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Before switching my job, how can I assess my target organization?

How can I tell:

  1. Whether their job-environment is employee-friendly (less pressure for customer hunting, more efficient core business software etc.)?

  2. Whether the organization will be facing some hard times in the future?

  3. Whether the organization will be increasing benefits more than that of other organizations?

  4. Whether they offer a good salary-to-pressure ratio?

How can I collect more info?

What other things should I look for?

Do the number of offices bear any significance?

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Relevant recent question: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/4259/… –  MrFox Oct 26 '12 at 21:01
    
@BROY: you need to talk with some one that actually works there - can't beat first hand experience...... –  Greg McNulty Oct 26 '12 at 21:06
    
@Greg McNulty, Nobody will talk that frankly. Nobody wants their bubble to be burst. Besides, I don't have that many acquaintances. –  BROY Oct 27 '12 at 4:06
    
@BROY: see my answer below. –  Greg McNulty Oct 27 '12 at 21:13
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This should really be 4 seperate questions. Each of the questions is independant or at least could be asked and answered independantly. –  Chad Oct 29 '12 at 13:15
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4 Answers

These are usually the sorts of things I would ask during a phone or in-person interview. Your questions indicate that you've come from environments where pressure was high, or the business faced hard times - use those to explain your questions.

For example, for #2: "My current company has fallen upon some hard times recently (hence my job search). What are your projections for your market? It looks fairly solid / potentially weak to me as an outsider. How would a downturn in the market affect the company, or my role?" (My second job was at a company that provided software tools to realtors - right around the burst of the housing bubble. I asked a question very similar to this.)

#4: "Due to financial strain, my current company has had to lay off some workers and increase the workload for the rest of us. What is your company's position on work/life balance? I understand that late hours are occasionally necessary - have you found it to be more common at certain times of year, or around certain events?"

#1: "What sorts of tools do you use? Is there a process for getting new tools or additional training? How do you handle the customer acquisition process?"

As far as #3, I would expect them to be giving you the standard benefits spiel around the time of your interview anyway, so that you'd be able to factor that into your decision.

How can I collect more info?

You could look for contacts on LinkedIn and ask; you could look at their website; you could look for anonymous reviews on sites like GlassDoor.

What other things should I look for?

This one's usually different for everyone, but general things could include amount of out-of-office travel, travel distance between home and work, review & raise schedule, feedback processes, expected breakdown of time in a typical week (such as "you'll be in meetings 25 hours a week, on the phones another 12 hours, etc."), or other benefits-related questions you haven't had answered yet, like vacation/sick time, 401(k) participation, etc.

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Rather than look at overall employee-friendly, why not focus on which department you'd be working? Some companies may be good overall but have some departments that are quite poor and would you accept that trade-off,e.g. while the sales guys are treated like rock stars, IT people are trampled over and you are in the IT department?

The predicting the future of hard times and increasing benefits would be ones where unless you want to work for a forecasting company, how good is anyone at knowing what will come down the road?

As for salary to pressure, I'd be more tempted to suggest you consider what values does the organization have. Do they work hard, play hard? Do they seem fairly laid back?

I'd highly suggest writing out what factors you have in your next company. What industry should it be? What stage of growth should it be? How long should people work there? Is it mostly life-long employees or do most people use it as a stepping stone for something else? There are lots of questions like this to help nail down what kind of environment you want and would be my suggestion along with talking to people to build the network that lets you find the companies that suit your work style.

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Sounds like you've come from some unpleasant work situations. First and foremost, if you're staying in the same industry, let experience be your guide - if there were employment policies you found difficult in yoru last job, ask about how works in the new place. If you know that your company is in a down turn, and you're moving to either a competitor or a company closely linked to the same industry as your current work, ask how they are facing the same conditions that your current company is facing?

No company will make a bald statement like "we are nicer to employees, than all other companies, have better benefits and will definitely grow in the next few years" - because there are no guarantees.

Things I look for when evaluating this, in general:

  • Employee friendly - What's the relationship between employees and employer? Do the employees get together to build things? Are their services rented out (contractors)? Is your position a sideline to the "real" business (many IT shops)? How has the company treated employees historically? Lots of retraining to avoid layoffs, or layoffs frequently? Every company will say they treat employees as a valubable resource, but what actions do they take to make that a reality?

  • Company growth - what is the business model? And do you believe in it? There's really no other good measure - even stock analysts come down to a best guess on how a company will thrive or fail, and a small, unknown decision that no one realized was important could be the make or break factor for success next year. The best I can ever do is say "do I believe that this business model makes sense in the marketplace?"

  • Relative Benefits - Perhaps I am cynical, but no, the company is not likely to increase benefits in the future to be better than other companies. Figure that you will get the benefits they tell you about today and that it is unlikely that they will get better later. For the most part, benefits are a way to stay competitive for the best employees, and for the targeted demographic that the company needs most. Different sectors in a marketplace may have a different benefits profile and in a given industry, different companies will have different profiles - but without a major market shift and desperate need for more (or a new kind of) employees, it's unlikely that the company will be driven to improve benefits.

  • Benefits - one exception - At least in the US, I have seen more benefits evolve in the sublter areas of health, wellness and environmental consciousness. I'd like to point out that these can bee seen as a change in existing benefits as much as new benefits. Employee health has a radical impact on the cost of insurance, so providing healthier meals, better fitness facilities and a work/life balance campaign that leads to greater health actually saves the company money. Similarly, with govt. legislation to improve the environment, there's a monetary advantage to going greener. I'm not saying these things aren't a win for the employee too - but pointing out that, still, the motivation is industry-wide, although it's implemented in different ways and the changes are due to big factors in the way corporate America currently works.

  • Salary to pressure ratio - Believe it or not, this is a purely personal one and you're going to have to figure out for yourself by asking questions about the nature of the work, the incentives tied to the work and then your own definition of "pressure. Realize, too, that in many cases, salary and pressure go hand in hand. While not every low paying job is low stress, I know of no low-stress jobs that are not also low paying. But the big difference in the good pay/good stress jobs is whether a given person has the right background, personality and mindset to enjoy that particular type of stress.

Multi-site offices

I have always worked in them, so I don't consider them all that special, but here's some questions I always ask myself when working in a distributed situation:

  • Where's my boss? and if he's not in the same location as me, how will he know if my work is good? How will he respond to a cry for help?

  • What culture is dominant? How much does my office follow anouther office's lead, vs. set the direction itself? "Headquarters" can be an agent of chaose to all the satellites or it can be the hub of a working wheel. Usually asking about how decisions are made and how work is assigned between offices is a good indicator.

  • Growing or shrinking and how fast? Have they opened new offices recently? Closed them? What's the trend, up or down? And what's the pace? Closing offices does not bode well, but can be explained by a believable reason. Opening offices slowly is a good sign. Opening offices very quickly can suggest an explosion that will eventually end with a great deal of chaos and uncertainty.

  • what will travel be? Are you working only in the one site or must you travel to other places? That one of those good/bad stress things - many people dislike being pulled away from family frequently. Others find travel to be key to job satisfaction. And being told you are expected to work closely with other sites, but travel is non-existant is also a bad sign, as the world still isn't so tightly connected that in-person contact can be completely avoided.

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Whether their job-environment is employee-friendly (less pressure for customer hunting, more efficient core business software etc.)?

Unless you know some one there the only other way to figure that out is by working there.

Whether the organization will be facing some hard times in the future?

This one should be a little easier to find out, there are all sorts of business and economic studies and predictions on specific industries, similar businesses and politics. Start looking in Wall Street Journal, Business Weekly, USA Today, and Google news. For example, if you were looking at a company that is in health care technology there are some big studies there. Or if you are looking a defense contractor company, look at the politics of military budgets...etc

Whether the organization will be increasing benefits more than that of other organizations?

This is based on the executive management and how much they value the workers. Some companies do great and the workers never see anything past the basic benefits. Past trends on benefits will be your best prediction here, some companies are know for "taking care of their employees" - if that company lowers their benefits you can be sure other business are not going to be much better.

Whether they offer a good salary-to-pressure ratio?

I like this one. I wish there was a way to measure it...let me know if you figure that one out...haha

How can I collect more info?

Like I said above.

What other things should I look for?

Interest level, support of company mission, happiness and if you are at least decent at the job.

Do the number of offices bear any significance?

You will probably be unaware of that on a day to day basis.

Best of luck! =)

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only other way to figure that out - I am pretty sure there are other ways besides knowing someone personally that works there or working their yourself. This answer is mostly I do not know with a few hey maybe you can find something by looking over there... this is not terribly helpful imo –  Chad Oct 29 '12 at 13:11
    
@Chad: "I am pretty sure" <-- so what does this mean? –  Greg McNulty Oct 31 '12 at 17:22
    
That your answer contains inaccurate information. If you can back up your answer then be my guest. –  Chad Oct 31 '12 at 17:56
    
@Chad: I back up my answer with an extremely successful business.... –  Greg McNulty Oct 31 '12 at 23:30
    
That your business is successful that way does not mean that it is the only way that it can work. Please refer to the FAQ on how to answer questions so that you can understand that answers here are expected to be complete and that stating what the answer is is not enough. You must explain why you believe that to be correct. –  Chad Nov 1 '12 at 13:28
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