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Asking yourself, “What makes a company a great place to work?” is one of the most important questions you can ask when it comes to the job search. Who cares about the salary, benefits, and title if the company is toxic (right)? If you’re one of the ones shaking your head while thinking to yourself, “I can deal with a bad company if they pay me enough,” I want you to stop and check out a few of the following articles before diving into this one.
After working in several toxic environments during my career (yes, I have horror stories for days) and after being a consultant, I can now confidently share the Top 9 traits and habits that make a company a great place to work. I came up with these based on data and client research from some of the best companies out there.
Before I share what makes a company a great place to work, I need to provide a disclaimer. I want to acknowledge that every professional’s work environment needs are different. Your requirements can be based on your personality type, your level of comfort, your background, your working style, etc. It’s important that you sit down, self-reflect, and ask yourself what you need in the workplace. Get specific! There’s nothing wrong with having a list because it provides you with direction and the ability to better identify potential fits. I know there’s no perfect company, but if they can meet 7 out of 10 requirements, it may be a sweet deal!
In 2023 and beyond, this is a must. If you go to a company website and notice that everyone looks the same… run! No seriously, by now leaders should understand the importance of surrounding themselves with people who don’t look like them. Why? Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion reap numerous benefits. A diverse workforce brings together a range of perspectives, fostering creativity and innovation. A diverse skillset, thought process, and perspective allows teams from falling into groupthink and unconscious bias when making decisions that impact others.
Pro: Fosters Innovation and Creativity
How to Find: Pay attention as you are doing your initial research and throughout the hiring process. You can start by looking for companies with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or ACTIVE diversity initiatives. You’ll notice that I capitalized the word “active.” I did this because for so many organizations, DEI was just simply a trendy fad. Some companies created a team, even hired a specialist only to not implement initiatives and eventually let go of the person they hired. If you’re unsure about the status of their DEI efforts, don’t be afraid to ask!
Also, be mindful of how they represent themselves to the public and online. Check if they actively promote inclusivity in their mission statement or values.
Employees who feel empowered often have leaders who are transparent, open, and clear with their communication. Why? Transparent communication builds trust. No one wants to feel left out or lied to, especially by an organization that you’re giving your time, energy, and commitment to.
Observe how companies choose to communicate with their employees and the public. See if they provide regular updates on company performance, financials, and decision-making processes ensure that employees are well-informed and feel like valued contributors. By now you’re probably wondering, “Chelsea, how am I supposed to know this if I don’t work for the company?” This is where networking and relationship building will come in handy.
Utilize platforms like LinkedIn to identify current employees. Reach out and request an informational interview. Make sure to have your questions written down and ready so that you are maximizing your time and not wasting theirs. Make sure to ask about the culture and communication within the company.
Pro: Builds Trust and Transparency
How to Find: Research companies that share regular updates on their website or through employee testimonials. Look for transparent communication regarding company goals, performance, and decision-making processes.
If 2020 taught us anything, it was the importance of time. Striking a balance between work and personal life is crucial for employee well-being. Working long hours, taking calls after hours, and working on weekends should not be the norm. You have a life, family, friends, and your health to take care of. It’s important to find an employer who both respects AND supports this balance.
Pro: Enhances Employee Well-Being
How to Find: Explore company policies on flexible working hours, remote work options, or any initiatives supporting work-life balance. Reviews on employer review sites can provide insights from current or former employees. Also, add this to your list of questions during the interview process.
Quick note: One way to see if the company you are interviewing with respects work-life balance is by observing their behavior during the hiring process. Do they call and email you after-hours? Are they expecting immediate responses? Do they ask you to drop what you’re doing and come in the same week? Pay attention to these signs.
Your career should be filled with continuous opportunities for learning and growth. When you start to feel stagnant, there’s a problem! Companies that invest in their employees’ growth retain top talent and foster happier cultures. Your supervisor and company should want to see you learn new skills that will help enhance your performance in and outside of the workplace.
Pro: Increases Employee Retention
How to Find: Check if the company has a structured training and development program, mentorship opportunities, or a clear path for career progression. Look for success stories of employees who have advanced within the organization. Ask about their professional development budget for each employee and see if they support additional certifications, conferences, and memberships.
Have you ever felt unseen at a company? Or have you accomplished a major milestone at work with zero acknowledgment? Doesn’t feel good, does it? Companies with great leadership understand the importance of recognition and rewards. What’s the result? Regular recognition boosts morale and motivation. When individuals feel appreciated they perform better, are kinder, and are satisfied with their employer.
Pro: Boosts Morale and Motivation
How to Find: Look for companies with employee recognition programs, awards, or regular appreciation events. Company reviews often mention the recognition culture. This is another question that you can ask during an informational interview with a current employee and the hiring panel as well. If there’s hesitation or they get upset that you ask, steer clear of this company! You deserve to feel seen, recognized, and celebrated for the hard work you put in!
Great companies understand and value their employee’s personal lives. A great example of supporting employees and building a great culture is by embracing and encouraging flexibility. Embracing flexible work arrangements enhances employee satisfaction and well-being. One of the benefits of remote work is the built-in work-life balance and sense of trust. I know a lot of companies are trying to force employees back to the office, but they don’t realize that they’re damaging their culture and morale. Why? It’s hard to justify the need for in-office presence after we all witnessed for 3 years just how productive remote employees can be.
Providing flexible work hours, remote, and hybrid work allows employees to do their best work in environments that allow them to thrive! This environment also can create a positive employee experience. If you’re a person who values this type of arrangement, I recommend seeking out employers who support this type of model.
Pro: Improves Employee Satisfaction and builds a culture of Trust
How to Find: Research the company’s stance on remote work, flexible hours, or alternative work arrangements. Job listings or company policies may provide insights into their approach to flexibility. Also, pay attention to their social media feeds and news outlet presence on the topic.
Healthy employees are productive employees. One way that top companies prioritize employee well-being is by implementing comprehensive wellness programs. From fitness initiatives to mental health resources, such programs contribute to a healthy and happy workforce. Again, having an employer that is invested in your personal AND professional growth is a win-win!
Pro: Promotes a Healthy Workforce
How to Find: Check for information on wellness programs, health insurance benefits, or initiatives promoting mental health. Employee testimonials might highlight the importance given to well-being.
As a Leadership Coach, I could stand on a soapbox for days (even weeks!) on the importance of great leaders. Leaders who are integrity-driven, trustworthy, empathetic, and respectful build and lead amazing teams and retain some of the industry’s best talent. I truly believe the culture of an organization begins and ends with leaders. Employees model what they see at the top. Great leadership directly impacts employee experience and individual’s progress while at the company.
Pro: Sets a Positive Tone for the Organization
How to Find: Look for information about the CEO and leadership team. Speeches, interviews, or profiles can provide insights into their leadership style and values. Ask about the leadership during informational interviews and during your actual interview for the role you want.
Collaboration is key to success. Having a cohesive team that leans on and supports each other is critical to the overall success of the department and company. Think about it, most professionals spend more time with their colleagues than family members. It’s important to be able to work with people you get along with, respect, and trust. I know that won’t be the case for everyone you encounter on your team, but try to aim for at least 80%!
Pro: Fosters a Supportive Work Environment and Mutual Respect
How to Find: Networking is so important for your personal and professional growth. Building relationships with team members beforehand not only gives you insider information but can also show you whether or not you would be a good fit on the team. Also make sure to explore collaborative tools used by the company, team-building activities, or any emphasis on teamwork in their corporate messaging. Employee reviews may mention the collaborative culture.
I know this one will rub some people the wrong way, but companies who are aware of what’s going on in society are able to support their employees on a different level than most. Typically companies try to remain neutral and politically correct when it comes to global tragedies that are taking place. Companies can exhibit social awareness simply by recognizing the issue, sharing acknowledgement through a simple statement and offering support resources to employees who may be impacted by what’s going on.
Pro: Employees feel supported, seen, and valued
How to Find: Watch the company’s social media channels. Sign up for newsletters and news alerts and pay attention to the tone of their announcements. Also, ask current employees if they feel supported and the company’s stance on social issues. You’ll notice that companies that have a high level of social awareness also have a great level of employee engagement.
Embracing innovation fosters a dynamic workplace. It also encourages creativity. I recently presented to a group on the importance of innovation and creativity in the workplace and how it should be implemented and encouraged. Companies that foster this type of work environment excel in problem solving, pivoting, and dealing with change. Employees feel empowered to take risks and try new things without the fear of backlash.
Pro: Encourages Continuous Improvement
How to Find: Look for instances of innovation in the company’s history, initiatives that support creativity, or any programs encouraging employees to pursue innovative projects.
Competitive and fair compensation is vital and directly impacts employee well-being. Companies that are transparent about their pay and pay their employees great salaries often report higher satisfaction, dedication, and loyalty from their staff. Think about it, when you are making the salary that you want, you’re not stressed or disgruntled right?
Pro: Attracts and Retains Top Talent and reduces employee turnover
How to Find: Research industry salary standards and compare them with the company’s compensation packages. Employee testimonials or reviews may provide insights into the fairness of compensation.
Employers who ask for feedback and implement strategies to fix issues that were raised are often highly invested in employee experience. This is also a sign of mutual respect and consideration for the professionals who do the work every day. It’s always empowering to go to work knowing that your voice is heard and your input is valued. These employers often foster a healthy and positive work environment as well as a sense of belonging.
Pro: Facilitates Continuous Improvement
How to Find: Check for regular employee surveys, feedback mechanisms, or open communication channels. Reviews on employer review sites may mention the company’s responsiveness to feedback.
The Ultimate Trait: The company celebrates differences and encourages authenticity
I often hear professionals say that they have to put on a “mask” at work to hide who they truly are. They never feel 100% comfortable with showing who they are underneath the fake laughs, superficial smiles, and basic small talk. I believe in professionalism, but I also believe in being able to be yourself in the workplace (within reason). The thing is, if you’re in an environment where you can’t be yourself, trust cannot be built and real relationships cannot blossom. Companies that encourage authenticity have stronger team collaboration and have an edge over the competition because everyone feels comfortable (and invested) when sharing ideas and their point of view.
If you find yourself in an environment where you can’t be yourself, you may want to think about whether or not that works for you long-term. For some people it does and for some, it doesn’t. Do what’s best for you. Which leads me to my next point…
How would you describe a great place to work?
A great place to work is the place where you feel the most at home, where you thrive, feel empowered, and respected. The truth is everyone’s ideal work environment is different and is based on personal preferences, personality, background, desires, and needs.
For many professionals that I’ve coached, I’ve found that there are three highly sought-after qualities (these are the minimum), they want good pay, flexibility, and growth opportunities. As a coach, I always encourage every professional to add a healthy work environment to that Top 3 list. Why? Because you can have amazing pay, great benefits, and growth opportunities, but if you’re being harassed, belittled, and disrespected at work, it can begin to take a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical health. No job is worth sacrificing your health. If you can, I encourage you to look for companies with reputations for having the strong core values, great people, the best leaders, and a positive company culture. I promise you, it makes all the difference.
I’ve given you the Top 13 qualities of what makes a company a great place to work. Ultimately, as a career professional, you make the final determination as to what makes a company a great place to work for. Your job satisfaction, happiness, contentment, and personal growth are the most important part of the equation. If at any point you feel like those are being compromised, you have the right AND skills AND ability to go find better. You got this friend!
By the way, before you leave, I’d love to hear what you think makes a company a great place to work. Please feel free to leave a comment below!
As always, I wish you the best.
Cheers to your success!