Continuing a big week of author guest posts, we are bringing you another one today from coauthor of the highly anticipated “Great Workplace,” now available wherever books and ebooks are sold. This post comes on a very special day as the Fortune “100 Best Places to Work” List was just released. Want to get your company on the list? In their new book, authors Jennifer Robin and Michael Burchell show that, more than offering great pay and quirky perks, a great workplace is one where employees trust the people they work for, take pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has said, “The Great Workplace lays out ideas that can help turn any workplace into a great one.” …And with Zappos at #6 on this year’s list, Tony knows!
Great Workplaces: Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® Annual List
As the 2011 list of Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® is released, let’s reflect on what makes these workplaces great. While the companies on this year’s list are widely different with regard to size (1,073-167,537 employees), industry (manufacturing, retail, and information technology, among others), and location (headquartered in over 25 states with locations around the country), we can make a few statements about what those companies have in common.
Most importantly, great workplaces are characterized by strong relationships. Employees trust their leaders; they find them to be credible, respectful, and fair. Employees also have fulfilling relationships with both their jobs and their coworkers; their experience of work is one with pride and camaraderie. In the best places to work, strong relationships don’t just happen. They are supported by leader actions, policies and practices, good hiring, and a clear sense of direction.
At great workplaces, leaders take actions that build trust at every turn.
While we’d encourage companies to establish policies that help to build strong relationships, managers’ actions alone go a long way. In great workplaces, leaders communicate openly and honestly, and they continually close the loop between their decisions and goals and the mission and vision of the organization. One of the ways managers at Balfour Beatty (#40 on the 2011 list), a Dallas construction company, create a sense of cohesion, fun and camaraderie across departments is through their annual division “infomercials.” Twice per year the company’s four divisions develop a humorous infomercial recapping their recent activities and performance achievements so their sister divisions are better informed.
Often, leader actions are further supported by practices and policies in a great workplace.
In great workplaces, policies, practices, benefits, and perks are created that help to strengthen relationships employees have with their leaders, their jobs, and their coworkers. We call them “best practices” not because they’ll work everywhere, but because they meet the needs of employees in that particular organization while communicating what is important. Plante & Moran (#26 on this year’s list), a Michigan-based accounting firm, understands the hardships of a busy tax season on its people and their families. Working Saturdays during the early months of the year is a fact of life at an accounting firm, so the company makes things a bit easier on staff and their families by offering free, on-site childcare on Saturdays during tax season at several of their offices.
Finally, leaders set direction that is both inspirational and unambiguous.
This, as you might imagine, requires a great deal of balance. Err on the inspirational side, and people are energized but don’t know where they are headed. Err on the unambiguous side and work is a chore devoid of creativity and self-direction. At great workplaces, this balance is struck beautifully. Instead of a mission statement, vision statement or values, Quicken Loans (#29 on this year’s list) has what are referred to as “ISMs,” short phrases that sum up the company’s philosophies. Collectively, these 17 phrases, or “ISMs,” are the guiding principles upon which people at Quicken base their decisions. They are part of the everyday language at Quicken and are often heard in both formal meetings and everyday conversation.
Any company can become a great workplace with trust, pride, and camaraderie, and this year’s Fortune list of 100 Best Companies to Work For® are great role models. Building strong relationships through leader actions, policies and practices, and a clear sense of direction are key.