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What Makes a Company a Great Place to Work?

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Changing your job and moving to a new company is a big life decision with several factors to consider. One concern is whether your new employer is a great place to work. From the competitive salary and benefits package to the diversity of the workplace, you need to look for the signs that you are making the right decision and moving to a positive work environment.

A great company supports your development, personally and professionally. So, what should you be looking for?

Competitive Salary & Benefits

Companies that care about employees provide a competitive salary and benefits package. This means paying a living wage, that allows staff to live comfortably with reference to the local cost of living. Additional benefits may also include health insurance; pension contributions; profit-sharing; stock options; annual bonus/cost of living rise; and subsidised bus/train travel.

The advantages of a more competitive salary and benefits package are two-fold. It helps to retain existing talent, and is attractive to new, top talent. Competitive workplace employee benefits mean staff won’t want to leave. New positions are filled with quality applicants.

Positive Company Culture

Company culture speaks about why the company exists, its values, and how it treats staff and clients. A statement of your culture may be written on the boardroom wall, but it needs to be translated into everyday words and actions. Signs of positive company culture include:

  • Work-life balance benefits – are contracted hours respected? Are staff expected to work beyond without further compensation?
  • Management style – is it a top-down structure or more consensual?
  • Transparency – are decision processes clear?
  • Positive company culture practices – are company procedures rigid, or can new practices be introduced?
  • Professional development opportunities and leadership development programmes – open to all? Well resourced?

Successful organisations understand that a positive culture is central to their success. They also understand that culture is not fixed. Hence, staff are permitted to question whether their actions and words reflect the culture.

Strong Work Community – A Positive Work Environment

Communities of people are bound together with bonds that extend deep within the workplace – and beyond. They share a common vision and know the benefits of supporting one another and working towards shared goals. Companies and businesses will benefit from reflecting on the nature of community to create a positive working environment. What are the signs of a strong community – of a positive work environment, to look for?    

  • They invest in ongoing employee (re)training and development
  • Willing to share profits
  • Leadership is encouraged and developed at all levels of the business
  • Employees enjoy one another’s company via sporting and social activities
  • They are willing to listen to all perspectives and move forward based on consensus
  • They pursue corporate social responsibility initiatives    

Community builds resilience. Community creates a positive work environment. In the good times, and the tougher times, staff can focus on their job, knowing their colleagues, management, and leadership have their back. 

Meaningful Connections & Transparent Communication in the Workplace

The best workplaces build meaningful connections between team members that extend beyond the office walls. At work, teams can invite colleagues with complementary skills to join them for specific projects. Outside, colleagues are encouraged to attend social occasions and company events such as sports days or an annual BBQ.

Transparent communication in the workplace means information is promptly shared with all. The ‘what’, the ‘why’, and ‘who’ of decisions can be understood, avoiding misunderstanding while building collaboration and trust. Transparent workplace communication encourages knowledge sharing and boosts open, continuous communication across the business. How do you recognise this?

  • Open dialogue between employees, supervisors, and managers
  • Company-wide, open-minded leadership
  • Regular financial/strategic company updates
  • Feedback sought by managers from staff when making vital decisions

Professional Development Opportunities

For Richard Branson, employees are a company’s greatest asset. Their professional development is worthy of investment. ‘Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.’ He understands that investment in professional development creates staff who are more knowledgeable. Few will want to leave! The signs of professional development opportunities are:

  • Company-paid professional exams or degree courses with accompanying time off
  • Paid memberships to professional bodies
  • Ongoing education opportunities – webinars, seminars, conferences
  • Regular in-house training to support timely internal advancement    

Effective Leadership

This is where effective leadership comes into play. Leaders blend IQ and EQ to make professional development opportunities that nurture the whole person. Leaders in great places to work create caring, progressive organisations that win awards.

With the help of their team, they build a competitive and trusted brand. They encourage staff to use their gifts and talents. Looking into the future, effective leaders see the benefits of continuous professional development opportunities to fill current and future roles. Questions to ask include:    

  • Are leaders fair-minded and effective?
  • Do they listen; ask for feedback; and give it when requested?
  • Are staff engaged, recognised for good work, motivated, and target-driven?
  • Do leaders avoid infantilising staff?
  • Are colleagues at all levels encouraged to make decisions and trusted to work independently?          

Leadership Development Programmes

Effective leaders of great places to work identify staff to train to be their replacements – at every level of the business. Their motto is: “You can start work in the postroom and rise to the boardroom”. There is one important byproduct: as staff grow professionally, they progress within the company and are less inclined to leave.

Leadership development programmes can be authored in-house and supported through mentoring. Leadership development programmes can also be developed externally to include assignments and dissertations that focus on the business. In this way, existing staff gain knowledge and a qualification, which is brought to bear on existing business needs. Current leaders/mentors can measure their leadership skills to see if they also need to upskill.

Building a Caring Environment for all Employees

Great companies care for all employees, regardless of status. Within a caring environment, staff are supported with best workplace practices: everyone is appreciated and valued. Look for:

  • Support for healthy eating by providing lunch boxes, reusable water bottles, canteen facilities
  • Encouraging regular exercise e.g. walking routes for lunch/break times, on-site gym facilities
  • Celebrate loyalty with service awards programmes and other employee rewards
  • Employees encouraged to take breaks throughout the day
  • Generous maternity/paternity leave
  • Support for colleagues during difficult times
  • Ensuring a comfortable, safe work environment

Diversity in the Workplace

Great places to work welcome new staff from all backgrounds, with different levels of experience, of different ages, and with diverse beliefs. Business leaders know the value of building diverse teams so they should ensure variety when hiring new people. Diversity is becoming increasingly important, as each new person brings an enriched vision to a project or problem. This approach is more likely to produce exciting concepts and innovative solutions. Diversity creates a welcoming, supportive workplace, especially for new hires.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Initiatives

Staff take pride in working for companies that make a difference. Millennials and Gen Z view socially responsible companies as the place to work. For them, companies should invest in corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Corporate social responsibility initiatives can be environmental, ethical/human rights, philanthropic, or even economic. Even the smallest organisation can impact social change by recycling their waste, for example. Some of the most common initiatives are:

  • Minimising your carbon footprint
  • Improving staff employment policies
  • Working environments that ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’
  • Building a diverse, equitable, inclusive workplace
  • Encouraging volunteering
  • Environmentally beneficial corporate policies and investments
  • Sustainable office consumables or branded employee gifts

Larger companies like Coca-Cola are an example of environmental responsibility. Their message? ‘A world without waste’. Their aim? To collect and recycle every bottle, make their packaging 100% recyclable, and replace the water used in making their drinks back into the environment, building water security.

Employee Reward and Recognition Initiatives

A great place to work recognises and celebrates all employees. Why? A little employee reward and recognition goes a long way. Employee engagement and performance are known to be greater in businesses where employees are given recognition. If an employee performs optimally, recognition should follow. A lack of employee reward and recognition is a key factor related to employee turnover.

  • Employee rewards programmes celebrating employee service and other milestones
  • Encouragement given to employee appreciation ideas
  • Offering quality monthly or one-off employee rewards linked to cost-saving ideas or sustainability initiatives
  • Employee rewards that focus on supporting local companies and local producers

In Conclusion

A great place to work cares for and supports its staff. It encourages their personal and professional growth. They have leaders, managers, and employees who trust and respect each other. The whole person is supported and developed. This approach produces employees who tend to be more productive, and content, and who want to remain with the company. In short, they will want to stay at a great place to work.

About the Author

Dr Paul Gadie is the Managing Director of Gift Innovations. He holds various degrees including a doctorate in Theology, which focused on leadership. He has worked in academia, researching and lecturing in Theology & Religious Studies and managing academic partnerships across the UK, Europe, and Africa. He is also a published author. In his research, he encourages the development of leaders with a vision to work with and persuade others, rather than to control and command.

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