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.