THE CORE OF GREAT CULTURE

April 17th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In addition to providing its momentous list, Fortune includes commentary on the cutting-edge trends that play into the very concept of the list. Part of the reason that these companies are so great to work for is that they understand what the new business age requires, not just in keystrokes and widgets, but more importantly in heartbeats and passion. They are deeply aware of what computers can and cannot do as well as what people can and cannot do. On the one hand, the new business age recognizes that although data remains valuable, it is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal must be culture change:

More and more major employers are recognizing that they need workers who are good at team building, collaboration, and cultural sensitivity . . . [T]he most effective teams are not those whose members boast the highest IQs, but rather those whose members are most sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.” (p. 110)

This observation speaks to the centrality of culture for corporate success. If the workplace culture is great, then so too will the company be, but if the workplace culture is bad, then so too will the company be. Every single company on the 100 best workplaces list earned that standing fundamentally based on its workplace culture. Fortune identifies four key elements of culture that permeate the 100 best workplaces. Here are the four elements along with my thoughts:

Mission. People are inspired when they have the opportunity to be a part of something larger than themselves. That is what mission is. When companies are clear on their mission and they articulate that mission frequently, it becomes easy for employees to rally and enjoy their work.

Colleagues. In every great workplace to which I have been exposed, the refrain is the same: “I love the people with whom I work.” The quality of your colleagues is what makes a company great. It is that quality that builds the exceptionally great corporate culture.

Trust. I think one of the most demeaning things that can ever happen to anyone is for that person’s trust to be questioned without any validity. It is so incredibly personal and core to the very soul of your existence. That is exactly how and why one of the most empowering and positive things a company can do is to trust its people. When companies trust their people, those people don’t have to be told they are empowered—they feel it.

Caring. The adage remains true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. In the ideal situation, we work so closely with our colleagues that we develop and nurture a genuine caring. We give and receive caring. This will be manifested in many different ways, but the result is that in working with our colleagues, we find more than just colleagues. That awareness enhances everything we do as colleagues and thereby as a company. As much as we are the beneficiaries of that caring, ultimately so are our customers.





DON’T HAVE A CLUE

April 16th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In addition to providing its momentous list, Fortune includes commentary on the cutting-edge trends that play into the very concept of the list. Part of the reason that these companies are so great to work for is that they understand what the new business age requires, not just in keystrokes and widgets, but more importantly in heartbeats and passion. They are deeply aware of what computers can and cannot do as well as what people can and cannot do. On the one hand, the new business age recognizes that although data remains valuable, it is not the ultimate goal:

Information, simple or complex, is instantly available online. Knowledge skills that must be learned—corporate finance, trigonometry, electrical engineering, coding—can be learned by anyone worldwide through online courses, many of them free. They can even be performed by a clever algorithm.” (p. 109)

On the other hand, the new business age demands that workers step above and beyond that data. Data will always be important. Information is always in demand. We have no argument on that. The open question however is will companies genuinely step up to the plate in meeting the challenges of this new day? It will require a different approach:

More and more major employers are recognizing that they need workers who are good at team building, collaboration, and cultural sensitivity . . . [T]he most effective teams are not those whose members boast the highest IQs, but rather those whose members are most sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.

This observation speaks to the centrality of culture for corporate success. If the workplace culture is great, then so too will the company be, but if the workplace culture is bad, then so too will the company be. Every single company on the 100 best workplaces list earned that standing fundamentally based on its workplace culture. This is good news for all those companies and those who are fast in the running to achieve that same distinction. However, the brightness of the winners reveals the paleness of the losers and their oftentimes-complete lack of understanding on how to win:

More employers are seeing the connection from culture and relationships to workplace greatness to business success. Deloitte’s latest annual survey of 3,300 executives in 106 countries found that for the first time, top managers say culture is the most important issue they face, more important than leadership, workforce capability, performance management, or anything else. . . . Yet as employers increasingly grasp its importance, they also realize they have no clue where to begin in creating the culture they need.” (p. 110)

Well, that is a sad state of affairs! However, culture means behavior. Spreadsheets and products do not behave; people do. The people will make or break the company.

Those companies that genuinely want to achieve the levels of workplace greatness to which the 100 best companies attest must start with their people—every single one of them. If they do that, then they have a chance at creating and maintaining a marvelous corporate culture.





THE NEW BUSINESS AGE IS HERE

April 15th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In addition to providing its momentous list, Fortune includes commentary on the cutting-edge trends that play into the very concept of the list. Part of the reason that these companies are so great to work for is that they understand what the new business age requires, not just in keystrokes and widgets, but more importantly in heartbeats and passion. They are deeply aware of what computers can and cannot do as well as what people can and cannot do. On the one hand, the new business age recognizes that although data remains valuable, it is not the ultimate goal:

Information, simple or complex, is instantly available online. Knowledge skills that must be learned—corporate finance, trigonometry, electrical engineering, coding—can be learned by anyone worldwide through online courses, many of them free. They can even be performed by a clever algorithm.” (p. 109)

On the other hand, the new business age demands that workers step above and beyond that data. Data will always be important. Information is always in demand. We have no argument on that. The open question however is will companies genuinely step up to the plate in meeting the challenges of this new day? It will require a different approach:

More and more major employers are recognizing that they need workers who are good at team building, collaboration, and cultural sensitivity . . . [T]he most effective teams are not those whose members boast the highest IQs, but rather those whose members are most sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.

This dovetails with what Daniel H. Pink wrote in his fascinating book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005). As we move from the Information Age (and the corresponding the need for left-brain thinking) into the Conceptual Age (and the corresponding need for right-brain thinking), Pink points out that the need for empathizers, synthesizers, storytellers, and meaning makers will rule the day, as will their companies. Not every person has those skills nor wants to acquire them.

This new business age brings with it certain opportunities yet certain perils. For those companies that have discovered how to navigate them, they shall likewise set themselves up to become one of the best places to work. For those companies that ignore the opportunities and the perils, they shall likewise set themselves up to become one of the worst places to work. It is time for companies to make their decisions.





THE REAL VALUE OF PEOPLE

April 14th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In In addition to its momentous list, Fortune included some of the latest research on human capital value. What is the real value of people? What do people genuinely add to a company’s value?

Survey data from Ocean Tomo (a consulting firm specializing in intellectual capital) identifies an interesting trend in American business. Human skill and creativity are what contribute to a company’s intangible assets such as copyrights, brands, goodwill, and patents (p. 109). In our high-tech, information-age, fast-paced, global economy, these intangible assets driven by human skill and creativity are what increasingly create value for companies.

Ocean Tomo helps us appreciate the numbers on this trend. If we look at intangible assets as a percentage of S&P 500 market value, we find a significant positive trend. In 1975, that percentage was 17. Today it is 84. Furthermore, the trend has not been a wild zigzag pattern; it is a very solid positive upward track.

These numbers underscore what we have all heard and what sometimes seems trite, yet it is so very true: Our employees are our greatest asset. The more companies recognize and respond to that truth, the better off everyone will be.





JOINING ONE OF THE BEST

April 13th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In the nearly two decades that Fortune has been researching and publishing this list, I have always found it to be interesting, insightful, and inspiring. Perhaps the list could be a starting point for your next career move. Therefore, I am summarizing the top ten companies on the list, along with another 20 from the list that particularly captured my attention. The accompanying spreadsheet will show you the rank on the list, the number of employees, and the number of open positions as of when the data was originally collected.

You can never know for sure exactly where or how your next career move might develop. So why not scan this subset from the list and see where it takes you? Should you decide to pursue a new position with one of these 100 best, don’t expect the application and screening process to be a walk in the park. These companies did not achieve this distinctive honor by taking whoever walked in the front door. Nevertheless, if one or more of these lights your fire, then go for it. It might just be your next big move!

[Click here for chart]





STEP UP TO THE CHALLENGE

April 10th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In addition to this momentous list, Fortune includes a powerful challenge. It is a challenge that every worker can embrace:

Think about taking an idea back to your workplace. If enough employees insist that their companies emulate the 100 Best Companies, the winners will be the companies and the people who work there. Our list is proof that it can be done.” (p. 143)

That is a valid point! The fact that we have this list proves it. We can learn so much from the companies on this list. However, what is better than just learning is taking action.

The same great ideas that these 100 companies have been implementing can be implemented in other workplaces. Don’t let just these 100 companies have all the fun. Research this list and find an idea that will fly with your employer. Sometimes, the best changes start at the grassroots.





THE NEW AGE OF RELATIONSHIP WORKERS

April 9th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In addition to its momentous list, Fortune included some of the latest research about the nature of jobs being created. Statistical data and observations summarized from McKinsey Global Institute and LinkedIn about new job creation in the United States from 2001 to 2009 show (p. 108):

  • Negative 2.7 million production jobs.
  • Negative 0.7 million transaction jobs.
  • Positive 4.8 million interaction jobs.
  • Knowledge is becoming commoditized. The most valuable people today are increasingly “relationship workers.”

This data dovetails with what Daniel H. Pink wrote in his fascinating book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005). As we move from the Information Age (and the corresponding the need for left-brain thinking) into the Conceptual Age (and the corresponding need for right-brain thinking), Pink points out how higher education and corporate recruiting are changing:

A master of fine arts, an MFA, is now one of the hottest credentials in a world where even General Motors is in the art business. Corporate recruiters have begun visiting the top arts grad schools—places such as the Rhode Island School of Design, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy of Art—in search of talent. . . . With applications climbing and ever more arts grads occupying key corporate positions, the rules have changed: the MFA is the new MBA.” (p. 54)

I love what Pink is asserting. Business skills are always important, but they will do more harm than good if misapplied. On the other hand, when someone can channel the business skills through the grid of the arts, design, and perceptions, then we have the opportunity to maximize all our products and services. We will not just be producing products and services that speak to the bottom line. Instead, we will be holistically creating products and services that so effectively speak to the human bottom line that the corporate bottom line benefits too. Talk about a win-win solution—this is it!

Industry trends further mirror these realities, as Pink cites:

Since 1970, the United States has 30 percent more people earning a living as writers and 50 percent more earning a living by composing or performing music. Some 240 U.S. universities have established creative writing MFA programs, up from fewer than twenty two decades ago. More Americans today work in arts, entertainment, and design than work as lawyers, accountants, and auditors.” (p. 55)

Our world will always need left-brain thinking. The important matter to remember though is that increasingly, left-brain work is being done cheaper and faster by overseas labor or stateside computers. Add to that the universal need for all people to maintain a sense of meaning, and the need for right-brain thinking is clear. This is why we have 4.8 million new jobs in interaction or the category of relationship workers.

Pink is correct. Production jobs and transaction jobs may be decreasing, but we increasingly will need people to fill the interaction jobs. We increasingly need the pattern recognizers, the creators, the synthesizers, the storytellers, the empathizers, and the meaning makers. These skillsets help everyone to tie it all together. These skillsets keep us from being deluged in information yet starved for knowledge.

I think part of the reason that some of the companies are on the 100 best workplaces list is because they have recognized how to provide relationship workers to their customers. These are the employees that will make their employers shine. These are the employees who are highly engaged. These are the employees who instinctively know what their customers want and need, and these are the employees who know how to deliver it.





MILLENNIAL MIGRATIONS AND CHALLENGES

April 8th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In addition to its momentous list, Fortune included some of the latest research on workers who are highly engaged in their current positions. Survey data from Gallup indicates that although engaged millennials now dominate the workforce, they are also the generation most likely to jump ship. Generationally, here are the comparative figures on the percentage of engaged employees who plan to change jobs as soon as the economy improves (p. 109):

  • Millennials—17%
  • Gen X—9%
  • Baby boomers—5%

Here are my observations on the trending:

Generational Expectations. The numbers align with typical generational expectations. The older you are, the less likely you are to change jobs. Reasons could include being established in your professional role, having fears about age discrimination, and being set in your ways. The younger you are, the more adventurous you are, and the more you are open to many fast changes as you orchestrate your career launch.

Millennial Mindset. Millennials in particular are known for their propensity for being more of a free agent, jumping from one project team to another. They have bought the message of seeking lifetime employability rather than lifetime job security. The changing nature of the job market with its growing temporary workforce has strengthened that expectation. Therefore, millennials will very likely be the first people to jump ship the moment they perceive a better opportunity.

Corporate-Culture Challenge. These circumstances present a fundamental corporate-culture challenge: How can a company change its corporate culture to align with much of what we find in Fortune’s 100 best workplaces? By studying how the top 100 have achieved their standing, any company can begin to make improvements. In so doing, perhaps that 17%-millennial propensity to jump ship soon will be mitigated. If so, then both the millennials and their current companies will be the clear winners. That is a challenge worth conquering.





GOING FOR EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

April 7th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In addition to its momentous list, Fortune included some of the latest research on employee engagement. Survey data from Gallup identifies an inverse correlation of employee engagement and company size. The research indicates (p. 109):

  • Employee engagement maximizes where interpersonal relationships thrive.
  • Companies of 5,000 employees and larger have an employee engagement rate of 29% and an actively disengaged rate of 20%.
  • Companies of less than 10 employees have an employee engagement rate of 42% and an actively disengaged rate of 5%.

Size matters, but the root cause is the opportunity level for professionals to strengthen their interpersonal relationships. Company size alone only tells us part of the story. Perhaps this is another case of the best beats the big (see “When the Best Beats the Big” Blog.reliableinsights.com, March 31, 2015). This raises some interesting and challenging questions:

  • What can companies do to enhance the quality and intensity of interpersonal relationships?
  • What will a large company have to do to build exceptionally great employee engagement?
  • Can the drivers of large-company growth be compatible with the drivers of exceptionally great employee engagement?





WHEN REPUTATIONS PRECEDE

April 6th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). In addition to its very interesting list, Fortune included some of the latest research on how job candidates are assessing prospective companies. Survey data from McKinsey Global Institute and LinkedIn identify the factors that drive professionals when considering a job change. Here are the results (p. 108):

  1. 56%—Has a reputation as a great place to work.
  2. 20%—Is known for great products and services.
  3. 17%—Has great people.
  4. 7%—Is prestigious.

Intuitively, I thought that I knew the answer to this question, but once I saw the data, it only sealed the deal. The most important factor in assessing a prospective employer is that the company has a reputation as being a great place to work. Great products, great services, great people, and corporate prestige are all important. Nevertheless, they are all outranked by the reputation of the company as a great place to work.

When it comes to human capital, every company has its work cut out for itself. A top-quality workplace will attract and retain top-quality people. Meanwhile, the labor pool does not need to be told what its top choice is for company attractiveness.