How Your Company Can Be A “Best Workplace” Contender

Being named to a workplace “Best of” list can be a positive recruiting and retention tool for employers. Earning these accolades can boost employee morale and increase company pride while also providing something that is easily promoted via social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, serving as a way to brand the company as a thriving and vibrant place to work.

There are many “Best of” workplace lists. Among the most popular is Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. Others include Crain’s New York Business Best Places to Work, Working Mother Magazine’s Best Companies for Working Moms, the Dave Thomas Foundation Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces and the Great Place to Work 100 Best Companies to Work For. In addition, there are numerous other local and regional Best of workplace lists, such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Top Workplaces in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Last year the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM.org) was named as a Washingtonian’s “50 Great Places to Work.”

Best workplace awards “can be attractive for recruiting and retention purposes as well as employee engagement,” says Lisa Orndorff, manager of employee relations and engagement at the Society for Human Resource Management. “Employees often take pride in knowing that they are part of a “best of” organization.”

Being named to a best company list doesn’t just happen. Each list has specific guidelines, processes and requirements that need to be met. In addition, a company has to dedicate the time and effort into providing the information needed to make a list. For small employers or those with limited HR staff, this can be a challenge.

What are the traits of a great place to work? Stacey Stratton, President of True Talent Group, a Twin Cities staffing firm that places marketing, creative and interactive talent, provided these tips in a recent blog post titled What Makes a Company a Best Place to Work?:

1. Employees at Best Companies feel genuinely appreciated. 
More specifically, they feel appreciated for more than their skills, which financially benefit their employers; they feel like leadership views their employees as people they really want to get to know.

Essentially this much is true: As much as workers value work/life balance, they still want to feel like they have an extended family at work rather than that they are cogs in a moneymaking machine.

2. Best Companies show they value their people with ongoing skills and knowledge development.
The creative, marketing and interactive industry is known for having a more laid-back work atmosphere, even with its fast pace. It’s no surprise that workers love fun perks like company parties and lighthearted traditions—think “Waffle Wednesday” or onsite dog grooming—but all the parties and free meals in the world won’t make up for a lack of development initiatives.

A universal theme continues to rear its head: Unique perks can set you apart, but you better back them up with substance like ongoing development initiatives.

3. Employees of Best Companies view their leaders more as a mentor than a manager.
The popular productivity app company Asana, no stranger to “Best Employer” lists, claims that they are a group of peers: “In our office, we treat everyone as a peer, with kindness, love and respect.” No doubt there are clearly appointed managers and leaders; however, the pervasive attitude is one of respect.

Today’s talent expects their leaders to be honest, accountable and authentic. What sort of language are your leaders speaking?

4. The Best Companies to work for offer flexibility—and reap the rewards.
Today’s talent thrives on flexibility. They want flexibility in how they work, when they work and where they work. Google’s “20 percent time”—where employees were encouraged to work on what they want 20 percent of the time—got a lot of notoriety. The company found that it led to their people leveraging their best creative output when they were working on their passions on their time. Additionally, more and more studies are supporting the idea that employees who work from home are more efficient.

Are there negatives to being named to such a list?

“The only negative I can see is trying to maintain the achievement and continuing to provide the best possible working environment, competitive pay, flex work arrangements, job growth and development opportunities and benefits regardless of the economic climate,” says Orndorff.

Arik Hanson, principal of ACH Communications, a Minneapolis-based digital communications consultancy, knows what it’s like to be on lists. He was named one of the top 100 PR people worth following on Twitter by Valeria Maltoni and one of the top 50 PR professionals to follow on Twitter by Everything PR. He discussed the value and benefit of best of lists in his blog post titled Are ‘best workplace’ lists really worth the time for PR folks?

Said Hanson: “If I were currently looking for a full-time job (and I’m not, just to be clear), the first thing I would do before interviewing with company X or company Y is to turn to my friends and colleagues who have experience with these firms and ask them first-hand: “What’s it like over there?” Word-of-mouth still trumps awards like this in the talent search process. Now, you could make an argument that Workplace honors like this figure in, and could be the X factor in a final decision. But, I would still argue good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth still beats it 9 times out of 10. My philosophy: Focus on running a business that prides itself on caring and treating its employees with respect, and doing great work, and you’ll be just fine–and you won’t need any awards to set yourself apart from the competition.”

Orndorff said if a company is named to a list it’s particularly important that the company’s leadership acknowledge the achievement and remember to thank the employees for making the company a “best of” or “great place to work.”

And when it’s all said done, accolades or not, “it doesn’t matter how great the benefits or pay might be, it’s the people and their contributions that make someplace a best of,” says Orndorff.

What it all comes down to is, being a good employer means the company values it’s people, says Stratton.

“A company is nothing without their people, so it’s clear that top companies have the top talent, and they offer them the tools to help them produce great, innovative work,” says Stratton.

What’s your experience? How has making a “Best of” or “Great Place to Work” list helped your company? How important is it to make these lists? What are some solutions that have worked for your company if a staff is small and there isn’t enough resources to put in the work needed to be considered for a list? Comment below.

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Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via resumesbymatt.com, connect with him on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mattkrumrie/) and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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