The idea of culture building gets bantered about far too much in many corporations, and ironically the ones that talk about it the most are often the ones that have a cultural problem on their hands.
Culture is built through actions, not mission statements (see the 9 worst of all time), and thus by definition it starts with the actions from the top levels and the corner offices, which then trickles down to the employees. As a result, the true culture of a company can be identified by the attitudes of the employees who have been there the longest.
A company that cracks the whip from the top down and instills fear in their employees as a method of control will only attract long term employees that have learned to manipulate that system, are excessively passive (or passive aggressive) by nature, or simply want to be left alone and never change. In companies like this long term employees often see the new hires as a threat to their stability and rarely interact with the newest employees.
A company that is rudderless, with no long term visions or directions for their people to go, will only attract long term employees that thrive in a chaotic day-by-day existence, always reinventing who they are and what they do. In companies like this long term employees act like keepers of the keys, the dealer in a poker match, protective of their turf. They may interact with the new hires, but they rarely share information that would help build the future for those people.
A company that encourages creativity, discussion, empowerment, pride, personal development, and inclusion will attract long term employees that want to surround themselves with more of that energy. If a new employee is hired in an environment like this, the long term employees are often the first to step forward to help with training, encouragement, and development of the new hire because they know the power of the positive forces in the company culture, and that more of those positive forces can only make life better for all. They are not threatened in the least.
The conclusion: if you’re looking to make a job change, and you’re looking to evaluate the true culture of a company, look at those who have been there the longest. They will reveal what the true culture of that company is about. Not mission statements (visit the Mission Statement Generator for good laughs), not a bunch of MBA-speak, and most definitely not best places to work awards (which are often purchased and useless).