If you were to ask people, "what makes a great company," you would get quite a variety of responses. It's one of those things that's hard to define but easy to identify if you are part of a great company. I've had the opportunity to interview, work and speak with some of the world's top business leaders to find out how they run their respective organizations and have noticed a few things that I wanted to share here. It's great to see what there are organizations such as Glassdoor and the Great Place To Work Institute that score and rank organizations around being a "best" or "great" place to work. Still, there many organizations that aren't on that list and are still wonderful places to work. Truly great companies have a "future-proof" advantage. So how can you tell if you are working for a truly great company? Here are five signs to look out for.
1. Managers Are Mentors
At great companies, managers act as coaches and mentors instead of as dictators and enforcers. In these types of organizations, the role of a manager is simply to remove obstacles from the paths of an employee so that the employee can succeed and grow. Unlike traditional organizations where managers sit at the top of the pyramid and wield their power, in great organizations managers sit at the bottom and help push people up to the top. One organization that does this well is Barry-Wehmiller. Their CEO, Bob Chapman, believes in creating a truly human organization, where their executive and management team is 100% focused on improving the lives of employees and supporting them in any way possible. I actually did a two-part interview with Bob that you can check out here and here. If the managers at your organization act as mentors, that's a sign you may be working for a truly great organization.
2. Vulnerability Is Seen As A Strength And Not A Weakness
At the typical organization vulnerability is seen a major weakness that others can exploit. You never want to admit you don't know something, can't do something or need help with something because you will be perceived as being frail or stupid. Oftentimes you are encouraged to leave your personal life at home and just show up to work in "business mode" all the time. It's as if we want employees to have multiple personalities where they act one way at home and another way at work, which is quite psychotic. Great organizations embrace and encourage vulnerability, which allows employees and managers to be who they truly are. Peter Aceto is the CEO of Tangerine (formerly ING Direct Canada) and he is one of the few executives in the world (and of a financial institution, mind you) who is able to admit when he is wrong, will show when he is happy or upset, and has no problem talking about his personal life. He doesn't act one way at home and another way at work and, as a result, employees are able to approach him and share anything with him. If your organization allows you to be who you are then that's a sign you may be working for a truly great company.
3. Transparency Is The Rule, Not The Exception
In most organizations you get access to information on a "need to know" basis. Those who sit at the top of the organization control the information and everyone else gets bits and pieces of it when deemed necessary. This makes communication, collaboration and, most importantly, trust, very difficult. This is reminiscent of working in a top secret government organization where any leak of information will cost you your job. In a world that's changing so rapidly we need the exact opposite approach -- we need more employees who have access to all and any information they need and want to have access to. At Spiceworks, the founder of the company makes anything and everything available and accessible to employees (unless he is legally not able to). This includes everything from sales numbers and investor presentations to business projections and overall market conditions impacting the business. In fact, Scott has all of his "top secret" meetings with an open door. He also hosts something called "slices with Scott," where he orders pizza for all of this employees and gives them the floor to ask him any question they want. This could range from "why don't you have kids" to "we've been reading that advertising revenue is in a slump, should we be worried about our jobs?" If your organization believes in and practices transparency, then that's a sign you may be working at a truly great company.
4. Investment In The Employee Experience
Employee Experience (EX) is the idea of creating an organization where people actually want to want to show up, not where they need to show up. The one big assumption that is crushing organizations right now is that they have always assumed people need to show up to work, which means that work has been focused on utility, the essentials needed to get your job done. Today, work is focused on much more than utility it is focused on experience which is crucial for organizations that want to attract and retain top talent. The experience is comprised of the physical, cultural and technological environments that make up the organization. This is a concept that I have shared here. Organizations like Marriott, Whirlpool, Airbnb, Cisco and others are all focusing on creating amazing employee experiences. If you are working at an organization that cares about designing employee experiences, then that's a great sign you are working at a truly great company.
5. Operating Like A Lab And Less Like A Factory
Factories are great at one thing -- maintaining the status quo. They are great at keeping everything the same while focusing on improving efficiency and productivity. Factories are very linear and static and there is very little focus on innovation, engagement, wellness or the like. This is why robots are so great for factories,where the same job can be done over and over again while maintaining the exact same standard across the board. This is how most of our organizations around the world have been built and it's an obsolete model of thinking about work. The great organizations think of themselves like laboratories, where employee can test ideas, experiment, embrace failure, take risks and learn new things. Adobe is a great example of this. At Adobe any employee can go through an innovation training program where they then get access to a $1,000 pre-paid credit card that they can use to build a prototype of their idea or concept. This then has the opportunity to get further funding. If your organization operates more like a lab and less like a factory, then chances are you are working for a truly great company.
These are some of the common themes that I have seen emerge at organizations around the world regardless of the size, geography or industry that they are in. Do you work for a truly great company? How can you tell?
Learn the proven & powerful concepts in today's most effective organizations with my free training series on Employee Experience here.