What Makes a Company a Great Place to Work?

Strap in, folks—because in the rollercoaster world of today's job market (get me off because I wanna hurl), it's not just about clinching success; it's the how that really separates the good from the truly great companies. 

And not just the great ones. I mean the standout places where every employee walks in feeling valued, stays engaged and is fully tuned into the company's grand vision. Like me at Compt, where the running joke is that I’m sewing all of our robes and absolutely drinking the Kool-Aid. No, not actually a cult. That would be wild to pitch you, an HR person. I’m trying to evoke the feeling you get at a workplace where you're not just another cog in the machine but a key player in a thrilling mission. You actually matter and a company cares about you as much as you care about it. 

Sounds like the gold at the end of a rainbow. In this article, you get to be the leprechaun. Or unicorn. Whatever magical being resonates with you.

Oh, and– this will be a longer piece because there’s a lot to unpack here. 

Here’s the overview:

  • Culture
  • Leadership & Communication
  • Benefits & Wellness
  • Professional Development
  • Employee Autonomy
  • Employee Recognition
  • Social Responsibility

Culture: The Heartbeat of the Workplace

What really makes a workplace tick? Think about it. It's not just about snagging a paycheck (although super important) or hitting those deadlines—it's the vibe, the soul, the je ne sais quoi of the place. 

I’m talking about company culture that's all about inclusivity, diversity, and team spirit. And not the buzzword kind. The kind of place where you're not just allowed to speak up but encouraged to share your wildest ideas and thoughts. That's the gold standard, right there.

Who is your model company for this? Whose culture do you have a crush on or one you’re jealous of and want to emulate? How do they do it? 

They create environments where people can be authentic and make sure everyone feels like they belong and that their contributions matter. Because, let's face it, we all want to feel like we're part of something bigger, right? It's not just about making the workplace a fun zone. I’m not talking about companies with whacky chairs, ping-pong tables, and a slide instead of an elevator.

It's about striking that sweet spot between getting stuff done and having a blast while doing it. Google and Zappos have shown us that it's totally possible to slay those goals while keeping the vibes chill and supportive. They're living proof that when you create a culture that celebrates everyone's unique flair, you're not just building a team; you're building a powerhouse.

Leadership and Communication: The Pillars of Trust

Leaders who aren’t just bosses but real-deal, genuine humans who lead with their hearts and smarts. We're talking about those rare gems who are all about transparency, integrity, and giving you that “heck yes, let’s do this” kind of inspiration.

Great leaders speak the language of authenticity. They're the ones setting the vibe, making sure everyone’s on the same wavelength for a no-BS, open-dialogue kind of environment. It’s like they’re the DJs of the workplace, mixing the tracks of trust and motivation, getting everyone on the dance floor, and making sure the party doesn’t stop (and the drop is always fire).

When employees feel that real connection, that “my leader’s got my back” feeling, it changes the game. Trust isn’t just a buzzword; it’s the secret sauce that makes people want to give their all. They’re more dialed in, more pumped to jump into the fray because they know their leaders are leading not from behind a desk but right there in the trenches with them. It’s a fact – when trust isn’t there, neither is engagement.

When trust is the foundation and communication is the pillar, you're not just building a team; you’re building a workplace of people who are all in, ready to take on the world together.

Benefits and Wellness: Beyond the Basics

Diving deeper into what sets apart truly great companies, we find that they're not just ticking boxes with the standard fare of health insurance and vacation days (which are never enough, to be honest). They're crafting a work environment that holistically nurtures their team's well-being, recognizing that the health of their employees is intricately linked to the vibrancy and productivity of the workplace. 

Companies that lead the charge are offering a treasure trove of wellness benefits that go above and beyond. They aren’t just paying lip service to the idea of employee well-being; they integrate this ethos into the operational DNA, providing resources that cater to the physical, mental, and financial health of its employees. From on-site gyms and mindfulness zones to comprehensive health coverage that includes mental health services, a health & wellness stipend to empower unique fitness journeys, or a student loan repayment stipend to keep the crippling stress of debt off their shoulders. The best companies commit to the holistic well-being of employees.

Speaking of stress – I want to touch on the balance of engagement and overengagement. You know, how tuning in too much can burn you out. 

As we pivot to the digital domain, the importance of Digital Wellness Programs cannot be overstated, especially in an era where remote work is not just a trend but a mainstay. The digital workplace, while offering flexibility and autonomy, also brings challenges like digital overload and screen fatigue, which can significantly impact mental health and productivity.

Forward-thinking companies are tackling these challenges head-on by implementing innovative digital wellness initiatives. These could range from digital detox challenges that encourage employees to unplug and recharge to workshops and seminars focused on strategies for managing digital distractions, enhancing focus, and promoting a healthy digital work-life balance. You can either provide direct access or provide the stipend funds to digital tools and platforms that support mental health, such as meditation apps or online counseling services. Either way, you’re demonstrating a comprehensive approach to employee well-being in the digital workspace.

I have more specifics for you.

  • "No Meeting Days" (some of us at Compt subscribe to this on Mondays) or "Email-Free Fridays" to combat digital fatigue and give employees the space to dive into deep work without the constant ping of notifications
  • Software tools that help manage screen time or remind employees to take breaks, reinforcing the idea that productivity should not come at the cost of health.

And I could write a whole section on this, but to spare you from stuff you’ve already heard and know…

Encouraging work-life balance is essential. Whether through flexible schedules, remote work options, or ensuring reasonable workloads, respecting personal time is key to employee satisfaction.

Professional Development: Fuel for Growth

Every one of us is silently (or not so silently) thinking about it: growing up and glowing up in our jobs. 

This is where the magic of having access to training, mentorship, and those shiny career paths comes into play. It’s the difference between just showing up and actually showing off what you’re capable of.

Think about it. When a company is all in on helping its people get better at their game—be it through workshops that actually don’t bore you to death, mentors who know their stuff and don’t hoard it, or a clear shot at moving up without having to play corporate Hunger Games—it’s a total game-changer. In fact, 94 percent of employees would stay longer if their companies invested in staff development. It’s not just about keeping folks around; it’s about making sure everyone’s pumped to grow and bring their A-game.

Professional development is what turns a job into a journey. 

Now, let’s talk stipends because - let’s be real - learning new tricks and leveling up isn’t always cheap. The real MVP companies out there know this, and they’re stepping up by offering professional development stipends. We’re talking about a pot of gold (okay, budget) specifically for you to attend workshops and conferences or even snag that shiny new certification that makes your LinkedIn profile pop.

And speaking of certifications, whether you’re looking to become a certified project manager, a wizard in coding, or a guru in digital marketing, these stipends can cover the costs of exams, prep courses, and even the membership fees for professional associations. It’s like your company is sponsoring your quest to become the hero of your own career saga.

So, when we say professional development turns a job into a journey, we mean a journey where you’re equipped with the best, shiniest gear and armor (aka knowledge and skills), funded by your very own fellowship (your employer), ready to slay dragons (career challenges) and unlock new realms of possibility (career growth and opportunities).

Employee Autonomy and Decision-Making

Before you clutch your pearls, this isn’t about letting the office turn into the Wild West; it’s about trust, empowerment, and treating employees like the VIPs they are in the grand scheme of things. It’s about saying, “Hey, we believe in you, and your ideas matter.” Yeehaw.

Here’s the lowdown: when companies give their teams a real say in the decisions that shape their work and the company's journey, it’s a game changer. It’s like acknowledging that the people who deal with the daily grind have some gold nugget insights on how to make things better, smoother, and maybe even more fun. It turns employees from just passengers to co-pilots of the company jet (where everyone deserves to sit in the same class, btw).

Breeding a sense of ownership means voices don’t just echo in a void; their ideas have weight, and shape policies, projects, and even the company culture. That kind of empowerment can light a fire under even the most Monday-morning of us, driving engagement and passion for the company’s mission and goals.

This trust isn’t just feel-good fluff; it’s a strategic move. Employees who feel empowered to make decisions and contribute their ideas tend to be more invested in their work and the company’s outcomes. A Gallup survey found that highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable. They’re the ones who stay late, not because they have to but because they want to see their project succeed (although we are huge proponents at Compt of 40-hour weeks and no more to maintain balance). 

In a world where job seekers are looking for more than just a paycheck, trust from their employer is a pretty attractive proposition.

Employee Recognition: The Power of Appreciation

Nothing feels quite as good as a shout-out from a coworker or boss when you are absolutely kicking butt at work.

When you catch folks doing something awesome and give them a high-five (literally or figuratively) that says, “We see you, and dang, you’re killing it!”... SHEESH. It’s like the workplace version of getting a gold star in grade school, but way cooler and with actual perks.

This isn’t just about making people smile (though that’s a pretty sweet bonus). Recognition is like the secret sauce that amps up morale and makes everyone feel like their work isn’t just a drop in the ocean. It’s about reinforcing the idea that every effort, big or small, is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Suddenly, everyone’s not just working; they’re contributing to something bigger, and they know it matters. 

But let’s not forget the cherry on top: formal employee recognition programs. These bad boys take appreciation to the next level, offering tangible rewards that range from gift cards and spot bonuses to extra vacay days or even just a coveted parking spot. It’s a way to say, “Your awesome is so next-level, we’re putting our money where our mouth is.”

And it needs to happen in real-time, frequently. A Gallup report revealed “only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.” That just won’t meet the mark. When you make giving kudos the norm, not the exception, you’ll see it revolutionize the way we work together.

Social Responsibility: A Commitment to Greater Good

It’s important across the board, but if you’re particularly looking to attract Gen Z employees, CSR (corporate social responsibility) is a must-have. 

Take Patagonia, for instance. These guys are the rock stars of putting planet over profit. They're all in on saving the wild places we love, and it's not just talk. They're out there leading environmental initiatives, supporting grassroots activists, and making gear that's not just top-notch but also eco-friendly. And guess what? People dig it. Employees aren't just clocking in; they're part of a movement. They're working for a company that's as passionate about the great outdoors as they are, and that's a powerful motivator.

But it's not just about the warm fuzzies. Engaging in social responsibility also makes solid business sense. Babson College’s Project ROI found companies that invest in social purpose generate 20% more revenue and have a 6% higher market value. When a company shows it cares about more than just the bottom line—be it through environmental efforts, community service, or advocating for social change—it resonates. It attracts folks who aren't just looking for a job but are on the hunt for a mission. 

They're the kind of employees who bring their whole selves to work, driven by a shared purpose.

And let's not forget the ripple effect. When companies lead by example, they're not just making an impact on the issue at hand; they're setting the bar for what it means to be a responsible business in today's world. They're showing that success isn't just measured in dollars and cents but in the positive change they can create in the world.

A really easy way to get started is a charitable giving stipend. Empower your people to give back to the organizations that mean something to them. They can be national, they can be local–whatever makes their heart sing. It’s something they won’t forget their employer did for them.

Crafting the Ideal Workplace

If you made it through this hefty piece, WOW. I am impressed. Thanks for being here and for caring about creating a better workplace for your people (and for yourself, because you matter, too!). 

Crafting that oh-so-coveted ideal workplace isn’t about throwing a bunch of perks at the wall and seeing what sticks. It’s an art. It’s a vibe. It’s about paying attention, really listening to what the people who make up your company are all about—their needs, their dreams, and yeah, even their Monday morning coffee rituals.

This blog is a very ambitious blueprint. A good place to start is with us, with Compt. You’d be surprised how much you can do with stipends, even with a slim budget.

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