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Corporate Culture: What is it?

Everyone’s familiar with the term, “corporate culture.” But what is it, exactly?

For our purposes, let’s say that corporate culture is the system of beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company, and its stakeholders relate to each other, in non-transactional interactions (i.e., something beyond coming to work and getting paid). Corporate culture typically develops organically, over time, and is not formally documented. So, what are some of the subtle, but important aspects of corporate culture in law firms, and how does culture impact employees’ experience and success?

Here’s a sample of the ways in which culture might affect work in a law firm:

  • Is the relationship between lawyers and staff collegial or hierarchical?

  • How do associates and partners interact with each other?

  • How much granular supervision is there?

  • How much autonomy is there in the ways tasks get accomplished?

  • Do people seem happy and relaxed at work, or grim and stressed?

  • How do employers and employees communicate (by what means, and with what kind of language)?

  • What expectations exist for after-hours availability?

  • How do the people at work get along with each other and do they seem to like each other?

  • What is the frequency and style of meetings?

  • What, if any, recognition is offered?

  • How, and how often, is work evaluated?

  • Is constructive criticism welcome?

  • What, if any, professional development opportunities and opportunities for advancement are offered?

  • What non-work amenities are offered in the office (e.g. lunch rooms, child care, natural lighting, open green-space, well-stocked restrooms)?

Because of issues like these — issues which typically aren’t formally articulated anywhere — matching employers and employees involves subtle, subjective factors that are typically only apparent to staffing professionals. Staffing professionals are experts on these non-obvious issues and they know about them before someone accepts a position and shows up for work.

Staffing professionals know that sometimes, the impact of cultural issues can spell the difference between a happy fulfilling “marriage” and a train wreck. Employees who are happy and comfortable are always more productive than those who aren’t. So, accurately assessing the compatibility of employers and employees is a valuable, “mission-critical” expertise for staffing professionals.

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