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Expert: Want to be one of the ‘Best Workplaces’? Better have these 8 things



Awards and recognition – like Great Place To Work’s “Best Workplaces” lists – can help attract and retain talent, which is top of mind for many HR pros amidst an uncertain economy. The recognition and public call-out can help bring top talent in – and following through on the values and culture that earned recognition will help retain them. 

What makes this particular recognition stand out? Being named one of the “Best Workplaces” is so vital because it relies on employee feedback and surveys – the most qualified group to decide what is or isn’t a great place to work. 

What makes the ‘Best Workplaces’?

It’s easy to provide simple upsell perks like pizza parties, free coffee or casual Fridays. But, as most employees know, those temporary measures don’t sustain the values of a top-tier workplace in the long run. 

After all, burnt-out employees need a lot more than a one-time event; what they really need are core values that put employees at the forefront and an authentic culture that puts those values into action.    

Cheryl Stokes, CEO of CNEXT has worked with some of the top companies, many of whom are considered one of the “Best Workplaces,” including Starbucks, The Coca-Cola Company and Nike. Stokes has identified eight traits that can turn a workplace into one of the “Best Workplaces” – and shares practical tips for how HR can help implement them.

1.  Strong company values

A clear set of values is the foundation of a great place to work: it can help attract the right candidates and cultivate the right culture. “A clear set of company values helps guide decision-making, prioritize behaviors and foster trust,” says Stokes. “Values signal to employees how they are expected to behave, communicate and perform.”

HR’s role: Core values are an important part of any workplace – and your employees should know that and share the same sentiment. “Emphasizing the importance of and actively promoting core values helps create a culture aligning with the company’s mission, vision, and brand,” says Stokes. 

2. Culture of inclusion and innovation

A strong culture that reflects company values and prioritizes essential areas like diversity, belonging, integrity, trust and collaboration can be one of the most important elements of the “Best Workplaces.” No matter what industry you’re in, a solid culture will promote continued development for employees and the business.

Plus, a culture that doesn’t align with employee expectations can be detrimental, causing mistrust and disengagement that may eventually lead to turnover. 

HR’s role: Culture is a continuous project – and it may change with time. To stay on top of what employees need, prioritize listening and feedback. If your culture isn’t aligned with what employees need, consider making small changes to shift the culture without causing a major cultural disruption. 

3.  Supportive and collaborative colleagues

“A supportive work environment makes it easier to achieve professional goals, promotes learning and growth, and contributes to job satisfaction,” says Stokes. “Collaboration allows for sharing skills, expertise and insights, which can lead to better performance and outcomes.” 

Plus, strong bonds between colleagues can increase belonging and lead to cohesion among your workforce – an essential for any company wanting to be considered one of the “Best Workplaces.”

HR’s role: To promote collaboration among colleagues, coordinate with managers to provide mentoring opportunities – even if it’s on a smaller scale – to help build relationships and spark professional growth. 

4.  Opportunities for personal and professional development

Employees who feel like they’re growing – both personally and professionally – and feel encouraged to do so at their workplace can help them stay engaged and feel supported.

Plus, providing opportunities for employee development may help you identify future leaders: “They can be considered an investment in employees’ futures, which helps to motivate employees to take on new challenges and leadership roles,” says Stokes. 

HR’s role: Employee development is a crucial part of any “Best Workplace.” Provide ample opportunities for learning & development. Consider offering training for different business areas to employees in other departments to help upskill your workforce. 

5.  Work-life balance

A healthy work-life balance can seem like a faraway dream for some, especially since the widespread adoption of remote work. But the importance of a healthy work-life balance can’t be understated; it leads to greater job satisfaction, improved creativity and productivity and better overall health.  

“Flexibility is necessary to balance work and family responsibilities and support mental health and well-being,” says Stokes. 

HR’s role: Create or revise policies to promote a healthy work-life balance – such as flexible scheduling, minimum PTO policies or mental health days. Make sure managers are embracing it themselves and encouraging it for their team. “[A healthy work-life balance] must be modeled from the top down, setting the tone for a culture that actively encourages and supports this approach,” says Stokes. 

6.  Meaningful work and a sense of purpose

An employee who feels like their work is meaningful and has a sense of purpose report improved job satisfaction and company loyalty – plus, it may help retention, too.

When company values and personal values align, it can increase meaning even more. “A company’s brand, reputation and values can align with individual values and meaning, leading to a greater purpose in work,” says Stokes. 

HR’s role: Ensure your company has a larger vision and purpose – and make it clear to employees and potential hires. “A clear mission helps employees understand how their work contributes to company goals,” says Stokes.

7.  Flexibility and autonomy in decision-making

Handing over autonomy to the employee can help them feel empowered and motivated. “Flexibility in decision-making allows employees to make decisions based on their experiences, knowledge and expertise, improving overall job performance and job satisfaction,” says Stokes.

HR’s role: Decisions shouldn’t be left up to senior leaders alone because it provides no opportunity for growth and development for less experienced employees. “Encouraging decision-making at all organizational levels reinforces the importance of individual contributions to the overall team’s success,” says Stokes. 

8.  Clear communication and transparency

Employees who don’t get clear communication – or worse, no communication at all – can be left feeling unmotivated and unempowered. “A culture of clear communication fosters trust and improves overall communication within the organization,” says Stokes. “Demonstrating the importance of clear communication and transparency from leadership sets the tone for the organization’s culture.”

HR’s role: Communication is one of HR’s essential roles, and prioritizing it can really pay off and help boost your company to become a “Best Workplace.” “Regularly providing updates on company goals, accomplishments, and challenges helps employees understand their work’s context and impact,” says Stokes. 

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