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.