Exploring the latest trends in great-place-to-work organizations

By Gale Mote / Guest Editorial

In a recent whitepaper published by Fortune magazine and the Great Place to Work Institute, author Leslie Caccamese notes, “Given the low turnover on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list, it is obvious that these organizations are good at an extraordinary number of things. This sort of year-after-year success comes from rigorous attention to employee feedback, solutions that build upon the company’s culture and core values, and focus on those areas that will net the greatest impact.”

Companies who applied for the 100 Best Companies to Work For list in 2013 were asked to identify their top three priorities. The trends included employee wellness, employee development and the global workforce.

The number of companies offering financial rewards or other incentives for participating in wellness programs has increased, with 55 of the 100 Best Companies demonstrating this practice. Other wellness trends include family involvement in wellness initiatives, expanding the behaviors which are rewarded including choosing healthy lunch options and logging workout hours, group programs such as the “biggest loser” competitions and emphasis on total well-being including the psychological well-being of employees. More companies are offering seminars on positive psychology and happiness in the workplace.

The Best Companies to Work For make a considerable investment in training programs, offering 66.5 hours of training for salaried employees and 53 hours of training for hourly employees. The research goes on to note that almost 70 percent of these training hours is devoted to the employees’ current roles, and nearly 40 percent is focused on growth and development. Thirty-one percent of open positions are filled by internal candidates.

According to Ms. Caccamese, “While these organizations already have impressive training and development programs along with generous tuition reimbursement, their focus continues to be in career roadmapping, leadership development and diversity development.”

Best Place to Work For companies want every employee to be able to make a career working for them. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh frequently states that he is looking for employees who have a calling to serve, not those who want a job in a call center. Daniel Pink, author of “Drive,” notes that one of the strongest intrinsic employee motivators is a sense of purpose. Engaged employees see a direct connection between their work and the big picture. At the end of each day, they know how their contribution made a difference.

According to the award winners, career roadmapping includes employees working together with their managers to set annual development goals, monthly check-ins on those goals, transforming performance evaluations into “contribution conversations” and putting more energy into coaching and mentoring opportunities.

Leadership development will be less about formal education classes and more about stretch assignments, departmental rotations, simulations and on-the-job projects to develop leadership capability. While the target audience will continue to be high potential/high performance individuals, companies will continue to focus on building the leadership capabilities of all employees through in-house training that emphasizes the company’s culture and values.

Diversity development will focus on inclusiveness. In the engineering and technology sectors, Ms. Caccamese notes that we will continue to see companies focus on programs to mentor and cultivate women leaders. Development opportunities include job shadowing, mentoring programs, networking opportunities and hosting annual conferences for women.

The third trend identified in the research is supporting and engaging a global workforce. “In 2013, 14 of the 100 Best Companies saw more than 50 percent of their employee population residing outside of the U.S., while 27 of the 100 have more than 25 percent of their population outside of the U.S.”

The use of cross-functional and cross-cultural teams is expanding. The focus is on connecting the global workforce as one cohesive unit with a single corporate identity.

Some of these efforts include using technology to allow team members to collaborate together virtually while in remote locations with an emphasis on being able to see one another. Other initiatives include short-term overseas assignments, job swapping and the use of social media tools and mobile devices, such as the iPad, to keep everyone, around the world, informed and engaged no matter where they are or what time of day they are working.

For me, personally, I have the privilege of partnering with many organizations who I consider to be great places to work. I sat down and wrote out a list of what I find they all have in common. Please consider this my own, unscientific research.

My best place to work companies hire and train managers to be servant leaders. According to Max DePree, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

The focus for servant leaders is their employees, not themselves. It is about support, not command and control.

The organizations I admire have engaged employees who are focused on the customer and giving back to the communities they serve. They emphasize teamwork and train their employees how to work effectively together to make the best possible decisions by tapping into the unique perspectives of everyone in the group.

Employees are not stressed beyond the point of being able to function effectively. Quality of life is a priority recognizing that work and life needs change constantly over time. The organization adapts and adjusts accordingly.

Employees are held accountable to a set of core values that are non-negotiable. You may be a great performer in your role, however, if you are not walking the talk and promoting the culture of the company, you may find yourself available to industry.

Ms. Caccamese ends the article with words of wisdom for all who want to make their organizations better. “While much inspiration can be found in knowing where the Best intend to focus, building a great workplace can only result by concentrating on the issues that are most important to your people and the solutions that are most relevant to your culture.

Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at galemote@galemoteassociates.com.