How to Make a Best Place to Work

A Best Place to Work (BPTW) initiative isn’t necessarily a “new” topic, but it is one worth discussing. There are numerous BPTW ranking systems in the media (from national publications like Forbes to regional and local rankings). The question is, should your organization try to make one of the lists, what will it take, and what is the Return on Investment (ROI)?

BPTW rankings are typically based on a variety of source data, most importantly employee surveys and feedback. The most comprehensive BPTW initiatives are well-vetted, have sponsorship (continuously) at the highest levels of the organization, and can be quite expensive to implement, if you’re not focusing on the right attributes. While parties, picnics, special “fun” events (e.g. crazy hat day), more pay, better benefits, and promotion opportunity are typically thought to make a BPTW, they don’t come in at the top of the list from an employee’s perspective.

According to Indeed, “In fact, a recurring theme across the employee reviews for these firms is the importance of a strong company culture and clear values. As Indeed Senior Vice President Paul D’Arcy observes, “We are seeing people describe these exemplary workplaces as ‘inspiring’ and ‘engaging’ by maintaining excellent company culture, ensuring quality leadership, and offering competitive pay and benefits.” Note…competitive pay and benefits, not necessarily top 90% pay and benefits!

Companies that make the “list” as a BPTW often are not the top payer’s (and in some cases, they pay below the 50% mark). What makes them a BPTW?

  1. Company Culture. Culture is often overlooked (or is thrown around in interviews, but then reality sets in and the true culture comes out). Culture doesn’t always have to be sunshine (although it should mostly focus on positives), but it should be regularly followed. For example, a culture may be high performing, driven, and work long hours (most of which may not be considered positive by all), while at the same time recognizes individual and team performance (generally very positively received). Whatever the culture is defined at your company, there must be one mandatory component, it must be followed at all levels! Nothing will lead to dissention more than putting words to your culture that are different from the actual actions and behaviors of your culture. Start at the top leadership, and make sure it is rolled out with vigor and enthusiasm daily!
  2. Hire to Your Culture. There is no easier way to kill a culture than to hire someone who doesn’t believe in the culture (or who’s history/actions are contrary to the culture). This is more difficult than it first appears, because good candidates do their homework, know your culture, and put on their interviewing face. Conducting team interviews is often effective, as the different employees will ask different questions (rather than a series of one-on-one interviews where the same questions are asked over and over again). Tied to this, make sure the team is comprised of a diverse group of employees (from a variety of levels within the organization). That ensures the candidate is vetted from a variety of angles.
  3. Quality Leadership. This is often either assumed or overlooked altogether. Invest in your leaders through training and workshops that reinforce your culture and the values you hold for your leadership team. Remember, and this is sometimes difficult, as you create your culture, you may find that some leaders (and some individual contributors, for that matter) simply will not fit into the cultural construct, regardless of the training and coaching they receive. Nothing will negatively impact the culture faster than a leader who does not embrace those views daily. As the saying goes, “Employees don’t quit a company, they quit their boss.”
  4. Competitive Pay & Benefits. As mentioned before, note it is “competitive”, not necessarily excessive or leading your industry/geographic. If you have mastered the culture, and have the right leaders, you will generally find that employees might overlook excessive compensation and benefits in order to work in an environment that they are happy, feel valued, and feel that their performance will be recognized and rewarded. While you do not have to be a top “payer”, you do have to be competitive. You need to make sure that you tie pay to performance, that it is perceived as equitable (both within your firm and outside of it), and that there is no perceived “favoritism”. Clearly defined goals and objectives are key and measuring against those objectives are truly objective.

So, what is the ROI? Ironically, it’s not the accreditation (although that’s nice to put on your website). The true ROI comes from a happier, highly engaged, more motivated workforce at all levels. Reduced turnover (and potentially larger candidate pool) are also results you might receive.

Lastly…becoming an accredited BPTW should be a result of doing things right, not the goal of the changes. Companies often rush to implement BPTW programs to get accredited and push through concepts and cultural change in a “mad dash” to get the prize. The types of changes required to become a BPTW come from hard, well thought out, work. It may take several years before you have an accreditation, but you will start to see the ROI in much less time!

Disclaimer:        The materials contained in this paper are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.