You may have given up on becoming one of the best places to work because you can’t afford to offer the crazy-expensive perks you’ve read about over the past few years. If so, you’ll be happy to know that now the best companies, the ones with the strongest engagement scores, prioritize the most human elements of work. This, according to the latest Inc. and Quantum Workplace research. They found that based on employees’ opinions about work, organizational health is at an all-time high, creating a “different playbook from a decade ago.”
Oh yes, the free meals, training with celebrities, foosball games, and massages are still around, mainly in the large corporations—still appreciated, but no longer necessary. The human component, what I call “the love,” is something we can all offer employees—with equal footing. And it doesn’t cost a penny. That is good news for middle-market companies.
As Big Sea, a Florida marketing and web design company high on the 2019 Inc. Best Workplaces list explains: “There is no work-life balance; it’s all just life.” So they make self-care, including vacation and volunteer time, as important as their business goals. This kind of culture marks a change from past practices for most companies. And it requires, once again, a new mindset in order to stay competitive in the ever-growing talent war.
One important “trend” that came out of the study is that 99 percent of the 2,000 companies surveyed, which were diverse in both size and industry, offer health insurance, and some cover the cost. Given that fact, every company must consider what’s possible to offer employees in terms of health care. It’s a rare mid-market company that can offer generous health benefits, much less cover the full cost. Do what you can, and then focus on the love that you can offer for free. It makes a difference.
What The Best Mid-market Companies Are Doing Right Now
Partnering with Statista, Forbes breaks out middle market companies from its overall ranking of America’s best employers, with similar results to what Inc/Quantum Workforce found. Check out the examples below. How do your practices stack up with the best of the best? You may see signs that you’re on the right track to engage today’s employees, and you may pick up some innovative ideas that you can add to developing your unique culture. Meeting employee expectations and developing an engaging culture is not an option. In addition, create a well-thought-out and strategic workplace environment that reflects both who you are and at the same time provides some much-needed workplace love. This will be a major factor in moving you to the top tier of companies, no matter your size or industry.
The top mid-market company on Forbes list is Massachusetts-based TripAdvisor. Here are some of the things Chief People Officer, Beth Grous, says about the company: “For any employer to really win the talent war, you have to have a good employee experience and a workplace that is tightly integrated with your brand … Just as personalization is central to the company’s product, it is core to the corporate culture, and that has made all the difference … The company’s primary talent pipeline—referrals, by a wide margin—is evidence that TripAdvisor has succeeded in cultivating a good employee experience … TripAdvisor’s commitment to career development isn’t just talk—it’s written in stone, or rather, the company’s core values. We have a set of six core values, one of which is ‘We never stop learning’ …
TripAdvisor takes care to ensure that employees understand exactly how they fit into the bigger picture; people feel like they are making a difference every day.”
With all of that positivity, I do know two millennials with different experiences working for Trip Advisor. One left after six months because she wasn’t comfortable in what was to her a large company environment. The other is still there after two and half years and loves the company’s flexibility. No matter how good your culture is, it will not be a fit for everyone. One size never fits all. With this mind, Trip Advisor serves as a model for what to consider when building a great culture, including many things I’ve advocated for years. Following is additional insight from a sampling of how various employees of “best” companies describe their workplaces:
- Amazing leadership with integrity and high value placed on work-life balance
- Emphasis on autonomy, purpose, and mastery
- Rewarding work and management that recognizes and rewards employee efforts
- Provides the tools needed to succeed while having a great work/life balance
- Lots of training and support that sets employees up for success
- Looks for reasons to celebrate with parties, charity events, and other occasions
- Flexible work schedules, always striving to improve the work experience
- Treats employees like human beings; sticks with you with no hesitation
- Open, fun atmosphere where work gets done and strong relationships are built
- Transparent and collaborative culture with opportunity to grow and learn
- Fun activities that break up demanding jobs and take care of employees
- Approachable management that tries very hard to create a fun and fulfilling place to work
- Great culture, great coworkers, good pay, weekends off—and management that cares about employee happiness and work/life balance
- Environment that exudes a family culture and friendly people who are happy to be here
- A culture of safety, environmental protection and social responsibility that starts and ends with employees
- No shortage of opportunity combined with development programs and growth
- Rewards for people who work hard
- Provide employees with the same level of care and compassion as clients, building a supportive and respectful workplace culture—and business success
- Truly value work/life balance and employee time away from work
- Passion about our work while creating a lasting and sustainable impact to our community
Taken together, these comments describe what employees in our 2019 workplaces want, and I recommend incorporating as many as you believe fit into your culture. According to Business Insider, the average American spends about 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime, and 80 percent of them are dissatisfied with their work. Even if you can’t make the actual job more palatable, you have the power to create a workplace where people want to be. It’s time to make the investment, and it doesn’t have to break the budget.