100% of organizations say they want to build a workplace that retains top talent; 0% of organizations have 100% satisfied employees. We know that earning the “great place to work” award is far from easy, but vital for those organizations pursuing the very best business performance.

Building a great place to work is about putting people first, and not just saying so. That means developing a positive and productive culture that is built on trust and teamwork, nurturing great relationships between managers and employees, promoting innovation, valuing employees’ differences and uniqueness, and offering choices to employees from work arrangements to paid time off for participation in philanthropic activities. But before those accelerators, a great place to work assumes that organizations unequivocally honor employees’ basic needs and welfare.

Therein lies the fundamental problem. Assuming that foundational needs are met proves to be a false assumption. Too many organizations have yet to provide a polite and respectful environment with safe working conditions and the basic resources to get work done. Add to that, rudimentary talent actions and decisions that employees find intolerable—lack of recognition or recognition perceived as unfair, compensation packages that fall tiers below that of competitors, and an arrogance of disregard or indifference some leaders have for their employees’ welfare.

Employee Ratings on 6 Fundamental Workplace Practices
Work Environment Response
My voice counts. 46% sometimes/not usually
I work in a safe environment. 30% sometimes/not usually
I am given the tools and resources I need to do my work. 26% not satisfied
Employee Practices
I receive fair recognition. 72% sometimes/not usually
My well-being is important. 46% sometimes/not usually
My total compensation is fair and competitive. 28% not satisfied
Source: 2015 Brandon Hall Group Employment Value Proposition Study

On average, 41% of organizations report that their employees are disenchanted or not satisfied with essential workplace and employee practices.

Those organizations seek course correction guidance, and in so doing are studying the 5% of organizations, on average, that report their employees respond positively to these fundamental practices. That small and elite group of employers has begun building a great place to work. Employees of these choice employers often do seem happier with their jobs and are more productive than those at other companies. And that’s because “great companies” do have something over a lot of other employers – at a minimum, they have met the basic needs of employees and are working toward growing the roots a great workplace environment.  First, they:

  • Keep employees safe. There’s nothing more important. In today’s turbulent world, workplaces are not necessarily safe havens. Employers have to be diligent about putting checks and balances in place to ensure that employees’ physical and mental health and safety is not at risk. There is zero tolerance in this expectation. There isn’t a single company with incident – regardless of how small – that has ever made it to the “great place to work” list.
  • Act with respect, always. Beyond common courtesy and polite behavior, this also means embracing those who look, act, and think differently from senior leadership and collectively represent the customer base. If diversity and inclusion is not on your list of business priorities, I am quite sure that you won’t find yourself on the “great place to work” list.
  • Pay well. The data shows that attractive benefits and compensation are not the only drivers of top talent retention. It also shows that without them, you are guaranteed that top talent won’t choose you as their next employer. Appealing and competitive pay and benefits are requisite to preventing prospects and employees from turning their head to look at your competition or handing in their resignation to work for your competition.
  • Provide requisite tools. If you want employees to get work done, enable them with tools. Put processes in place that ensure updates to hardware and software happen regularly. In today’s digital world, dated technology (from personal devices to HR platforms) is imperative for all employees — regardless of generation.
  • Be fair. At employers of choice, it isn’t about equality; it’s about fairness. In other words, there is no such thing as all senior level engineers with performance ratings of 3.2 to 3.7 getting $10,000 bonuses and a “great job” email from the CEO. Fair acknowledgement is about disproportionate reward for those whose contributions make a meaningful contribution to business results. So does that mean that two employees with the same title/responsibilities and same/similar performance levels – but a big difference in the significance of their business contributions – should get different levels of recognition? YES!
  • Care. Leaders at the best employers have genuine care for their employees. They are intentional about understanding unique life needs, and make it easy for employees to do the very best they can at both work and home. They provide as much flexibility to the most junior employee as they do the most senior. They create policies and procedures that enable employees to exercise choices in manners that accommodate personal needs rather than forcing employees to come forward and ask for an exception in order to accommodate life’s hurdles.

It’s not easy to achieve all of this, and that’s only the beginning. The very best of the “great places to work” also execute on three “great place to work” accelerators:

  • Continuously develop. Today’s employees, particularly Millennials, expect ongoing coaching and development. They want to learn how to achieve elevated positions of responsibility and status quickly, and expect their employers to meet their developmental needs. This means “great places to work” will place less emphasis on offering learning programs and more on a learning experience; less emphasis on periodic performance discussions and more on continuous real-time feedback; less emphasis on one-time annual engagement surveys and more on regular culture assessments exposing critical performance gaps and creating experiences to close them. Organizations that opt for any development alternative but continuous and experience-driven not only have written off the “great place to work” distinction, but they have also written themselves out of any opportunity to attract and retain top talent. Candidates and employees will always opt for an organization that offers continuous development.

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                                                  Source: 2015 Brandon Hall Group 2015
Employment Value Proposition Study

  • Show how. Continuous development includes showing employees how to get work done. Sharing personal stories of success and failure, suggesting approaches to work, helping to build and cultivate internal and external networks, and taking time – every day – to “show them the ropes.” Employees, particularly Millennials, want a coach they can count on to “show them how” to get work done in the best way. Developing managers’ coaching capability is an opportunity most organizations have when it comes to “great place to work” accelerators.

Our Managers Coach to Show Employees How to Get Work Done

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Source: 2015 Brandon Hall Group
Employment Value Proposition Study

  • Create an experience. “Great places to work” immerse people into the organization in a holistic, end-to-end experience. Talent actions and decisions are purposefully and carefully knitted together, leveraging technology and the digital nature of today’s world to create a full experience and real interaction between the organization and the people.

The real learning here is about beginning at the beginning. Too many organizations attempt execution of the accelerators before locking in on the basics. That’s like trying to go faster before you’ve taken the time to put the vehicle in gear.

I applaud those who are willing to give this a go. While the effort will likely seem overwhelming and much more “give” than “give and take,” I promise the principle of “basics first, accelerators next” will give you a position in the same playing field as those who have already earned the “great place to work” status.

Until next time …

Laci Loew, VP and Principal Analyst, Talent Management, Brandon Hall Group

@LaciLoew

Laci Loew

A principal talent analyst and consultant with Brandon Hall Group, Laci is expert in all areas of human capital management particularly talent management, leadership, leadership development, and succession management. She has worked in the public and private sectors consulting global and matrix Fortune companies across all industries on integrated talent initiatives. Laci holds a bachelor of science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; earned her MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management; and is currently a PhD candidate in organizational psychology. Laci’s hometown is Chicago and she is based in Las Vegas.

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