Perks, Ping Pong, or Purpose: What Is Company Culture?

You’ve got a foosball table in the break room and some really cool office decor—that’s great, but there’s so much more to what makes your company culture than the cool things we can Instagram.

Forbes itself has tried to tackle the difficult definition that is company culture, and they came up with this ditty:

“I feel the most important distinction to make here is that company culture is something that is pre-existing in your company’s genetic code; it’s not something that employees bring with them.”

For the most part, that’s true. Like I said, happy hours on Fridays and dog-friendly offices can create smokescreens and incentivize candidates to choose your company, but in the end, it’s not your culture.

Your culture is made up of the bigger ideas, not the superficial stuff.

What does your company work for?

Some leaders (who play a key role in creating and cultivating said culture) want an open-door policy. You want your employees to be able to walk into the CEO’s office and tell you that new idea that could change the company forever—that’s company culture.

Others actively strive to include all kinds of people and ideologies in your policy meetings. No matter what race, gender, sexuality, economic range, you want different minds creating solutions with you—that’s company culture.

I emphasize this because no matter how cool your office is, the cultures like the ones I previously mentioned are actually what’s helping you stick out from the rest of the competition going after the same talent. Value-based cultures like these also benefit your company’s employer branding efforts by putting your unique values out there for in-demand talent to see. Having a progressive mindset attracts the most inventive and creative candidates to your door; the ones who want to grow in their careers, not ones who are allergic to innovation.

Perks vs. Culture

Undoubtedly, there is an appeal to the attention-getting things that intrigue your potential candidates, because that is what recruitment marketing is all about, right? If a candidate is attracted to your work-from-home Mondays, they will be more likely to choose your company over the humdrum of other, less fun entities. But what keeps them sticking around year after year isn’t these surface-level incentives…again, it’s the culture.

We as HR and talent industry professionals should be careful to keep these in mind as “perks.” They’re unquestionably great ways to keep monotony out of the workplace and bond with the people you sit next to every day, but they are perks just the same. And perks alone do not create culture.

Company culture (in short: your employer value props as a company) is a much more telling and important element of the workplace. I, for one, would be more interested in working for a company that puts change and inclusivity in their genetic code, rather than that free iced coffee I got in the afternoon meeting.

But of course, in the wise words of a certain famous taco shell brand:


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