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Culture impacts job appeal

| Monday, May 5, 2014, 1:46 p.m.

Few factors have as much impact on how you feel about your job as the culture in which you work. Despite its importance, job seekers rarely take into account the corporate culture when weighing a job offer, and those employed there rarely stand back and analyze their culture or try to change it.

Consider the cultural differences of these Pittsburgh organizations:

• Kevin Mongrain, Ph.D., executive director of The National Institute for Newman Studies in Shadyside says, “Our employees are hired because they can work independently. The culture is ‘you know your job, and you're not micromanaged.' ” Mongrain says that because the institute houses visiting scholars, “part of everyone's job is to help them find things in Pittsburgh; our whole orientation is to host and serve people.”

• Karen Bolden, chief people officer at Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, says, “The tasks of any particular job — HR manager, accountant, etc.— are similar no matter where you go. What makes the role different are the people you work with. Those people make up the culture of the organization. In our case, when you visit our restaurants or Corporate Support Center, you see many smiles, a focus on the guest and a little bit of fun.”

• Anthony Drane, chief operating officer at Familylinks, says, “We have grown larger and much more diverse in regard to the communities and number of individuals we serve. During this growth period, we have had to work very hard to maintain a culture of ‘smallness.' Leadership is accessible to employees and regular, recurring employee feedback is solicited and used to make impactful decisions. Professional development is ingrained in our culture. We believe in developing homegrown leaders and allocate significant resources for leadership development training for front-line employees. Our culture supports staff to grow along with the organization.”

Can you imagine yourself happily working at all three of these organizations? Probably not. Just as you have a unique personality, so do employers. If you are not happy at your job but can't put a finger on why that's so, give some thought to how well you fit into your organization's culture. If you are looking for a job, investigate a potential employer's culture before signing on, by talking with your contacts and researching on Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

While many profess to be able to change a corporate culture, the fact is, such change is extremely challenging. Change takes concerted long-term effort or a sudden, sweeping move such as what occurred at Heinz in April when, in a dramatic effort to get everyone on board with the new culture, all 775 Pittsburgh employees were offered a buyout. Most organizations can't or won't do these things.

Several years ago, a Pittsburgh corporation underwent a major effort to change its image. The company was known for being a very political “good ol' boys” place. They wanted to increase diversity and reduce the political atmosphere, so they charged a VP of human resources with the task. In three years, she made headway, but then a new president was appointed. He was with the company many years and never bought into the cultural changes. He fired the VP of human resources, and almost overnight the company reverted to its former self.

Chris Posti is president of Posti & Associates in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at 724-344-1668.

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