Most of us have taken a workplace survey. They ask questions about the leadership, culture, job satisfaction, work environment, training, pay, and benefits to determine whether your company is a "Best Place to Work."
As an interior architect, I've worked with many employers who have been recognized as a Best Place to Work year after year. I've also learned from my firm's inclusion on the list--and even more from the feedback we received the years it wasn't.
According to a recent Gallup poll, only 30 percent of the workforce is engaged. Meanwhile, companies that are named Best Workplaces have a 70 percent engagement rate. This alone is good motivation for trying to make the list. What's their secret, and how does it benefit employees?
All Best Places to Work share the following four factors:
1. They care about employee wellbeing.
Top employers protect their most important asset: their people. Excellent health benefits only touch the surface. It turns out nearly all employees want to feel like their employers care about them. A new survey by Fractl shows that, after health insurance, employees value several low-cost benefits that support their wellbeing--such as flexible hours, more vacation, and telecommuting-- sometimes more than they value higher-paying jobs.
To expand employees' feelings of wellbeing, many companies promote philanthropic activities, often within the surrounding community. It provides a sense of giving back and greater purpose to every employee who volunteers.
2. They fix workplace temperature and noise issues.
Common complaints about the work environment involve temperature and noise. Through 20 years of designing workplaces, I've found that temperature is the number one complaint, which is difficult to correct when everyone has a different preference. If they're aware of the problem, employers are usually willing to pay for more A/C zones. In the meantime, an immediate solution would be allowing employees to move to a part of the building with the most comfortable temperature for them.
The other main complaint is office noise. While concrete floors and open ceilings are all the rage, they're not great for acoustics. Using sound-absorbing materials is a good start, but pairing that with sound masking may solve the problem. Sound masking converts the frequencies of human speech to a background "hum" similar to the sound of soothing airflow. Speech beyond a 15-foot radius is unintelligible, so other people can concentrate on their work. Another way to improve ambient noise is to repurpose a few areas into private spaces for making calls and small group collaboration.
3. They make employees proud.
When we conduct our visioning sessions for a new project, one of the most common requests from the C-suite is to create an environment that makes employees proud. If employees feel pride in their workspace, they'll want to refer customers and friends (referrals often make some of the best hires). Aesthetics are important, but the space must also inspire people.
Inspiration doesn't come from intangible policies and mission statements; it comes from visual design elements in the workplace that communicate a company's values, including philanthropic efforts, in every moment of every day.
4. They maintain open lines of communication.
One of the most helpful lessons I've learned from the years we didn't make the Best Place to Work list is that you need communication! Employers may think they're providing something great, but that doesn't mean employees realize it.
We were shocked one year when we scored low in benefits. In reality, we had excellent benefits but failed to explain the package to our employees. We also scored low in technology when we actually had a healthy budget for it. If we had asked for regular feedback from our employees, we could have allocated the funds to meet all demands.
Both of these were easy fixes, and we made the list the following year. It's proof that employers need regular feedback. Knowing your employees' opinions is much better than guessing, and I find that employee observations are typically very informative. It's important to convey to all employees that you value their input because it could lead to positive change.
Becoming a Best Place to Work doesn't require a secret formula. It all comes down to showing your employees you care about them by ensuring their wellbeing and comfort, building a company they can be proud of, and keeping all lines of communication wide open. The journey to get there is the biggest reward.