One of the greatest privileges I have had in my working career was when I was given the opportunity to judge ‘The Thames Valleys Best Company To Work For’. Over 20 years I must have met over 1000 businesses, so I had concepts of what I thought made a good company, but over the 4 years I was lucky enough to be a judge I was truly inspired by the leaders within businesses that were nominated.
Recently a prospective employee asked me what I thought made a great place to work which got me back thinking about those experiences.
So in the blog below I explore the question of what does make a great place to work?
The sexy brand names that have experienced the most growth?
The places with ‘chill out rooms’, table tennis tables and a bar?
The companies that give their staff a few hours off each week for mental wellbeing and have free fruit on offer?
The company that gives a laptop, phone and allows you to work from home whenever you want?
All of the above can be attractive and may be factors that play a part in whether a company is a great place to work, but the truth is that they are superficial things that can be easily replicated and the things that I believe make a company great are far deeper. In fact, the businesses that I believe are the best I have seen may all have the perks above, but are rarely the reason why their staff think they are a great place to work.
Company Culture / Values:
Great companies have strong values. They are not just ‘words’ but can be clearly seen in all the company does internally and externally. They are often used as part of an interview process or indeed when undertaking appraisals and promotions. Companies that really believe in their values will not tolerate individuals that do not fit in with them (even if those people are the top revenue producers) as the companies understand that the bigger picture is more important than any individual is.
Leaders that inspires you:
The best companies to work for have leaders that know how to engage with their current and future workforce. They have a strong vision for the future of the business as well as being able to communicate exactly what the company’s values are. They live and breathe these values and communicate well both internally and externally. They find a way to relate to members of staff at all levels, from their senior management teams, right down to the post room.
Progression opportunities based on meritocracy:
Progression will be based on demonstrating the company values and on individual performance. They do not promote based solely on ‘time spent’ and will not promote individuals that do not demonstrate the core values that they stand for. You earn your promotions. Great companies are also able to demonstrate a clear career path and set milestones to take you on your way along that path.
Training / Development:
The best places to work will want to help progress their staff and make sure that they are constantly developing. However, this is earnt and should not be seen as a ‘god given right’. Those that work hard, engage with the business, achieve and live by the company’s values will be invested in.
Strong communication can always be seen in great companies. This communication should come not only from the company leaders, but also from lower management. The communication normally comes in different forms, from intranet posts, blogs and company-wide emails, to ‘town hall meetings’, department meetings and vlogs. There should be ways that employers can ‘speak’ to senior leaders as well as senior leaders ‘speaking’ to employers. Communication is key to a healthy, harmonious workforce. Without it, processes are slower and situations misunderstood.
A great company takes its Corporate Social Responsibility seriously. They will have policies covering things such as diversity and inclusion, their approach to mental wellbeing in the workplace and charity partnerships. They will make all attempts to be as ‘green’ as possible. Working for a business with a strong sense of CSR often gives the employee a greater sense of ‘belonging’.
Reward and Recognition:
You may not always be the best paid within your own industry, but you should feel rewarded fairly and probably more importantly you should feel like you get recognition for good performance. Recognition could come in the form of a mention in a company email, a team meeting or in being given a personal thank you. Recognition in great companies is often tailored to the individual rather than just a ‘company standard’.
A bigger purpose:
Many of the greatest businesses to work for are those that have a bigger purpose. It could be their vision, products or services, or their contributions to industry as a whole but it is a company that makes the employee feel that there is a reason to go in each morning.
Great places to work try and balance the needs of the employee and the business. Where possible they offer flexibility to ensure that the employee is able to live their life well whilst getting the job done. There may be times when extra hours need to be worked, but there is ‘give and take’.
There is no one reason that a business is the greatest place to work, it is a mixture of all the factors covered off above. Great places to work will support the employee in personal development and encourage them to achieve great things. You will see the majority of staff all pulling in the same direction towards clear goals which have been communicated with passion from the leaders. People feel appreciated and understand and buy into the company values; and these values will never have been compromised just to achieve additional profit.