December 19, 2019 by Jason Contant
We’ve all seen those “best companies to work for” lists (and perhaps even longingly wished we worked for one of them).
What does it take to be one of those companies? While there is no one formula that can capture the idiosyncrasies of these companies and the telling ways they motive employees, there are some common themes, according to a recent blog published by Harvard Business Review.
Michael O’Malley, managing director at business management consultant firm Pearl Meyer and the co-author (with Bill Baker) of Organizations for People, spent the last three years researching the best places to work in the United States. They looked at smaller and large businesses (from 250 employees to over 7,000,) in both the private and public sectors (including financial services). After researching, interviewing executives, meeting with human resources departments, conducting focus groups with employees, touring facilities, etc., the authors found the five common themes:
Other companies go a step further, offering supplemental programs such as stress-reduction workshops, nutritional consultations, financial planning, and grievance counselling services. In an extreme example, one employer moved an employee from a third-floor apartment to a first-floor one after the worker had an auto accident, “placing possessions just as they had been before and providing technology to stay connected during the recuperation process. (The employee had only been working there for a short period of time).”
The methods vary, but can include things like special programs or sabbaticals. One insurance company offers employees $1,500 per year to explore “whatever they choose” as a passion.
One company treats birthdays as paid holidays. Another provides new parents with a custom onesie, art books and toys, as well as a baby briefcase to help them keep their newborn’s details organized.
A third company sponsors monthly outings to baseball games, comedy clubs and off-Broadway shows.
One landscaping company that sits within 900 heavily wooded acres exemplifies this “ownership mindset” by giving landscapers their own acreage to tend in any way they think best given the terrain and surrounding architecture.
And for the best companies, failures are a fact of life and necessary for both personal and organizational growth. One employer created an “oops email box” as a place for all workers – founders included – to announce mistakes made, what others should be aware of because of them, and steps taken to correct them.
Another, a publishing company, has a cover band comprised of employees from the graphic design department that plays at monthly meetings.
“People who behave in accord with their values have stickier work ethics,” O’Malley wrote. “They are morally engaged, less deferent to circumstance, and will choose principle over enticement.”
It’s safe to say that today too many businesses function with only their own interests in mind, O’Malley concluded. But “the organizations we studied have given themselves the best chance to succeed by recognizing the human as the heart of the workplace, the thing that keeps everything else running,” he said.