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Mention “best employer” and most people would immediately cast their thoughts towards Google. The omnipresent tech/platform giant has built an unshakeable reputation for itself as the premier employer of the best talent in the world. Operating in 70 offices in more than 40 countries around the globe, Google’s legendary perks and unconventional office interiors have made its company culture a hot search topic on… Google.

With employee benefits such as an 18-week maternity leave, a $150,000 reimbursement cap as part of its “Global Education Leave” programme, and, get this, free gourmet meals every day of the week, it’s not hard to see why a large portion of their workforce are enamoured with the company.

But what lies behind Google and other employee-centric companies? Fortune’s Geoff Colvin draws the argument away from the freebies and the niceties by declaring, “It’s personal – not perkonal. It’s relationship-based, not transaction-based.” This is especially significant in the tech sector, where hiring a quality employee – a costly and time-consuming process – accounts for only half of the total effort. Equally as important is keeping your new hire satisfied – content enough that they wouldn’t be tempted to work for one of your many rivals instead.

Ryan Scott of Forbes pinpoints the main source of employee satisfaction as “the opportunity to be part of a company that places a premium on giving back”. Citing Detroit-based Quicken Loans as an example, the retail lender has offered tens of thousands of volunteer work hours and donated more than $10 million towards downtown revitalisation, beautification and safety improvements in areas where team members live, and supporting programs that provide technology-focused skills training and entrepreneurship opportunities for startups in Detroit. It’s no wonder, then, that the company ranked #12 in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For 2015”.

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Echoing the need for corporate philanthropy and volunteerism, Stanley Bing of Fortune lists “A conviction of “rightness”” among other yellow brick road traits, such as:

• A strong leader
• A strong hierarchy with a clear reporting structure
• Clear goals that everybody in the organisation understands and buys into
• Accountability for assigned tasks
• Victory always defined and within reach
• Camaraderie
• An open-office plan to facilitate communication and democracy
• High stakes, with even a hint of danger

All these traits will come together to form a solid company culture, but only if executives and leaders walk the talk.

While most would dismiss “company culture” as either an overworked cliché or an unattainable unicorn, the C-word is usually more pervasive than imagined. It is the way people (in this case, employees) behave from moment to moment without being told. This is of paramount importance, especially in the service-leaning industries. Thankfully, more employers are seeing the connection from culture and relationships to workplace greatness to business success. Audit and consultancy firm Deloitte surveyed 3,300 executives in 106 countries and discovered that top management place culture as the most important issue they face, trumping other more conventional concerns such as leadership, workforce capability, performance management, and others.

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Analysing the “100 Best”, Geoff Colvin of Fortune describes the four key elements of company culture as:

Mission: These companies are pursuing a larger purpose, and company leaders make sure no one forgets it. When employees are all pursuing a mission they believe in, relationships get stronger.

Colleagues: Several of the “100 Best” also appear on lists of companies where it’s hardest to get hired. Organisations like Twitter, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and The Container Store, attract more than 100 applicants for every job opening. Those companies can hire the cream of the crop, creating a self-reinforcing cycle; the best people want to go where the best people are.

Trust: Show people that you consider them trustworthy, and they’ll generally prove you right. Many of the “100 Best” let employees work whenever they want, and they work far more than if they were punching a clock. Riot Games, creator of the hit game “League of Legends”, even offers unlimited paid vacation. Strong relationships prevent employees from abusing the policy.

Caring: Every company says it value employees. The “100 Best” don’t say it; they show it. This is where some of those celebrated perks do count. A true culture of caring goes beyond perks and includes daily behaviour.

So, will your workplace be the next Google?

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References:

“Best to work for, yes! But why?” by Stanley Bing, 7 March 2015
(http://fortune.com/2015/03/07/best-companies-to-work-for-explanation/)

“How to build the perfect workplace” by Geoff Colvin, 5 March 2015
(http://fortune.com/2015/03/05/perfect-workplace/)

“Why Are These 100 Companies The Best to Work For?” by Ryan Scott, 6 April 2015
(http://www.forbes.com/sites/causeintegration/2015/04/06/why-are-these-100-companies-the-best-to-work-for/#7d183dcef756)

“100 Best Companies to Work For” by Forbes
(http://fortune.com/best-companies/)

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