The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work

Today I received s copy of the latest HBR missive entitled, The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work by Tony Schwartz. Thinking to myself, “This could be interesting, I wonder how we stack up?” I began to read. As I read I began to wonder what our employees would make of the list. Initially thinking that we are a good firm with great values that we honestly try to live up to, I wasn’t worried about how we would rate. However, as I read further into the document, I realised that we are missing the mark on so many points. Admittedly, we are a small 25 person company and a significant part of the list is way out of our budget (providing a gym and encouraging employees to use it) but, I am not sure that I could, hand on heart, say that I am doing enough to make sure we are a truly great place to work.
The challenge for me is, now that I have recognised the problem, to do something about it.

The 12 attributes are:

  1. Commit to paying every employee a living wage… We clearly score well here. Our salary and benefits package is in line with market expectations.
  2. Give all employees a stake in the company’s success. If the company does well, all employees should share in the success, in meaningful ways… I’m working on it but still have a long, long way to go.
  3. Design working environments that are safe, comfortable and appealing to work in. In offices, include a range of physical spaces that allow for privacy, collaboration, and simply hanging out… Again, we are actively trying to achieve this but space, landlord and budget constraints make it really tough!
  4. Provide healthy, high quality food, at the lowest possible prices, including in vending machines… Sadly, this is not on our radar. Feeling is that we are too small to make any option viable. Any ideas?
  5. Create places for employees to rest and renew during the course of the working day… I understand the concept and the reasoning but again, I can’t figure out a workable solution.
  6. Offer a well equipped gym and other facilities that encourage employees to move physically and stay fit… Initially, I thought this to be impossible for a small firm. However, there are several Gym’s locally, even one in our building, so I am off to try to negotiate a preferential rate!
  7. Define clear and specific expectations for what success looks like in any given job. Then, treat employees as adults by giving them as much autonomy as possible to choose when they work, where they do their work, and how best to get it accomplished… With my Managing Director’s hat on, I can stand up and say “of course, that is exactly what we do.” However, in all honesty, we pay a large amount of lip service to this. I am resolved to correcting the situation.
  8. Institute two-way performance reviews, so that employees not only receive regular feedback about how they’re doing, in ways that support their growth, but are also given the opportunity to provide feedback to their supervisors, anonymously if they so choose, to avoid recrimination… Very difficult in a small firm. However, we do have a culture of encouraging openness and honesty so I think we meet this objective in a different way.
  9. Hold leaders and managers accountable for treating all employees with respect and care… Often, in a small firm, it is easy to forget this when you are in the cut and thrust of closing and delivering a big deal. However, on the whole, I think we are ok on this attribute.
  10. Create policies that encourage employees to set aside time to focus without interruption on their most important priorities, including long-term projects and more strategic and creative thinking… Tough! Small firm=deadlines & cash flow concerns. We focus on utilisation and improving the realisation of that utilisation. Perhaps I need to revisit this to better understand the effect of that behaviour on the wider team?
  11. Provide employees with ongoing opportunities and incentives to learn, develop and grow,.. We do what we can but I feel that there needs to be a critical mass before you can truly meet this objective.
  12. Stand for something beyond simply increasing profits… One of our core values is that we are all responsible for giving something back to the wider community. In small ways we do this, through charitable giving and other activities, but more needs to be done to truly meet this objective!

I will leave you with the three questions posed at the bottom of Tony’s HBR paper:

  1. How does your company measure up?
  2. What’s the impact on your performance?
  3. Which needs would your company have to meet for you to be more fully engaged?

About Peter Borner

Peter is an entrepreneur and successful business leader. Currently leading a consultancy firm specialising in technical diligence for M&A and advising global firms on IT consolidation and migration to consumption based costing through the use of Cloud Technologies.

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Kate Leikin
Kate Leikin

Hi Pete, great article and nice blog, but i don't think you need a huge budget... even though it's nice to have gym and vending machines, or even restaurant! The most important - treating people with respect should always come first to profit, regardless of deadlines. Without people who do the work there is NO deal, and you gain much more in the long run :) And I know you're good at this! Thanks for all your help during my visit in London. Best regards from NY! :))