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Three qualities of the best companies to work for

Friday, May 25, 2018
teamwork written on chalkboard

The cover article of the March 2018 Fortune magazine is entitled “100 Best Companies to Work for in 2018.”

I am always curious to know why a company is selected. I decided to take notes on the top 25 and consolidate my notes into the “most often mentioned” reasons why a company is in the top 25.

There is also a Green Star category for companies on the list of 100 for twenty years or more. It was fun to read of two in my area: REI and Nordstrom.

So, what appears to be often mentioned qualities of the top twenty-five companies on the list?

1. Involvement in Decision-making. Quicken Loans CEO, Jay Farmer hosts face-to-face meetings with employees where “no topic is off-limits.” Staff are encouraged to submit ideas on business operations. At Texas Health Resources, staff have a “lot of control over finding the best way to do things.”

At Capital One Financial, “genuine” CEO Richard Fairbank is “…focused on making sure everyone knows where we are going.” Employees at Plant Moran say they appreciate management’s “openness to new ideas and approaches.”

2. Opportunities for Staff Development. First place Salesforce uses its own software to help employees find new challenges for growth. Kimley-Horn encourages workers to explore new markets and create profit-sharing opportunities. Says one employee, “The opportunities are absolutely endless.” Financial products USAA provides up to $10,000 in tuition assistance.

Southern Ohio Medical Center grows its own talent by investing in training and promoting from within, as does Baptist Health South Florida who also puts a premium on developing its own people. REIT Camden Property Trust employees can pursue professional development through Camden University saying, “There are always opportunities to grow.”

3. Involvement in the Community. Salesforce pays employees 56 hours a year to volunteer in their community, and at Edward Jones community outreach is described as an important part of their culture. Capital One Financial associates put in 394,977 volunteer hours to causes like teaching kids to code.

Employees at Cooley, a California law firm, rave about a culture where teams take time off to accompany underprivileged kids to Disneyland. Some 33,000 Deloitte employees volunteered during the company Impact Day.

To be sure there are other factors such as perks which range in interest from strong 401k matches and compressed work weeks to being allowed to bring pets to work and yoga clubs on campus.

The report measures six components: values, innovation, financial growth, leadership effectiveness, maximizing human potential and trust. These were scored while reviewing employee surveys and a culture audit. Authors Michael C. Bush and Sarah Lewis-Kulin of Great Place to Work, affirm that the key to success is maximizing human potential and it is “accomplished through leadership effectiveness, values and trust.”

All of this reminds me of a recent visit from my wife’s nephew. Upon graduation from Cal Berkley with his PhD, he took an engineering job at Google, Inc (now part of Alphabet) in its Life Sciences group, Verily. Obviously, his research development is confidential and beyond the scope of my comprehension even if he could tell me. But I was intrigued with the company perspective on the three qualities mentioned here. There is a culture for rewarding innovation and entrepreneurship.

Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin continue to insure a relaxed and fun work environment. Staff engineers can work 20% of their time on projects of their choosing. Ideas are allowed to come from everywhere. Many workers are picked up in company buses fully equipped with internet and work facilities and their office “playground” includes free food in 18 cafes and perks such as gyms, yoga, office physicians, and laundry services. Employees are rewarded for new ideas and encouraged to question in a “bottoms up” environment.

Employees love to work at Google where they work in small teams, receive constant feedback, and have a mission to improve the world. Gmail was born by a small team working on something they were passionate about during the 20% of “free time.” No wonder the list of Google’s discontinued products is longer than most companies’ active products. It’s in the culture of “maximizing human potential.” Employees are involved in company decision-making, have plenty of opportunities for growth and community service is valued.


Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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