or results?


While asking detailed questions about company culture is probably most appropriate toward the end of your interview process, employers increasingly expect them from their candidates, confirms Bill Barnett in Harvard Business Review.

“It may be complicated to do much investigation when you’re trying to sell yourself,” he advises. “(But) the culture topic is certainly not off base. Whether it’s in interviews or after you have an offer, you’ll do best if your questions show you’re learning rapidly about the organization, taking the employer’s perspective and beginning to figure out how to succeed there. Culture questions can cast you in a positive light."