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What is Company Culture?

Uncovering the True Definition of What Makes Schwab a Great Place to Work

By Andie T.

In today’s competitive and highly driven environment, companies are getting creative with what kind of benefits and perks they offer to their employees. To stand out from one another and draw the best talent to work for their firm, there must be some differentiation between one organization to the next. That key differentiation for most companies is culture. In fact, according to Glassdoor, “77% of job seekers consider a company’s culture before applying for a job.”

If we look a bit closer into what these differentiators may look like, we discover a façade that may be right in front of us. We’ve all seen it – the companies that offer ping pong tables, a new state of the art nitro cold brew station, a full-service fitness center, on-site massages, and spa packages. Too often these services are commonly misconstrued as company “culture”.

However, with the coronavirus pandemic, many organizations have decided to place their workforce in the safety of their homes resulting in a remote working environment. If culture is such an essential piece for job seekers in their new careers, what happens when this “culture” is taken away? How can anyone play ping pong with their co-workers or get their third nitro cold brew of the day? Well, quite simply: they can’t. Moreover, the “culture” they’ve developed for their employees is something entirely different - these are what we’d call perks.

To further define what “culture” is, James Ellis, host of “The Talent Cast: Employer Branding Podcast”, explains that culture “is not perks. It’s not the foosball table, it’s not the cold brew table, it’s not the beer, it’s not the free lunches, the swag, and all the cool free stuff you get…culture and perks are not the same.” Ellis goes on to add his take on what happens when all those perks are taken away: “What happens when a pandemic shows up and everybody has to go home for a while? The culture shifts.”

There’s no doubt that Schwab had to shift tremendously since transitioning to remote work in March of last year. Our responsibility not only as an employee had to change, but how our responsibilities changed as a parent, student, friend, family member, etc. also looked different than ever before. As Ellis describes, “when everybody is suddenly freaked out that their job might not be there next week, when everybody’s going crazy because their kids are making them nuts because they’re cooped up and stir crazy, yes – they’re still working. They’re still doing the thing they’re supposed to do, but the way they do it has changed, thus, changing the culture.” Like many other companies, Schwab offers its employees a fair share of perks across our service centers including coffee bars, training centers, collaboration spaces, and Schwikes (rental bikes), but at the end of the day, our culture goes beyond that.

Schwab’s culture has been able to transcend these elements virtually through organizational leadership, resilience, and a focus on Schwab’s employees and the clients they serve. For Schwab in particular, that one “thing” we’re supposed to be doing has remained the same despite the virtual nature of our work: serving our clients and communities.

Schwab’s service-oriented culture has allowed us to carry on our collaborative, supportive, and rewarding spirit from the comfort of our homes. Instead of labeling 2020 as a year of misfortune and hardship, our company culture and values have allowed us to take advantage of the new remote environment as a way to innovate and challenge the status quo by transforming many in-person events and programs into virtual successes. One of these programs was Schwab’s 2020 Intern Academy, which was made completely virtual and provided interns a chance to grow and connect with others remotely. Similarly, Schwab’s eighth annual Pro Bono Challenge transitioned to a week-long program of three virtual micro-consulting sessions where almost 400 Schwabbies participated and resulted in $1,000 mini-grants to each participating nonprofit organization. As an organization, we’ve been able to keep our culture of service intact despite the many challenges we’ve faced this year.

Although we may be missing the perks and facilities that are provided to us, these perks are not what define us. We are defined by the work we do, the service we provide, and the difference we make in the lives of the clients we serve. At the heart of our culture is the desire to champion every client’s goals with passion and integrity. Despite the ever-evolving world around us, our values of trust, innovation, teamwork, and stewardship carry us through.

Visit About Schwab if you’d like to learn about who we are and what we do as a company.

“The magic of culture is it shifts, it evolves, it changes and as we are being faced with these unimaginable waves of change, culture is going to be the thing that changes slowest, but it’s such an important change.”

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