100 Best Companies to Work For

What makes a workplace a 'Great Place'?

November 29, 2013: 8:24 AM ET

Advice on making your employees more productive and more engaged, from the Great Place to Work Institute.

By Brandon Southward

130325151948-wharton-west-study-620xaFORTUNE -- According to Gallup's 2013 State of American Workplace Report, only 30% of the 100 million American workers who work full-time are actively engaged in their work. This lack of engagement can lead to lost productivity to the tune of $450 billion to $550 billion annually, the report states.

How can employers, especially those managing workers in multiple countries and cultures, combat the ennui? We asked China Gorman, CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute to help us understand, well, what makes a a company a great place to work. Gorman is especially qualified to help employers think about improving their workplaces and bolstering employee satisfaction. Gorman spent many years as the chief operating officer of the Society for Human Resource Management, and her current organization helps produce Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For, and more recently, The 25 Best Global Companies to Work For.

Creating "one culture"

"The world's best workplaces face the daunting task of creating 'one workplace culture' from the myriad of local cultures in which they operate," Gorman says. All successful organizations or companies have mastered the art of creating this culture. These organizations take in talented people, mold their identities, and assimilate them into their organization's way of life. For the Yankees, the most successful baseball franchise in history, it's called the "Yankee Way." To be a Yankee means to be professional off the field and clutch on it. Similar sports models include the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA and the New England Patriots in the NFL. To be a part of these teams is to be welcomed into their culture, shaped and enhanced to fit into the larger framework of the organization.

At Google (GOOG) (No. 1 on the 25 Best Global Companies ranking), Gorman says culture is the idea of being "Googley": "No matter where in the world, employees, or 'Googlers' as they are called, work. They universally understand that to be 'Googley' is to be unique, true to yourself, collaborative, and comfortable being around people that may be smarter than you." Creating "one workplace culture" also extends to setting individual goals, toward which every member strives to achieve.

MORE: Should you reveal a disability during a job search?

At FedEx (FDX) (No. 20), Purple Promise Rewards are handed out to 25 FedEx employees who go above and beyond in providing customer service. At a ceremony, the 25 employees are recognized with a lapel pin and trophy. "The Purple Promise encompasses FedEx's vision and strategy, but is, more importantly, the promise from every employee that they will consistently deliver an outstanding customer experience," Gorman says.

Global communications

In order for a company to thrive, both company leaders and their employees must be on the same page, with a sense that they are all working together toward a common goal. Direct and open communication is essential for this. Gorman points to manufacturing firm SC Johnson (No. 19) as an example of excellence in communicating with employees. "SC Johnson, wanting to be open and transparent with their employees, recently printed and distributed a 50-page guide on the company's long-term objectives to each employee," Gorman says.

MORE: Mars Incorporated: A pretty sweet place to work

Such inclusion allows companies to be successful because it facilitates trust between employee and workplace. Being one of the most successful companies in the world, Google also exhibits this core value. "Google hosts a weekly town hall meeting known as TGIF -- which is a bit of a misnomer, since the meeting is now on Thursdays so team members in Asia can remotely attend. Employees from anywhere in the world can submit questions for the speakers to address," Gorman says.

Creating human connections

Employers must continue to find ways to leverage changing technology to allow their companies to prosper. When it comes to the World's Best Companies, their ability to envision and create technology makes them successful, but success ultimately lies in remembering that, after all, human connections are what set a company apart from others. "These companies also keep an eye on how to facilitate human interactions, whether through the use of technology, global training opportunities, job exchanges, social networks, and more." Gorman says.

Autodesk (ADSK) (No. 11) has a unique way of doing this. Gorman points to its innovative job program as a means for employees to understand and be inspired by common threads: "Autodesk offers employees face-to-face interaction through a job swap program, in which employees with similar roles swap lives (jobs, homes, and cars) for a set period of time."

SAS (No. 2) has used technology to maintain employee ties; its internal social platform the Hub "connects employees through a social networking function, blogs from leaders and gives the ability to ask questions or leave comments during webcasts and town halls," says Gorman.

She believes these types of initiatives help to build a sense of connection among employees no matter where they are working: "These companies excel at creating 'teams' out of global employees and have great practices in place to enable more personal interactions among employees who may be half a world away."

  • How Marriott held on to staffers through tough times

    Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson talks about expanding in China, appealing to young travelers, and the business case for being a Best Company to Work For.

    FORTUNE -- Arne Sorenson is the first person of non-Marriott lineage to lead this global hotel franchise. He became CEO of Marriott (No. 64 on this year's Best Companies to Work For list) in March 2012, but had been working for the company since the spring MORE

    - Jan 24, 2013 9:46 AM ET
  • A workplace gone to the dogs

    At Mars's pet-care unit, on-the-job canines are a happy employee's best friend.

    By Anne VanderMey and David A. Kaplan

    FORTUNE -- Not everything is about chocolate.

    Snickers got the Super Bowl ad with Betty White, but it's Mars's 78-year-old pet-care division that is the company's biggest business, employing nearly half its employees worldwide. In the southern suburbs of Nashville at its headquarters, it's easy to observe a culture interlaced with the larger MORE

    Jan 17, 2013 12:06 PM ET
  • Mars Incorporated: A pretty sweet place to work

    From free candy to pet-friendly perks, working at America's third-largest private company is a toothsome gig. An exclusive look at the secretive empire of Mars Incorporated.

    By David A. Kaplan, contributor

    FORTUNE -- Sshh! Don't look suspicious. Keep your head down. We're on our way to a really secret organization in suburban Virginia just outside Washington, D.C. As we drive along Dolley Madison Boulevard, don't bother looking at the razor wire, MORE

    Jan 17, 2013 7:24 AM ET
  • Low key, high quirk

    At Plante Moran there are no back massages, just lots of freedom—and plenty of antics.

    By Erika Fry

    Not long ago, Plante Moran, the midsized Midwestern accounting firm, celebrated the removal of its ampersand. That may sound like a wacky stunt you'd expect from a certain paper supply company in Scranton, PA depicted in the hit show "The Office." But Plante Moran is no Dunder Mifflin; in fact it's a perennial MORE

    Jan 17, 2013 7:00 AM ET
  • Want to hire great people? Hire consciously.

    In an exclusive excerpt from their book, Conscious Capitalism, Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey and Raj Sisodia illustrate the recipe for workplace success: It's one part collaboration and one part friendly competition.

    By John Mackey and Raj Sisodia

    Conscious companies take great care in the initial hiring. It's much harder today to remedy hiring mistakes than it used to be, so companies should invest a great deal of time and effort MORE

    Jan 17, 2013 7:00 AM ET
  • Looking for the 100 Best Companies to Work For?

    Find it exclusively in your iTunes store.

    Who is #1 on Fortune's annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For? Today, you can only find out in one place: On Fortune's iPad app. Download it now to get exclusive access to the winners: http://bit.ly/13nvAsi

    Come back to Fortune.com on Thursday morning for more Best Companies coverage, including an interactive "Perk Finder," a list of the top-paying companies, a gallery of the MORE

    Jan 16, 2013 7:40 AM ET
  • Best Companies: The quiz

    Does your employer belong in the pantheon? Could it be that the answer depends on where you stand?

    By Stanley Bing

    FORTUNE -- We've done our best to identify corporations that are a pleasure to work for. But we couldn't possibly list them all. Maybe your company, too, is a party on a half shell! Take this quiz and find out.

    When I go to work in the morning, I ...

    A. Smile MORE

    Feb 8, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.