What distinguishes a Top Workplace from an average one?
The truth is, there’s no single practice, no one-size-fits-all solution for achieving great results. But there are common qualities of success you should be able to identify in every company.
We know from our decade of research it’s not perks or “coolness” that makes the difference. The best employers carefully craft a positive workplace culture.
We also know these organizations on The Salt Lake Tribune’s list of Top Workplaces for 2017 share a common foundation that supports a healthy culture — and employee engagement.
Here are five key lessons:
• People really are the greatest asset — It goes beyond lip service. It’s a core principle that’s brought to life every day, with leaders putting employees at the center of their thinking. Done right, the feeling is returned. Employees consistently tell us that appreciation and confidence in leadership are among the most important factors for their workplace satisfaction.
• Leaders listen — The best leaders listen to the feedback provided by workers, both formally and informally. While some leaders might dwell on the inherent risks of giving employees a voice, leaders at Top Workplaces are clued in to their team’s challenges and use this knowledge in decision-making. This builds a sense of commitment and accountability.
• Everyone is in the loop — It’s difficult to be fully committed if you’re kept in the dark. Employees want to be informed. Leaders in Top Workplaces recognize this. They’re committed to sharing information as much, and as often, as they can. And they don’t just share the happy news. Organizations that fail to communicate with staff on a regular basis, substantively, will leave an information void. That gap will be filled quickly with rumors and speculation.
• Live with a purpose — Employees want to feel their work contributes to something meaningful. Effective leaders deliver an inspiring vision, which the entire team connects with day to day. In 2016, among the top 10 percent of companies we surveyed nationwide, 96 percent of employees reported feeling motivated. Compare that to the bottom 10 percent of organizations (which most closely represent a “typical” workforce), where just 62 percent of employees felt motivated. This 34 percentage-point gap represents a massive drop in productivity. Motivation matters.
• Build community — Neuroscience teaches us the importance people place on feeling accepted and safe in their “tribe.” It helps them stay focused and contributes to success. In creating productive employee experiences, Top Workplaces care about building community. They hold regular, purposeful events that foster a sense of belonging. That sense of appreciation also keeps employees connected. We see it in the Energage survey comments, like this one from an employee at Clearlink Technologies LLC: “I never knew how valuable teamwork was until I came here. I also never knew how important a good manager was until I came here.”
The best workplaces always look to improve. After all, it’s a journey, not a destination. Even top-ranked companies find things to work on in a process of continuous improvement.
If done right, employees will know their workplace is special. Employers shouldn’t be shy asking for extra effort in return. Ensure staffers remain active in the ongoing success of the organization — with all the necessary accountability. And remember to celebrate along the way.
Doug Claffey is CEO of Energage (formerly WorkplaceDynamics).