How Much Do You Really Love The Company You Work For?

This October, Newsweek and my company, the Best Practice Institute, will unveil a group of companies—small, medium, and large— that employees love working for. (Or where they may want to work.) We're calling it our "Most Loved Workplaces" list.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that it has never been more critical for companies to up their game. Because of the pandemic, employees and potential employees need to feel much more connected to their employers. Workers are starting to head back to the office but many will continue to work remotely, at least for awhile. Either way, it is clear that employees' personal and work lives are in turmoil. They need to know three things: Do they stay with their current employers? Find another boss? Or, if unemployed, find a company that fits their new pandemic lifestyle?

So the bottom line is simply this: Job seekers and employees alike need to know which companies are loved and trusted. They also need to know which ones to steer clear of during this time of chaos. (And make no mistake, the work world will be an unsettling place for a while.)

Home Depot
Home Depot Chief Executive Officer Frank Blake back in the day: His employees loved him. (Photo by Darren McCollester/WireImage for The Home Depot Foundation)

Whether you are applying to, or already working for a company, what are the chances you can find accurate information on whether or not employees genuinely love their company? Where can bosses get such information so, if necessary, they change their ways? With so much conflicting information on the web, and lack of organizational transparency, your options are minimal.

That's what we are trying to accomplish with our Most Loved Workplaces list, which will be culled from a universe of more than 300 firms participating in our first-time assessment process.

How do you know if your workplace makes the grade?

Based on the research in my book, In Great Company, there are five crucial factors that make up a company that is loved and admired by its employees. They are: Systemic Collaboration, Positive Future, Alignment of Values, Respect and Killer Outcomes. Let's go over each:

Systemic Collaboration. Collaboration is a standard business buzzword. It could mean anything, really. And it can happen sporadically. But Systemic Collaboration is different. It gets to the heart of the matter. It's where collaboration becomes an everyday part of the organization—and its decision-making process.

Employees in such a set-up, by design, work in small teams and produce concrete results using open communication channels. Information and advice, again by design, are shared frequently and freely. This way of working creates an emotional connection almost by definition.

For example: A multinational financial service company I studied took this idea to heart when they eliminated the traditional org chart over a two-year period. As part of their highly collaborative structure, the company has very few traditional managers and success depends heavily on trust and transparency within teams. Each team has a leader who is responsible for product delivery and a "coach" to make sure the team collaborates effectively.

Alignment of Values. Employees love companies that emphasize qualities such as honesty, integrity and empowerment.

Love for your workplace happens when leaders and peers embrace common values, and everyone holds each other equally accountable. Such practices include things as simple as doing what you say you will do—or speaking the truth instead of avoiding it.

Living your company's stated values makes a big difference too.

If you don't think so, consider Wells Fargo. It's original mission statement included doing what's right for customers. Sounds great. But as many of you know, that lofty ideal was reduced to rubble when a whistleblower forced the organization to admit that thousands of Wells Fargo employees goosed sales by charging customers millions in fees for accounts they had not authorized.

Respect. Making respect a part of the organization's ethos and talent management process is essential to becoming a loved and respected company. According to my research, feeling genuinely respected is the top reason people feel passionate about their company— and want to perform their best. Respect is the glue that holds everything together.

For example: During his seven years as CEO, Frank Blake set aside time every Sunday to hand write thank-you notes to employees. He estimates he wrote more than 25,000. And when Blake retired in 2015, employees returned the favor: Blake received hundreds of appreciative notes from Home Depot associates.

Former Campbell Soup CEO Doug Conant also put this practice into action, starting in 2001, when he was brought on to turnaround the organization at a time when it was in decline and reeling from layoffs. Over the course of his tenure, Conant wrote 30,000 thank-you notes to employees for everything from major accomplishments to small acts of kindness. They reeled no more—and felt a lot better about working for the company.

Lou Office
BPI's Louis Carter: Make respect part of your organization.

Creating a Positive Future. My research also shows that "positivity" about a purposeful future is a powerful catalyst for creating an emotionally connected culture. It's just not a Mr. Rogers thing. It takes a very deliberate effort. People are far more likely to be passionate about work if they believe their actions are changing the world for the better.

One of the world's top steel companies stoked passion in their people by focusing their corporate culture squarely on things that deliver meaning: positive change in manufacturing, high quality standards, sustainability, empowerment and innovation. Other companies have charitable foundations dedicated to advancing causes, from strengthening the community to addressing climate change. This combination of commerce and commitment allows people to work on behalf of their favorite causes under the umbrella of their own organization.

Achievement. A great workplace happens when employees have stated objectives—and managers remove competing interests that block the path to success. A study in The Journal of Happiness showed that making progress toward our goals might just bring as much satisfaction as actually achieving them.

In this case, it's the happiness that creates the achievement. We are more effective, creative and collaborative when we are happy at work. Achievement, then, is actually a set of behaviors and dynamics, not a single event or a moment in time. In other words, the joy is in the journey.

Employees who work for some of the top streaming entertainment companies may love their workplace. However, they love their workplace not because they signed 10 million or more new members in any particular quarter, but because the company sets ambitious but attainable goals that motivate people to work toward them as a team.

Skeptical? In our initial research, we found that respondents who love their company are up to four times more likely to perform at their best. This same group was three to four times more likely to stay longer at their employer.

Do your employees see you that way? If not, it is time to up your game. See you in October.

***

Apply here to become a Most Loved Workplace.

***

Louis Carter is founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute and the author of more than 10 books on best practices in leadership and management, including Change Champion's Field Guide, In Great Company, and Best Practices in Talent Management. Thought leaders and executives voted him as one of Global Gurus Top 10 Organizational Culture thinkers worldwide.