Lately, at work, within our department we’ve been discussing company culture. A while back, we read Delivering Happiness, the book by Tony Hsieh about the history of the company and culture of Zappos. A few months ago, a Googler accidentally posted an internal memo on Google+ that showed the world a lot about Google culture, especially with the fact that it was allowed to be left public and did not receive any negative repercussions (as far as we know). We’ve also been mulling over the Netflix culture presentation over the last few weeks. I love what I do and where I work, especially the team I work with and the department I work in. I’m always encouraged with a discussion about how we can improve workplace culture, so I was very interested to dive into a study of workplace culture and how the corporate presentation of culture and actual practice line up.
Zappos is the poster child for every corporate culture discussion. Their founder wrote a book about their corporate culture. They have tours of their headquarters, showing off their “little bit of weirdness”. Their website emphasizes their unique culture and they emphasize their ten core values, which are the following:
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble
Google is another one of those companies that is always given as an example of a great place to work. I’m sure we’ve all heard about their great, free food, recreation rooms, beautiful campuses, and other great perks. We’ve also heard about the expectations of long hours and hard work by smart people, apart from the 20% that they are allowed to work on other projects. My opinion of the Google work environment increased, as I said earlier, when I saw the response (or lack of response) by Google when an employee accidentally made public an internal communication where he was complaining about processes, followed up later by a glowing review of Google by the same person. However, more than culture, the biggest positive that you hear about working for Google is the environment, which continually places Google on lists of seeeeeriously cool workplaces. Google is #1 on CNN’s list of best places to work and #5 on glassdoor’s list.
At the same time, you hear mixed reviews of Google by former employees in the press as well as reviews of Google on glassdoor.com. In reading through the articles and reviews by current and former employees, the theme I keep seeing is that it’s a really cool place to work, but the environment is not for everyone.
Netflix is a company that is known for its innovation in technology, as well as it’s innovative approach to corporate benefits and culture. The Netflix Company Culture presentation by CEO Reed Hastings has been shared and dissected across the Internet since it was shared with the world in 2009. Some of the things that stand out to me from the presentation are the emphasis on hiring the right people, performance and letting people do their jobs. The company policies of paying the people they hire at the top of the market at every job review and not keeping track of vacation time are innovative and attractive, but the question is how those policies work in practice every day.
Like Zappos and Google, according to Netflix employee reviews on glassdoor, the Netflix company culture and policies are something that appeals to some people but others find it a difficult environment in which to work. Netflix didn’t make it to either list of best companies to work for.
Rackspace is another company that is know for its company culture, specifically for the change in culture to a culture of extreme customer service, or Rackspace Fanatical Service, that propelled it to be one of the top hosting companies in the country.
I added Automattic to the list because I work with WordPress a lot and I love it, both for my own blog and for the websites I create for others. Everything I’ve heard about the Automattic corporate culture is great, including the fact that employees work from their current location, open vacation policy, etc. It’s also amazing that a company with 110 employees has a network with visibility greater than Amazon, Yahoo!, eBay and AOL. Automattic is not on any list of best companies to work for, possibly because it is such a small company.
You’ll notice that the companies I investigated are all Internet companies. The reasoning for my choice of companies to investigate is that I work in web development, so my interests lie with companies that are doing innovative things on the Internet. I would like to mention that besides Google, the following companies (in alphabetical order) made it in the top 50 on both lists, which means they’re probably doing something right and are worth investigating:
- Goldman Sachs
- National Instruments
- Recreational Equipment (REI)
In my opinion, any company, regardless of it’s stated company culture and overall practice, has microcosms of culture within every department that are much vital to the health of the company than the stated values. What I have found within my own company is that the culture within a team and department is much more important to me in my every day work than the overall culture of the company. Not only that, the culture within a team and department is highly dependent on the people within that team. Another thing that I feel is important is in the workplace is knowing that the work is valuable and that the overall goals of the team, department and company are worthwhile. In my opinion, if you work on a good team with good people, company or firm culture is secondary.
From what I’ve seen in studying the corporate culture of different companies, it seems to be true that the employees that give poor reviews usually mention issues with managers, middle management and the teams they work on. Others complain about general policies, pay and benefits, but the majority seem to have issues with their teams and departments.
How about you? I would love to hear from your personal experiences in the workplace, especially if you work at one of the “Best” companies on one of these lists, is company culture more important or is the culture within a team or department a bigger factor in a satisfying career and workplace.
- Do you offer Bonus to Quit ? Zappos Do … (akshayhr.wordpress.com)
- How to Cultivate a Culture of Caring (inc.com)
- Don’t be evil but more importantly don’t miss the train either (9to5google.com)