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Great Place to Work?

December 5, 2012
Cover of "A Great Place to Work: What Mak...

Cover via Amazon

I am a little fed up with the awards, the constant dialog on the processes and policies that make a Great Place to Work. So I thought I’d just get my voice out there.

First up, I don’t believe what makes one place Great is what makes another place a Great Place to Work. I also believe that what is Great for one person is not for another. Why do I say this?

I remember being in a role a few years ago and I was MISERABLE! There were a few more like me who were miserable. So we quit. One by one. Over a period of about 6 months, all of us had moved on.

However, and this is the KEY; However, there were many others who had been working in that organization for a long many years, who continued to work on and enjoy their jobs. They came in on time, they were well engaged and they added value. They aspired to rise up and one day head that organization. For them, this was a Great Place to Work. For us, it wasn’t.

And that’s where I think organizations get it wrong:

  • They participate in surveys that will tell them whether or not they are a Great Place to Work
  • Then they look at how far below the leaders they are
  • Then they do their best to figure out what the leaders do? aka Best Practices (Read my take on best practices here)
  • Then they replicate those Best Practices into their own organization
  • And then, not much changes 🙂
  • I am not surprised

Surveys, by nature of having to be applied across a large cross-section of organizations have no choice but to become cookie-cutters, in that they have to homogenize and come to a few core areas that they can measure and compare across organizations. Nothing wrong with that. But like all cookie-cutters, they leave a lot of things OUT.

Don’t get me wrong, surveys are good. They serve a useful purpose i.e. they help you identify whether or not you meet basic hygeine. Do you disburse salary on time? Are most decisions transparent, objective and balanced? Is the work environment safe and equal. And others. All good areas to know about and to be able to work on.

But surveys stop there. They don’t tell you what’s unique about you. They don’t tell you that while you lose 12.34% people every year, WHY do the remaining errrrrr…. (damn I dug this grave for myself) … 87.66% (YES!!!) continue to cherish and stay!

Here’s what I think organizations should REALLY do if they want to find out whether they are a Great Place to Work. Figure out:

  • Which kind of people who work here think we are a Great Place to Work
  • Why do they think so? What is it about us that makes us Great?
  • Does this align with our Strategy, Vision and Cultural pillars?
  • Does it differentiate us from the competition?
  • Are there enough people spread across the talent pool who would appreciate a culture like ours?
  • How do I find them? How do I let them know I exist?
  • What disturbs my people? How do I minimize the irritants?

Now you’re talking. Now you’re being respectful of your unique identity as a complex organism and not something that can be measured and compared on a scale.

In all my life I have never seen people engaged by policies or processes. They are best engaged when they are doing good work, when they are respected, challenged and continuously growing.

There are people who love mercenary cultures; there are others who love directive cultures and, there are those who would shun both. What matters is for an organization to recognize itself, recognize it’s unique identity and strength and then find people who think that is Great. Those people will feel at home.

Go ahead and debate this!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2013 3:28 pm

    I believe that there is a set of organizations who participate because the HR folks want some bragging rights to being a part of the survey or to show to the seniors of the serious activity that they have been involved in or to spend some of the budget money that they still have left 🙂

    But seriously Joy, what you say makes sense. I guess what you are trying to hint at is the purpose with which the organizations participate in the process is to be seriously thought of BEFORE they jump in. It is only then that they will be able to add value to the growth of the organizations. While, policies are not a factor for employees to stick on to an organization they definitely are a factor for many of them to leave the organization.

  2. Mayanka permalink
    January 11, 2013 2:13 pm

    I agree on most points and appreciate that you do not present a deterministic view on value of survey and particularly the results provided by what is labeled as “great places to work”. I feel that this survey helps and should be used in unison with detailed analysis to get a good perspective of employee thoughts.

    Workplaces are highly contextual these days. No two organizations can be easily compared as everyone has their own distinct business and people strategies. Also, employee experience is combination of several factors – organizational, departmental, team, their own expectations etc.

    The value surveys like “Great places to work” bring is to prospective clients, shareholders and employees to see a third party perspective of the organization. My discomfort is with the rankings which are misleading. The other value it brings is in organizations striving to maintain the ‘basic hygiene’ + some more, which is required to be listed in the survey results.

    At organization level it would be an oversight on part of management if results of this survey are the only contributing factors to determining employee perceptions.
    The set of questions you have listed provide a better internal and external view of organization culture for the management. This level of detail however, may not be required for external parties.

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      January 11, 2013 2:19 pm

      Very well written. I like how concisely and crisply you have stated the positives and gaps of standardized surveys. Thank you for this contribution.

  3. December 10, 2012 12:45 pm

    Loved how you expressed the following: “In all my life I have never seen people engaged by policies or processes. They are best engaged when they are doing good work, when they are respected, challenged and continuously growing.”

    Superb post. Your observations are spot on. Wish more HR folks/CEOs/decision makers would read this and apply.

  4. December 5, 2012 6:41 pm

    This is an ‘outstanding’ post – for the sheer honesty it is written with. I wish organizations pay a heed to it.

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