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What to look for in a great place to work

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

Most organizations of a reasonable size fall well short of maintaining happy workers and achieving high productivity. In my own observations over 25 years, a top employer is rare to find. Despite great advances in management training and in technology, most companies still don’t succeed – for many reasons.

How does your employer rate? And what can you do as a communicator to improve it?

What does make a great workplace? The Great Place to Work Institute says engagement is the key. High engaged workplaces have employees who:

  • go beyond the minimum
  • willingly help others, even if it is not their job to do so
  • go ‘above and beyond’ for their customers
  • fix problems and suggest improvements to the way things are done
  • feel supported by and trust their immediate managers
  • have confidence in the senior leadership and direction of the organization

Why seek to have engaged employees? They move the organization forward. Un-engaged workers basically sleepwalk through their workday, putting time but not energy, into their work. Actively disengaged workers cause damage their employer by actively undermining their own expected work and the work of others. Only around 15% of workers worldwide are engaged at work, thus causing their employees billions of dollars of opportunity cost. It is a shocking situation.

The institute selected the world’s best employers from 6,000 companies in 45 countries, who were employing 12 million workers, thus making the annual study the largest of its kind in the world.

The Institute’s latest survey, conducted in 2013, revealed the 10 top multinational companies in the world to work for are:

  • Google – IT/ISP
  • SAS – IT
  • NetApp – IT
  • Microsoft – IT/software
  • Gore – chemicals
  • Kimberly-Clark – personal and household goods
  • Marriott – hospitality/hotel/resort industry
  • Diageo – food products and beverages
  • National Instruments – electronics
  • Cisco - IT

Great workplaces are built through the day-to-day relationships that employees experience. The key factor in common in these relationships is trust.

Trust is the defining principle of great workplaces — created through management’s credibility, the respect with which employees feel they are treated, and the extent to which employees expect to be treated fairly. The degree of pride and levels of authentic connection and companionship employees feel with one another are additional essential components.

From an employee’s perspective, a great workplace is one where they:

  • trust the people they work for;
  • have pride in what they do; and
  • enjoy the company of the people they work with.

From a manager’s perspective, a great workplace is one where they:

  • achieve organizational objectives;
  • work with employees who give their personal best; and
  • work together as a team/family in an environment of trust

There are nine ways – or practice areas – where leaders and managers create an environment of trust. Great workplaces achieve organizational goals by inspiring, speaking and listening. They have employees who give their personal best by thanking, developing and caring. And they work together as a team/family by hiring, celebrating and sharing.

How does management achieve credibility? By consistency, fairness, modelling desired behavior, maintaining good values and treating employees with respect. Good communication is central to all of this by directly influencing three key drivers of employee engagement:

  1. Employees’ relationship with their supervisor or manager
  2. Line of sight – the extent to which an employee can see how their work contributes to the whole organization
  3. Involvement – knowing their opinion counts and can be heard.

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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