Revealed - What Makes a Workplace Great

By: Alexis Fox-mills

Revealed - what makes a workplace Great


Google and Microsoft come top of the "Great Place to Work" league published by the Financial Times. However, a number of smaller companies have made the list, providing an interesting insight into what makes a "Great Place to Work" great.


More than 1,250 companies across Europe participated in the research, which showed that the 100 best companies are saving money on hiring and training, with a voluntary employee turnover of just below 8%. They also witness much lower absenteeism compared to their respective general labour markets, and all have shown increased revenue, with an average of 26% increase in the last year.


So what's their secret?
Microsoft, the winner of the "Best Workplace in Europe" award for large organisations, shows high levels of employee satisfaction across its 14 branches in Europe.


Maintaining a core set of values through varied media, Microsoft has fostered an open, friendly culture, with CEO Steve Ballmer insisting employees call him "Steve". Management around Europe maintain discussion with employees by writing blogs, and are frequently available and accessible.


The business is also open about salary and reward, giving all employees a bonus regardless of their position, and making everyone eligible for stock awards. They also ensure that men and women of equal rank are paid equally.


Cultural innovations are also at the heart of the workplace, with "happy hours" hosted every second Friday of the month, where departments host a formal meeting with presentations, followed by food and drink. Indeed, many of Microsoft's offices have game rooms and lounges with X-boxes and a range of video games.


You don't have to be big
Reaktor, winner of the small business category, said that they have never carried out any HR development activities. According to the Great Place to Work Institute, they "live and breathe" being a great workplace. Its employees work 7.5-hour days, and management "cherry-pick" clients according to how interesting they would be to work with!


Training is at the centre of Reaktor's method. Employees train each other, and they place a high emphasis on maintaining high levels of technological expertise.


New employees have paid testament to the company's induction process, which aims to get the basics right - quickly.

Even before their start date, they are given passwords to access the intranet and are invited to company events, while the company has even gone so far as to open an office in Buenos Aires to retain an employee who had to leave Finland for personal reasons.


Like Microsoft, Reaktor insists on communication being key throughout the business, with online discussions and blogs supported by management and employees alike. Reaktor also supports its employees by getting them involved in industry conferences and events as guests and speakers.


A number of special awards were given to companies around Europe who excel in certain aspects. For example, Consol in Germany were commended for their integrity and honesty throughout the business, with management soliciting participation in decision-making from all employees, and encouraging criticism.


One employee wrote "this is a workplace where you can be 100% yourself without having to hide your personality".


Looking after your people
Piscines Ideales was recommended for the way in which it treats its employees, with excellent professional development recognition and work-life balance. Again, they celebrate openness, reflected in the CEO's slogan "It is not an employee's right to express themselves, it is an obligation!"


The company also scores highly for its support of family life, with young mothers equipped with internet connections to allow them to work at home one day per week, and a month's salary as a bonus to employees who get married. The company's benefits scheme is extensive and personalised, showing foresight.


Cisco in Germany also followed the train of thought that reward packages need to be tailored to employee needs, and ensures that everyone understands their total pay and benefit package by holding "compensation roadshows". They contribute generously towards retirement savings and pay life and disability insurance for all employees. The company also avoids rewarding managers with special perks, meaning for example that all employees travel economy class, regardless of status.


Promoting your core values
&Samoud, from the Netherlands, was another company that had fostered a core set of values, and was awarded the "Not Just a Job" prize.


The company presents a clear set of organisational values: intensity, authenticity and friendship, and these values are promoted throughout the business - from posters to business cards. Even new recruits are evaluated on these values, and junior-level employees and assistants were sent on a "vision and personal development program" in Spain, to reflect on their personal vision and that of the company. One employee wrote rapturously about the program saying "It was very special and deep. Weeks after the trip, when we met in the hallways of the office, we looked at each other and smiled secretively... An open atmosphere like that is special."


Promoting a "fun" culture
The company that had the most fun was Google - with a number of enterprising initiatives throughout its offices around Europe. From dance competitions to treasure hunts and fun perks such as scooters, video games, lava lamps and hammocks, Google has created a campus atmosphere that has resulted in a high retention rate and increased productivity.


Ceridian's Head of Engagement and Innovation, Alexis Fox-Mills, underlined the importance of a company's culture when it comes to engagement:


"The key is engaging employees, but what triggers that engagement is different for each organisation and individual to its culture. Most fundamentally though, if a company has, and more crucially demonstrates values that personally resonate for an employee, it's more likely that loyalty will be inspired and so will they, leading to less absence, less attrition and high productivity."


As all the award winners have demonstrated, creative thinking and solid core values are the key to engaging your workforce - and in all cases, the results are clear: lower absence rates and greater productivity.


Want a happier workforce? We can help - from EAPs to Flexible Benefitsschemes designed for your employees, you can make a difference. Have a chat with one of our qualified experts on 0800 733 337, or enquire online, and see how you can make your workplace a Great Place to Work!

Human Resources
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