Each year the Top 100 Best Places to Work is generated by the Great Place to Work Institute and published by Fortune magazine. Although there is an element of self-selection and rankings disregard the distribution of this index across companies, the list of companies do present a group of companies with a discernable difference. This difference lies primarily with how employees of the companies are generally treated—benefits, training, autonomy, challenge. In short, it is a list of companies that acknowledge the importance of the people they employ.
The management literature on the beneficial effects of employee-centered management practices is quite clear: in the aggregate great place to work companies outperform the S&P 500 by about a 3 to 1 margin. While there are many factors that contribute to this performance, the likely common thread among the great places to work is the trust in the relationship between management and employees (i.e. partnership). That is, the underlying dynamic of the Great Place to Work Institute’s survey is trust.
Trust is reflected in the degree of collaboration, communication, respect, fairness, impartiality, justice, caring and integrity within the workplace. Further, pride in work, the ability to be ones’ self and relationship with fellow employees also comprise the index. It seems clear that the more the workplace aligns with our humanness, the more humanly and materially productive the organization will be. People need to be humanly productive through work, and not just materially productive at work.
Acknowledging, understanding and meeting these very human needs require an entirely different system of orientation. Accordingly, both material and non-material human needs should be very much a part of the purpose of the conduct of business. Since non-material needs are very much a part of each and every person’s life, it shouldn’t be surprising when they are met the company benefits, as well.
It is likely that if all companies, and not just those surveyed, provided these workplace qualities, creating such a list would be meaningless. It is only because there are so few that the list piques interest. It seems reasonable to ask, if trusting relationships are critically important (to both people and the organization), then why are so few companies managed in a people-centered way? Would such practice not reflect leadership?