Why Participating in the Fortune Best Companies to Work For® Competition is Good for You

It's that time of year again, where just about any company with 1,000 or more U.S. employees can nominate themselves to be named one of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For in America.

While this recognition serves as an important feather in the cap for any company hoping to leverage its great culture to attract top talent, we also know that participating in the process is a fairly substantial commitment. However, beyond the chance for widespread recognition on the gold standard of "Best Companies to Work For" lists, many other benefits exist for companies willing to throw their hats in the ring.

Benefits for List Winners and Non-Winners Alike

The evaluation process gives all companies who participate an opportunity to receive honest feedback from their employees and take a good hard look at their workplace culture. While the time commitment to apply is significant, so is the payoff, with list-making companies boasting noteworthy gains in employee retention, job applications, productivity, and financial returns.

However, even if your company doesn't make the list, non-winners benefit from the intelligence and perspective gained from the process that can drive positive cultural change. And that is why this process is good for any company that applies. The Best Companies to Work For® competition gives all companies the opportunity to take stock of their programs and policies, and provides the tools to help compare your organization against the very best.

Benchmarking against the 100 Best

Organizations that participate in the Best Companies to Work For list are surveyed using the Great Place to Work® Trust Index© Employee Survey, which gives insight into your employees' experience of the company and provides the opportunity to benchmark that experience against the Best Companies. List participants—whether they win the competition or not—tell us that they rely heavily on the Trust Index© Survey results and the benchmarks generated through the competition to measure the health of their workplace and see where they need to improve.

Taking Stock of Programs and Policies

No other Best Companies List does as extensive an audit on a company's workplace policies and practices as Great Place to Work® does with our Culture Audit© questionnaire. It's the one tool that helps companies truly understand what a great workplace is and where they should focus their efforts to improve. For many list participants, it's an opportunity to take stock and make the necessary changes to build a culture that is a competitive advantage.

How Do I Apply?

The 2016 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For List application process is open until July 31! Register today by visiting our website at www.greatplacetowork.com/apply. List application is, and always has been, confidential and completely free.

Additional Resources:

Download the "Guide to List Participation" pdf

View the Slideshare Presentation: "Learn What it Takes to Make the List"

Register for the July 14th Webinar: "Learn What it Takes to Make the List"

Respect as a Key Component of a Great Workplace

The Society of Human Resource Management's (SHRM) recently-released 2015 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey has some great nuggets of data to take away, including that in 2014, 86% of U.S. employees reported overall satisfaction with their current job. This is an improvement of five percentage points since 2013 and the greatest increase in the number of employees satisfied with their current job since SHRM began administering this survey in 2002.

This is music to the ears for us at Great Place to Work®, especially when we read that 72% of the more than 600 employees surveyed ranked "respectful treatment of employees at all levels" to be the most important factor in job satisfaction. Why? Because besides the fact that we're in the business of building great workplaces (and are always thrilled to see data that indicates great workplaces are on the rise) this data directly corroborates the Great Place to Work® Trust Model©. Our Model© details that the key to creating a great workplace is not a precise formula of employee benefits, programs and practices, but rather the building of high-quality relationships within the workplace.

Respect as Part of a Great Workplace

The Great Place to Work® Trust Model© identifies the workplace as composed of three interconnected relationships as represented by five dimensions: Credibility, Respect, Fairness, Pride, and Camaraderie. The Respect dimension measures the extent to which employees feel respected by management, through assessing the levels of professional support, collaboration, and caring employees experience through management's actions toward them.

In SHRM's study, Respect (72%) outranked aspects such as the work itself, compensation, and benefits when weighing job satisfaction, highlighting how vital this dimension is to establishing a great workplace.

"Respect" in Action in Great Workplaces

At the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For this year, 86% of employees believe they are treated with respect in the workplace according our Trust Index© Employee Survey. But what does respect at a great workplace look like?

Respect can take many forms, however, Best Companies regularly show respect for their employees through professional support, recognition, seeking employees' input and ideas, and also caring for employees as people with lives outside of work. Take Google's employee assistance program (available to all employees it offers widespread assistance like legal help, credit scores and assessment, finding a vet for pets, free onsite counseling services and clinical counselors), or Nugget Market's discounts (all employees receive 10% off groceries at their stores). These practices show a sense of care for employees, respecting them as people with needs beyond the workplace.

Other respectful practices from some of our recognized Best Companies to Work For include:

  • At Accenture, to reduce travelling employees' time away from their home cities, the Location Strategy is designed to provide more opportunities for employees to work in the cities where they live. Additionally, all client accounts are strongly encouraged to allow traveling resources to work virtually at least one to two weeks per month.
  • Publix Super Markets recognizes employees throughout the year for jobs well done. Managers are empowered to reward good attendance, safety, work performance and successful completion of projects. Many stores create newsletters to recognize new associates, birthdays, births, marriages and other important occasions.
  • Southern Ohio Medical Center includes all employees in company discussions about financial challenges, a practice that has enabled them to gain invaluable insights and innovative ideas on ways to curb expenses and generate revenue.

How do you show respect for your employees? Ensuring a strong sense of respect is a regular part of the employee experience at your company will go a long way toward building a culture that is a great one.

Jessica Rohman is Senior Content Producer at Great Place to Work®.

How Beginning with “Why” Stimulates Truly Great Cultures How Beginning with 'Why' Stimulates Truly Great

Sharlyn Lauby, the HR Bartender, recently posted a blog based on a conversation with Great Place to Work® CEO Michael Bush and Mars Drinks Global President Xavier Unkovic. The conversation centered on what Mars refers to as workplace vitality: the engagement of employees to sustain culture and achieve organizational goals.

Workplace vitality, Mars believes, happens at the intersection of well-being, collaboration, engagement, and productivity. It is the place where employees are truly at their best and the organizational culture is thriving.

In order to make change and move closer to the state of workplace vitality that Unkovic described, organizations need to establish cultural behaviors that create and sustain a supportive work environment. This is different from setting linear goals to achieve a vision. Linear goals do not motivate long-term behavior change or success, but immediate achievement. If I set a goal to run a half marathon and then stick to a training plan based on that goal, once the race is over, will I have become a runner, or will I have finished a half marathon? When work is focused on a singular goal, what is left to motivate the work when the goal is achieved? This is the challenging question leaders must answer in order to ensure successful cultural and behavioral change.

Using Purpose to Drive Culture

During the interview, Unkovic said something that caught my attention; something that I don't hear often from business leaders. He said, "We spend more time at work than we do at home or with our friends. Good or bad, that's life. And therefore, what better purpose do you have than to make life at work a better life?"

Organizations who have established strong culture and achieved workplace vitality are the ones who have a purpose beyond recognition or profit. They are ones like Mars Drinks, who see no greater purpose than serving their people. These organizations know that happy, motivated and nurtured people are more productive and innovative, contributing more and helping the organization win overall.

To create workplace vitality, organizations must be vigilant in responding to the demands of their industry, their work and their employees. Beyond the act of checking a goal off of the list, a purpose-driven state of being is what truly allows companies and individuals to thrive together in a great workplace. Achieving this purpose can be difficult, but for many organizations, the real challenge lies in defining it and using it authentically to sustain change at a deeper level than a goal orientation allows.

Being purpose-driven is what truly allows companies and people to thrive together in a great workplace.



The Significance of Why

There are many words we use when discussing drivers of organizational success. Mission, vision, values, goals, objectives...but "purpose" is different. Purpose focuses on the deep root of behavior, not how things are done, but why they are done. This important distinction is eloquently and convincingly described by Simon Sinek in his famous TEDTalk on what he calls the Golden Circle.

Sinek says that when leaders start with "why"—their purpose—they succeed at far better rates than leaders who start with what they are going to do, or even how they plan to do it. Inspired leaders and inspired organizations always begin with their purpose. Tweet: Inspired #leaders and inspired organizations always begin with their purpose.

When Unkovic said that creating a better workplace was not only a purpose, but a great purpose, I felt significantly more confident in and inspired by his concept of workplace vitality. When phrased as a purpose it was far more compelling. However, articulating and acting on purpose is not always easy. In our lives and in our organizations, we get stuck thinking that in order to make change, we have to set goals...to take linear steps toward our desired state.

While this may be true in part, all too often organizations and individuals focus too much on these specific steps and end up losing sight of their overarching purpose. Taking the time to step back and define your purpose, as a leader, and as an organization, will inform your culture in an authentic manner, helping you sustain true workplace vitality long after your objectives have been achieved.


Connecting Culture and Process to Move from “Idea” to “Implementation”

Companies invest in innovation to serve internal and external goals. Often new ideas surface, yet unfortunately, so do roadblocks which prevent them from being implemented. These roadblocks are often rooted in the company’s culture, as well as in the innovation process itself.

Breaking the innovation process down into specific manageable steps, while also deconstructing culture, affords the opportunity to best marry the intricate pieces. Accomplishing this pinpoints which cultural levers to employ in order to best drive innovation along its process continuum.

Culture and Innovation, Deconstructed

Culture is defined as a shared set of values, beliefs, and behaviors that characterize a company and guide its practices. Culture is a spectrum of preferably intentional—but oftentimes unintentional— forces, and acts as a filter through which employees experience their work, their leader, and each other. Culture can be assessed based on these dimensions, and these dimensions can be broken into further areas such as management credibility, respect, and fairness, a sense of pride in one’s work, and camaraderie with fellow employees. Within these elements lie the levers for driving innovation.

Innovation is doing things in more effective ways to achieve positive results. Innovation can be intended for purposes external to the company, such as the development of new products or services, or internal purposes, such as company processes, policies, and technologies. Innovation can be broken down into phases such as opportunity identification, solution design and development, piloting, and full application. These phases can be further delineated as well.

Connecting Organizational Culture with the Innovation Process

During our “Connecting Organizational Culture with the Innovation Process” session at the 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference, the audience had a chance to deconstruct both the culture and innovation components to see which of each best mapped together.

Very surprisingly, the cultural element of being able to take risk and make mistakes without repercussions was not the main driver of innovation. On the contrary, cultural elements such as “management genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas” and “management involves people in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment” were the stand outs.

Since the conference, I had some time to process the session and the elements which surfaced became logical. Culture and culture change are hierarchical and, better said, chronological—similar to Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs. Certain concepts need to be in place prior to others. For example, most would argue leadership needs to be approachable and easy to speak with, prior to an employee having the feeling that they can ask questions and get straight answers. Likewise, managers need to show they involve employees in decisions and act on those suggestions prior to employees feeling comfortable taking risks.

In sum, while culture and innovation are complex, multifaceted, and somewhat intangible, like most subjects, when broken into digestible essentials they become easier to work with, providing focus and clarity. Using this approach sheds light on which programs, policies, procedures, behaviors, and skills a company should be investing in to drive innovation.


Mindfulness in the Workplace

Mindfulness programs are getting a lot of attention these days, with many corporations introducing and integrating mindfulness training to their wellness program ensembles. Tech giant Google (currently #1 on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for List for the fourth consecutive year) even has their very own Head of Mindfulness Training, Chade-Meng Tan. Officially known by the search engine as their "Jolly Good Fellow", Tan's role is "to enlighten minds, open hearts and create world peace," and he does this through training employees in the Buddhist practice of mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness: What is it? Is it just the next new "uber-cool" perk that organizations as diverse as Silicon Valley tech companies, General Mills, and Goldman Sachs are adding to their roster as they compete for top talent? Is it an ancient Buddhist practice? Actually, it may be a bit of both. According to this article from the American Psychological Association, often associated with practices such as yoga, tai chi and meditation, mindfulness is "a moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgment." Mindfulness meditation, specifically, focuses on "training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calmness, clarity and concentration."

As great companies seek to expand the ways they can support their employees' health and wellness, mindfulness programs—including meditation courses, "mindful leadership" practices, and more—have become an increasingly popular addition to the employee perks and benefits portfolio.

Mindfulness Programs: More than another Employee "Perk"

Research studies, such as these from Ohio State University and Carnegie Mellon University, have shown that mindfulness-based interventions in the workplace can decrease stress levels and the risk of burnout. And because stress costs U.S. companies an estimated $200 billion to $300 billion in lost productivity each year, mindfulness programs could be worth the investment.

Besides the direct business benefit of stress reduction, as with most health and wellness offerings, these types of programs demonstrate a genuine respect and care for employees' well-being. Based on our many years of research at Great Place to Work®, showing respect for employees as people—not just as employees—is an essential component of every great workplace. Consider mindfulness programs not only a way to reduce employee stress and increase productivity, but also as a way to show respect for your organization's most valuable asset – its people.

Could professional coaching be the next 'big thing’?

In the quest to create a great workplace, many organizations consider implementing innovative benefits or "perks". Some of the more creative offerings include pet insurance, backup care for loved ones, unlimited vacation time and quiet rooms for rest during the workday.

Great Benefits and Great Workplaces

lil-bllog Great workplaces can't be created simply by offering great benefits – it takes strong organizational trust and high-quality leaders to become the best of the best. However, it is true that many of the companies named to Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For in America do offer unique benefits and perks. These companies do so because the benefits resonate with their specific employee population. For example, onsite childcare has been offered for decades by Baptist Health South Florida. That makes perfect sense, when you consider the composition of the organization's workforce – a high percentage of parents - and the fact that Baptist Health is in the 24/7/365 healthcare business.

There is, however, an emerging benefit that may prove to be the "next big thing" for many organizations. It's a service that has relevance for employees at every level and in any location, offers a solid ROI to the company and is simple to administer. That next great benefit is professional coaching, sometimes called life coaching.

Why Coaching?

When delivered by skilled, appropriately trained and qualified individuals, coaching has broad value and offers lasting results. A coach can help an individual develop job-related skills, become more organized, improve interactions with others, make better decisions and much more. Coaching is always positively focused and forward looking; it involves formulating the right goal, creating the right strategies and finding the right way to ensure that improvements are lasting ones. However, a coach is not a therapist and doesn't work with mental health issues or troubled relationships. Internal coaching doesn't take the place of a company EAP; instead coaching is a complement to it.

Internal Coaching for Leaders

In-house coaching for company leaders is already a core component of the leadership development strategy within some great companies. For example, PwC developed a Leadership Coaching Center of Excellence (LC COE) to support the development of PwC professionals and expand skills of current leaders. PwC's LC COE employs a cadre of coaches with proven skills and credentialing from the International Coach Federation. Internal coaching for company leaders at PwC and in other companies that offer leadership coaching is not a remedial process. Instead, it is developmentally focused and generally reserved for those who have demonstrated potential to advance within the organization.

Internal Coaching for Employees

Although coaching for leaders seems to be taking hold, providing coaching services for staff-level employees is not yet commonplace. This offers a wonderful opportunity for companies that want to be at the forefront of the next great workplace benefit. Just think:

  • Imagine offering a service that employees could access virtually, at whatever time is best for them. Most coaching takes place by phone or web conference, thus it is readily accessible to any employee.

  • Envision providing employees with a "thinking partner" – someone who can help them find their ideal solutions to commonplace life issues, decisions and everyday challenges. Coaches help people create their own actions and as a result, the positive changes are more likely to become lasting ones.

  • Consider the benefit that a company could reap if employees became more goal-oriented, positively focused and felt more fulfilled as they developed workable solutions for a wide range of personal or professional challenges.

  • Think about how employees and applicants might respond if they were offered a benefit that is useful to anyone, irrespective of family status, age or location. And think of the added value of that benefit when it isn't available at competing organizations.

Could Coaching Be the Next Big Thing?

The notion of coaching as an employee benefit isn't far-fetched. Ceridian LifeWorks, a comprehensive EAP/worklife solution offered by many employers has recently incorporated coaching into its suite of services. No doubt, progressive companies will soon begin to explore how to create their own high-quality in-house coaching services for their employees. Since a knowledgeable and well-trained coach can apply his or her skills in many settings, companies that already use leadership coaches could start to tap those individuals to serve as coaches for the broader employee population.

Coaching is poised to serve a much stronger role in the workplace as employers focus on well-being and on the needs of an increasingly diverse population. Wouldn't it be wonderful if your company could be among the first to provide this next great workplace benefit?

Lillian J. LeBlanc, SPHR, PCC is an Executive Leadership Development Coach at Baptist Health South Florida.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to attend the Great Place to Work conference in Dallas. It’s a terrific event that companies should check out – regardless of whether your organization aspires to be on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. And here’s why:

We’re beginning to see a significant change in the labor market. There are fewer qualified candidates for job openings. Organizations will have to engage their workforce at a high level and compete for talent. Candidates are doing their homework about companies before they apply. They want to know that a company is worth it before applying. This means that having a great corporate culture and promoting a great culture should rank right up there on your priority list.

Culture, Great Place to Work, The Cheesecake Factory, corporate culture, profits, employee engagement

Now I do understand that all of the conversation happening today about creating a best in class employment brand and building a top notch corporate culture might take this conversation on the verge of becoming corporate buzzwords or clichés. Some companies might feel that building an outstanding culture comes at the price of the bottom-line.

I had the chance to speak with Great Place to Work CEO Michael C. Bush during the conference and he said it’s something the business world needs to have more conversations about – connecting corporate culture with company profits. And Great Place to Work really delivered with their closing keynote, David M. Gordon, president of The Cheesecake Factory.

I didn’t realize that The Cheesecake Factory is a publically traded company. So make no mistake – they need to deliver profits. Their shareholders demand it. But David pointed out, their culture matters. He said they look to hire staff members who have “Cheesecake in their veins” (figuratively, not literally of course). He talked about the importance of nurturing the bodies, minds, hearts and spirits of staff members. He even shared how actions within the organization are labeled, “So Cheesecake!” The point being: The Cheesecake Factory has invested heavily in developing their culture.

David also shared what it meant in terms of results. He said that they could tell the locations that have embraced The Cheesecake Factory culture because staff member engagement was higher at those locations. In addition:

  • Attrition was significantly less than average

  • Guest satisfaction scores were meaningfully better than average

  • Profit goals were attained and exceeded, in most cases

logo, Great Place to Work, The Cheesecake Factory, corporate culture, profits, employee engagement

In an industry where the average turnover is 60+ percent, these are impressive outcomes. The Cheesecake Factory is a great example of a company in a highly competitive industry that is realizing success by drawing a connection between their culture and their bottom-line. And we know that the restaurant industry is a very tough industry to work in. It can be known for high-turnover and not always viewed as a long-term career. Places like The Cheesecake Factory are changing that with their investment into culture and employee engagement.

Corporate culture and the bottom-line are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are intertwined more than ever.

The Cheesecake Factory logo and video are used with permission. The Cheesecake Factory trade name, logo, and trade dress are owned by TCF Co. LLC.

This blog was originally published on HR Bartender.

Sharlyn Lauby is the author of the blog HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc.

Three Common Characteristics of Successful and Courageous CEOs

I have the amazing opportunity to see inside the workplace cultures of many organizations, and to work with some high-caliber executives and executive teams. Many people at all levels of these organizations truly want their company to be a great workplace, yet many struggle with achieving real progress.

The real secret sauce for improving your organizational culture? Your CEO

It is very simple to gauge how successful a company will be in enhancing their workplace culture. It stems from the CEO's orientation around people and workplace culture. Successful and courageous CEOs have these three common characteristics:

  1. Willingness to Get Better Themselves: They have a sincere desire to understand and improve their own leadership.

  2. Vulnerability: They seek real feedback from a range of people in their organization, and openly and broadly share their "blind spots" and what they are working on with others in their organization. One CEO I know shared their newfound blind spots on a company-wide blog post.

  3. Focus and Follow-Through on Their Own Personal Work: Merely assessing themselves is not enough. Much like high performing athletes and artists, these CEOs regularly and effectively do the hard work to improve their skills; in this case, leadership skills. Some highly successful CEOs (as measured by business performance, becoming one of our Best Companies, etc.) regularly work on themselves with an external coach or resource. When done well, their work not only impacts those around them and the organization as a whole, but also personally benefits them.

    A highly respected CEO recently shared with me: "I was finally able to fully shut down and trust my team while I was on vacation. I would not have been able to do this before my personal work. It made such a difference for me and my team!"

Real Courage: Holding up a Mirror to Yourself as a Leader

The reality is most CEOs often have fierce resistance and put blame elsewhere when trust and engagement are below what they would like. As a result, they are unknowingly slowing their own organizations down and putting a limit on how much progress can be made. This resistance often triggers significant internal spin in response to engagement surveys.

As one of our Best Companies CEOs recently shared: "It took me three years to realize I was the problem. It then took me a couple of years to work with someone to break my bad habits and to no longer be motivated by a fear of failure. I then realized my leadership team needed work."

There are other exceptional examples of CEOs who have successfully unleashed the rest of their organizations' pursuit of trust and engagement, simply by having the courage to start with an honest evaluation of their own leadership and make the changes necessary within themselves. This creates the safe space for other leaders to follow the same three common characteristics to enhance their own personal leadership and improve the organizational culture as a whole.

The Power of a Strong Employee Referral Program

Among recognized Best Companies, robust employee referral programs are the norm. However, a recent small-scale study by Software Advice reminds us that for some organizations, existing employees are an underleveraged resource when it comes to recruiting efforts. Among survey respondents, 45% reported that they do not currently participate in their company's employee referral program. The majority of these respondents (81%) said the reason for this is because they don't know anyone who is a good fit for a position, followed up by insufficient rewards (20%).

How can organizations bolster their employee referral programs and increase participation?

According to the study, when it comes to incentives to participate, monetary rewards are the top draw, as 89% of survey respondents reported money to be the most encouraging reward. This was also the most common type of reward amongst top referral programs (51%). Among the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For, 66% offer referral bonuses of over $1,000 for a successful referral.

Let's also give a little fist pump for living in the age of Social Media, because this makes the "I-can't-participate-because-I-don't-know-anyone" hurdle easy to overcome, and offers an simple avenue for employees to be involved. If an employee shares a position via social media, even if none of their "friends", "connections", or "followers" apply, one of these people might still share the position to his/her feed, and subsequently, one of this person's connections could apply (ensue domino effect).

Summed up in Software Advice's report by Nick Leigh-Morgan (founder of ATS software vendor iKrut): "Employers have to see employees not [only] as people who might immediately know somebody that's suitable—they have to see them as marketing people." Keep in mind that the less cumbersome sharing efforts are, the more likely employees are to participate (consider applicant tracking software or internal portal options that let employees share job postings to social media with just a click).

Why is it Important for Your Employees to Double as Recruiters?

Great workplaces value their culture, and when a company values its culture, they place strong emphasis on bringing people in who will promote and enhance that culture. Given existing employees are well versed in their company's culture, they can easily identify people who they come into contact with that would be a great fit. Existing employees' friends are also (given their association with that employee) likely to be a "fit."

By leveraging existing employees in hiring efforts, employees become recruiting foot soldiers who can bring great cultural-fit candidates into a company. Among Fortune 100 Best Companies, employee referral bonuses can reach upwards of $15,000 for a successful referral, speaking to the high premium these companies place on talent coming in from existing employees. Additional benefits of employee referrals are described in this article by Dr. John Sullivan.

Bottom line: It's a great idea to invest in employee referral programs and to actively encourage your employees to use them by offering referral bonuses. Your company will reap the rewards in the form of bringing on employees who others enjoy and who are likely to be a long-term success.

Conference Speakers Share their Great Workplace Culture Strategies

Great times were had by all at the 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference in Dallas, Texas! This year, nearly 1,100 professionals representing over 400 companies from across 20 industries converged to share ideas, network, and hear exciting new insights and best practices from leaders at some of the world's greatest workplaces.

Lincoln Indrustries Sunrise Run at Great Place to Work Conference

Walk the Walk: Attendees "kicked-off" the conference by modelling a healthy workforce with a 5K walk/run sponsored by Lincoln Industries.


Insights on Inclusion: Michael Bush, Great Place to Work® CEO, delivers a powerful message about creating a great workplace for ALL in his opening remarks.

Dick Costolo -48

Leading with Transparency: Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, shares inspiring insights on the importance of transparency in the workplace during his interview with Christopher Tkaczyk, Senior Editor at Fortune Magazine.

Watch the full Twitter keynote presentation here

Networking Lunch -32

Great Place to Network: Conference attendees exchange ideas and best practices with fellow leaders from their industry at the Industry Lunch & Networking Session sponsored by Aflac and Alston & Bird.

Morning Breakout Sessions  26

The Measure of Success: Annie Burt, Director of Staff Engagement Communications for the Mayo Clinic teaches an attentive audience how to collect, organize and use internal communications data during a morning breakout session.

Morning Breakout Sessions  87

Learning Something New: David Clark, Chief Learning Officer for American Express, shares several innovative approaches to employee learning during a riveting breakout session on creating learning experience that drive innovation and growth.

Clif Bar Keynote Photo 39

Something to Chew On: Kevin Cleary, CEO of Clif Bar & Company inspires attendees to rethink the concept of "work/life balance" in favor of an integrated approach to a meaningful work and life.

Watch the full Clif Bar keynote presentation here


Experiencing an "Ah" Moment: Known for their holistic approach to employee health and wellness, Bright Horizons Family Solutions provides conference attendees with free chair massages in their crowd-pleasing Well-Being Lounge.

Morning Breakout Sessions - 17

Analyze This: Jennifer Johnston, Senior Director of #dreamjob Marketing, Communication and Events for Salesforce.com discusses how to use analytics to win the war for talent during a morning breakout session.

Cheesecake Factory keynote David M. Gordon - 14

A Taste of Greatness: David M. Gordon, President of The Cheesecake Factory shares the qualities he looks for in new employees. Candidates must "ooze warmth and hospitality," "radiate positive energy," "have a passion for excellence," and "love to have fun and celebrate" to be considered for a position.

Watch the full Cheesecake Factory keynote presentation here.

Welcome  35

Get Ready for More Greatness: Conference emcee and Great Place to Work® consultant, Marisa Stoltzfus, invites everyone to join her at the 2016 Great Place to Work® Conference in San Diego, CA.

Feeling the Pressure

We are constantly inundated with content about the Millennial generation, much of which either criticizes or applauds this generation, expresses their potential for success, or asserts the likelihood that they will "fail" (ironically, research shows that the Millennial generation is the most stressed of any generation). Whatever direction the subject may take, though, the bottom line is that there's a huge amount of content being generated and consumed, about this generation. This fact in itself should challenge us to take a deeper dive into the reason why we're seeing so much content about Millennials, and what the involuntary impact of such attention might be.

Why is there so Much Talk About the Millennial Generation?

Statistically, there are several factors that make this group unique compared with past generations, and since what is different generally garners attention, it makes sense that people inherently want to talk about Millennials. They are the largest generation in American history (~75 million strong), could make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, and have the highest levels of educational attainment of any generation. Growing up during the great recession and amidst a turbulent economy has likely also influenced the "all eyes on Millennials" feel. How will this generation combat such factors as historically high student loan debts and unemployment rates? We can also look to technological advancements and the rise of social media as factors, there is now, more than ever, a need to be constantly connected and "in the know."

Millennials, Media Stereotyping & Implications for Your Workforce

Amidst the surge of content about Millennials we should remind ourselves of a few things, including that media stereotyping is typical, and is often used to get the public to consume an idea with little thought. While the facts seen may be sound, how they are presented could be another story. With this in mind it's important to be cognizant and open to considering any unconscious bias one may have.

As we are poised to have (for the first time in history) as many as five generations working side by side, successfully navigating a multigenerational workforce will be critical for workplaces. In a recent blog from Northwestern University, Nicholas Pearce, a clinical assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School explains that, "A lot of intergenerational tension is the result of unconscious bias... It takes humility and self-awareness to appreciate difference and then leverage it in ways that both improve the culture and grow the organization."

At Great Place to Work®, we know that diversity is an asset. Studies show that companies with diverse workforces perform better financially, and we see Best Companies consistently invest substantial time and resources towards fostering diverse and inclusive workforces where all people and perspectives are welcomed and valued. Generational diversity is no different; it should be seen as asset for an organization, and not a liability.

Kate Reid is a contributing writer at Great Place to Work®.

Promoting Idea-Sharing as a Way to Energize Employees

Speaking up is a desirable behavior in the workplace. Great workplace cultures not only want employees to speak up with ideas or concerns, but encourage an environment where employees feel comfortable doing so.

Speaking up, however, often incites the need for a “prohibitive” voice, which can cause unintended outcomes. In a recent study from Michigan State University, Szu-Han (Joanna) Lin and Russell E. Johnson studied the effects of different kinds of speech in employees, and found that expressing concern and criticism (prohibitive voice) was more mentally taxing than suggesting ideas for improvement (promotive voice). This mental fatigue led employees to an increased reluctance to speak up again at a later opportunity. On the flip side, speaking up with ideas instead of concerns seemed to reduce employee’s fatigue.

Along with the subsequent effects of using promotive vs. prohibitive voice, the personalities that prompted each voice were studied. Research concluded that a strong promotion-focused personality (those motivated by new opportunities and the potential for gain) predicted increases in promotive voice, and also (on a much smaller scale), increases in prohibitive voice. On the other hand, having a strong prevention-focused personality (those more motivated by avoiding risk and loss), only predicted increases in prohibitive voice.

Applying Results to Your Workplace Culture

This study reminds us that the language and approach used to encourage “speaking up” matter. Does your organization ask employees to bring up concerns or problems (prohibitive), or does it source their ideas and suggestions (promotive) for improvement?

Proactively asking employees for feedback strengthens trust in the employer/employee relationship by showing a genuine interest in their ideas, and offers the added benefit of increasing employee buy-in to solutions or changes (i.e., increased adoption; decreased resistance) because the employees thought of the ideas themselves.

At recognized Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®, an average of 81% of employees believe “management genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas.” Consider how you or your employees “speak up” within your workplace. An easy solution to reducing fatigue and improving involvement might just be proactively encouraging a positive, promotive voice.

In today’s environment, it is hard to avoid technology on any given day. People use different IT products and solutions including cell phones, computers, cloud services, systems, hardware, and software at work and in their daily lives. Access to the internet is also continuously growing; in 2013, nearly 3 billion people were able to connect to the internet via fixed or mobile broadband.

Thanks to technological innovation, the IT industry is enjoying a boom in today’s business world. IT organizations are not only in the Fortune 500, several are considered to be among the 100 Best Companies to Work For. According to Great Place to Work®, IT is one of the 6 industries that consistently dominate the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list every year.

It's rare for IT Employees at Great Workplaces to have a case of the Mondays

Although many employees lament the end of the weekend and the start of the work week, 89 percent of employees who work for the Best IT Companies report looking forward to coming in to work. This statistic is significant even in comparison to the rest of the 100 Best Companies; it is five points higher than the 100 Best benchmark. Some of these positive experiences may be attributed to some of the perks and benefits of working for a Best IT Company.

100 Best IT Companies Employee Perks and Benefits

According to Great Place to Work®, some key employee offerings across the IT companies on the list include:

  • Average 16 paid days off after 1 year of employment
  • Average 31 paid days off after 5 years of employment
  • Average 31 volunteer hours per year
  • Average 168 training hours per year for full-time hourly employees
  • Average 197 training hours per year for full-time salaried employees


In addition to these perks and benefits, the 100 Best IT Companies provide the highest compensation across the six industries that consistently make the Fortune100 Best list, and the vast majority of their employees report that they are satisfied with their pay. For example, 84 percent of employees at the 100 Best IT companies on average believe they are paid fairly for the work that they contribute and this statistic is five points above the 100 Best Benchmark.

Although employees at the 100 Best IT Companies enjoy excellent pay and perks, these are not the only areas that drive the employee value proposition at these organizations. There are two additional strategies that can help IT organizations become great workplaces:

  1. Provide ongoing professional development by keeping employees educated on new IT developments. To support this, VMWare offers a wide range of virtual and classroom instructor-led courses each year.
  2. Empower employees to innovate by sharing ideas openly, taking risks, and adopting an entrepreneurial mindset. Known for their innovative products, salesforce.com launched Salesforce Labs internally so that globally, employees can publish free, open-source applications that help employees bring their ideas to Salesforce customers.

To learn more about the IT industry and the IT companies that made the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list in 2015, check out the full white paper from Great Place to Work®.

Sue Lam is a human capital management (HCM) research specialist at APQC. In this role, she uses APQC’s benchmarks, metrics, and predictive analytics to uncover insights from data and leverages qualitative case study research to identify real-world practices and solutions that back up the data. Her work spans the full spectrum of HCM from recruiting, sourcing, and selecting to training and development, retention, and engagement. Lam holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in psychology and history from University of California, Los Angeles, as well as a Ph.D. in social and personality psychology and quantitative methods and a Masters in social ecology from University of California, Irvine. She is certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) from the HR Certification Institute and is a Society for Human Resource Management Certified Professional (SHRM-CP). In her spare time, Sue does East Coast swing dance and is SCUBA certified.

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the leading proponents of benchmarking and best practice business research. Working with more than 500 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC focuses on providing organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. Every day we uncover the processes and practices that push organizations from good to great. Visit us at www.apqc.org and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

When Personal and Organizational Missions Align

I joined Great Place to Work® in January of this year to lead the U.S. Marketing group, which produces the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For© list. Our team also produces the Great Place to Work® Annual Conference, which I am eagerly awaiting this week in Dallas, TX. Here, we will listen to leaders of our own company and of recognized great workplaces such as Twitter, ClifBar, The Cheesecake Factory, and many more speak about the important role of trust in the workplace.

What has been poignant for me in my first 90 days with Great Place to Work® is how passionately our employees embrace the mission of this organization. This is true for all of us, including myself. Our mission is:

Building a better society by helping companies to transform their workplaces.

We each connect to this statement in different ways and for different reasons. This week, for the first time, I will get a chance to speak in person with a broader community of people including CEOs of great workplaces, hosts at long-time 100 Best Company The Container Store as we tour their corporate headquarters, HR industry influencers, clients of Great Place to Work®, human resources leaders from around North America, and Great Place to Work® affiliates from around the world.

I expect that after dozens of conversations this week, my understanding of our company’s mission will expand dramatically. I can report back to you what I discover.

Speaking for myself, coming to Great Place to Work® feels like coming home—full circle—after a long career of marketing, product development and writing. When I first graduated from college, I remember reading, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, about the importance of establishing and adhering to one’s own mission statement. I wrote mine at the age of 22 and have found over the years that it still rings true for me. The mission statement I wrote for myself is: “To motivate large groups of people to build life-affirming organizations, and to live my daily life with love, commitment, fun and creativity.”

Serving in the role of marketer is an ideal way for me to have a hand in motivating large groups of people. In the coming years at Great Place to Work®, I will be working on generating mass awareness for the extensive benefits of building high-trust, high-performance organizations that affirm people and their personal wellbeing. And I know I will not be alone in this mission because over 1,000 advocates who are about to join us in Dallas are also evangelizing these benefits with the people they touch day-to-day.

While I have worked for all three sectors of industry—that is, for-profit, non-profit, and government—I gravitate to for-profit organizations because I appreciate easily measurable feedback about the efficiency and the value of the organization is generating as measured by profit, market adoption, and market capitalization. So it is especially meaningful to me that life-affirming organizations are good business. It intuitively makes sense to me that the data Great Place to Work® has gathered over the years show that great workplaces have three times the financial performance of their peers. Life-affirming organizations are sustainable organizations.

The core of our model and methodology is measuring trust. We measure the extent to which management and employees trust each other within each organization. Ultimately, this is a measure of all the relationships that make up the organization. As I delve more deeply into the topic of trust at the conference this week, I would not be surprised if trust is a key underpinning of the four values that I had put in my personal mission statement: love, commitment, fun and creativity.

I plan to attend a couple sessions this week about innovation in high-trust organizations, so stay tuned on further insights there for fun and creativity. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to tweet me during the conference @ingridGPTW. See you on #gptwConf.


Lessons from SAS, One of the World’s Best Workplaces

Business analytics and software provider SAS is well known for using HR analytics to improve its own performance as well as its clients’ performance. Jennifer Nenadic, Manager of Enterprise Analytic Services at SAS, will be sharing HR analytics insights at the 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference on April 22-23 in Dallas, TX. Recently, I interviewed Jennifer about her upcoming conference session.

How do you define predictive analytics?

Rather than jumping directly into predictive analytics, I would like to take a step back and talk about analytics in general. In working with both internal and external customers at SAS, I have found that there is a lack of clarity around what analytics exactly is. I'll talk about this during my 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference session.

The Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS) has a definition that is commonly used and I think does a great job of answering the question: What is analytics? INFORMS defines analytics as the scientific process of transforming data into insights for the purpose of making better decisions. Analytics is always an action-driven approach. There is always a decision to be made when we look at doing analytics. Coming from a data science background and working with a lot of statisticians, data scientists love to analyze data just for the sake of analyzing it. However, it is important to ensure our analysis is driving business action. Ultimately, we want analytics to empower an organization's vision.

Analytics is a stair-step process in which predictive analytics is one step, but not the first step. The first step is visualization and exploration. This might entail, for example, using strategic reports to gain insight about your organization, its workforce, and the HR programs it offers. Understanding the organization and the changes that are happening in the organization can help a business leader make better decisions. So that is the visualization step. The next step is data mining. In data mining, we profile and look for reasons why things have historically occurred including factors that influence specific outcomes. Based on the past trends that are discovered in data mining, we can begin to predict things, which is the third step in the analytics process.

Predictive analytics looks at past trends. It looks at things that have happened and uses various factors to predict whether a certain outcome will occur in the future. One thing to always keep in mind regarding predictive analytics is that although it is a scientific process, it is predicting and not guaranteeing an outcome. Data scientists watch trends over time and develop an algorithm or a model that helps a business person predict, for example, what the organization's growth needs will be. As we look over time, we are able to measure the accuracy of our predictions. For example, we predicted Y was what we were going to need and what we actually ended up needing was X. Through monitoring we can improve and refine that model and algorithm so that we get better and better with our prediction and are better able to adjust as the business changes.

Why is it important for today's HR functions to leverage analytics?

When we think of analytics, one of the things that comes to mind is eBay or Amazon or Netflix—the companies that were built upon analytics. The reality is that the world is changing. Analytics is seeping into every industry and every area. For HR and companies, the reality is that the workforce is changing. Companies have more generations working for them at a single time than they've ever had before. When we look at Generation Y and the Millennials, we see that they have completely different needs and expectations than the Baby Boomers. So, the approaches that companies have historically used to acquire, retain, and invest in their staff may no longer be effective. If we continue to operate in the ways that we always have, we're going to miss out. We are going to miss the mark. There are so many companies that are taking advantage of analytics. These companies will take the talent away from the companies that do not use analytics.

One thing that I will talk about at the 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference is a study conducted in 2014 by Deloitte. In that study, Deloitte asked: How important is HR analytics? Sixty-six percent of companies said that analytics is important or urgent. We don't want to miss out on 1) acquiring the best talent and 2) retaining the talent that we have.

What kinds of projects or questions can predictive analytics help HR answer?

At the Great Place to Work® conference, I will show a list of questions that organizations can use in each phase of the employee life cycle that demonstrates how you can apply HR analytics to your HR vision and your HR strategies. From the acquisition perspective, some of the questions are: Can you predict your talent needs? Do you know what talent you need now? Do you know what talent you will need next year?

Every company is different. There are different factors that can make people successful in different companies. Many people do a great job in terms of reading all of the industry literature: This is what we should be focusing on, this is what we should be doing, and this is who we should be hiring. But is doing what everyone else is doing a good fit for your company? With analytics, we look at the key factors that make someone successful in a specific job function, in a specific area, of a specific company. We ask: Who are the most successful people at my company? How can I predict which factors are going to help me pick job applicants that will be just as successful? You look for key factors that help lead to success when someone is working in your company. By spending some time investing in analytics, we can truly know if those industry trends are also true for our company or not. Sometimes they will be, and sometimes they might not.

Other questions we might ask are: What's the timetable from when someone is hired to when they will become a successful resource? Can we predict the amount of investment time that you are going to need to get a new hire performing at full speed? If we can predict this, we can prepare for what the organization is going to need.

Can you give a case study example of how predictive analytics helped SAS improve? What were the outcomes?

A question that we commonly see companies asking is: How do we make sure that we retain our talent? Employee turnover is costly. Companies spend a lot of time investing in people and they don't want that investment to walk out the door. On average, in industry, turnover is about 16 percent. Here at SAS, we average about three-to-five percent turnover. One of the reasons that we have such a low average rate of turnover is because we are constantly looking at how we can better retain people. Analytics is a great way to empower that. As we begin to predict factors that increase an employee's risk of leaving the company, we get insight into what we can do as an organization to shift our business practices in ways that address those factors. The shift might involve providing more training or changing training locations. At SAS, we continue to expand our training and investment opportunities. We are investing in an entire new system to help track our training and leadership development. Another thing that we are doing at SAS, which analytics helped us to see the need for, is creating an easier mechanism for employees to have coaching conversations with their managers. So, we are heavily invested this year in building out a new performance management module in our HR system.

What do end-users (HR professionals, people managers, business leaders) need to know to leverage predictive analytics?

Something that we stress a lot within my team, and with data scientists at the companies that SAS works with, is to be sure to provide context when sharing analytics results. Whenever we are delivering results, we don't just present results. It is very important to present the original question, the intent, and the correct usages of the results. We don't want people to take information without the full context around it because they could unintentionally misuse the information.

Presenting the results is a partnership between analytics and the HR business partner. It is my analytics team's job to provide the information. Then, we work with the HR business partner to put HR language around what has been highlighted through the analysis. We allow the HR business partner to communicate the findings to the business area end-users. In addition, we recommend utilizing an iterative process to engage and provide insights to our HR business partner along the way and not wait until the end of an analytics project to deliver everything.

Sometimes our interactions extend into the implementation of the results provided during the initial analytics project. We can help the HR business validate the impacts of their business changes using an approach called experimentation analytics. So, for example, with retention and other HR issues, there are opportunities for data scientists and HR partners to test out theories for how to influence these outcomes. Let's say that the data has shown X, Y, and Z are factors in employee retention. We might think that by changing certain HR or business processes that we could influence these factors. We might partner to assess the influence of coaching or mentoring, and using experimentation analytics, we can test if that change in coaching ends up influencing retention risk.

Business partnership is absolutely key to success with analytics because the ultimate goal of analytics is to support and empower the business. If you are working in a silo and just throwing information and results over the fence, your ability to empower the business is incredibly diminished.

What are some common misconceptions about predictive analytics?

The big thing that I have seen in working with external customers is that everyone wants to start with predictive analytics: I want to predict what my needs are going to be in five years or in two years. They want to jump instantly into that predictive space. What I have found over the years is that before we can get to predictive analytics, we can find lots of short-term value in spending time exploring the data and visualizing it in new ways for our customers. In our projects at SAS, this is very much an iterative approach. We work a little bit and then every two-to-four weeks present the findings of where we are.

In those first sessions together, we usually step back and say for example: You want us to predict retention risk, let's start by just looking at information about 1) your organization and 2) the people who have left. We begin to show that over the past three years, turnover for a particular group has been continually increasing. The business is wowed. It changes their entire perspective just to have a visualization of what has happened in the past.

A lot of people want to skip over the visualization step because the buzz word says that they need to be predictive. But, just being able to take the information you have today and combine it in a strategic and powerful visualization is incredibly useful. And, to be honest, that doesn't require a data scientist. Analytics seems like this big concept that requires statisticians, and eventually it does, but there is so much power in just understanding your organization, looking at the question that you are asking, and exploring what's been going on historically. It can change the way businesses operate. So, the thing that I encourage as I am working with different groups and individuals, is for them to start by seeing the power of visualization. While we're working on building them a predictive model, we help them build some powerful strategic reports so that they can be tracking and exploring the data themselves.

What are tips that you could give to HR functions that are starting up their predictive analytics work?

I wrote a blog last year called Jump Start Your Analytics Program with Visualization and Communication and this may be a good jumping off point. The other tip, the other thing to keep in mind, is that analytics would not be successful without an entire team of varying roles. It's not just your statistician or your modeler that leads to analytics success. I recently posted a blog that talks about this, titled How to Build a Data Science Dream Team.

Register now to hear Jennifer Nenadic speak at the 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference on April 22-23 in Dallas, TX! You'll also hear from leaders of Best Companies and Great Place to Work® experts. Checkout the full conference agenda: 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference Agenda.

About Jennifer Nenadic

With a background in data management and analytics, Jennifer has aided SAS' leaders and external customers in strengthening their business by strategically transforming their current systems into intelligence-generating solutions using advanced analytics techniques and data management best practices. Jennifer has worked with clients across various industries to find creative designs and solutions to meet their evolving business needs. Jennifer holds Bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Textile Engineering as well as a Master's degree in Advanced Analytics from North Carolina State University. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferNenadic.

About Elissa Tucker

Elissa Tucker is a research program manager at APQC. She is responsible for developing and executing APQC's human capital management research agenda. Elissa has written and been featured in many HR industry publications and is a regular speaker for HR industry webinars and conferences. Elissa has more than 15 years of HR research, writing, and advising experience. Prior to joining APQC, Elissa worked as a senior research consultant at, Hewitt Associates (now AonHewitt). Elissa co-edited and contributed to the book: Workforce Wake-Up Call: Your Workforce Is Changing, Are You?, John Wiley & Sons, 2006. Follow Elissa on Twitter @ElissaTucker and on the APQC Blog.

About APQC

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the leading proponents of benchmarking and best practice business research. Working with more than 500 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC focuses on providing organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. Every day we uncover the processes and practices that push organizations from good to great. Visit us at www.apqc.org and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

13 Retailers made the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list

Try Googling “working in retail.” You will not only find the top ranked search results are all negative, but also you will see that many of the remaining results contain words like crazy, worst, tough, hardship, problem, and demeaning. There is a lot of negative press about the experience of retail employees. There are even entire websites dedicated to documenting the daily challenges that retail employees face.

But working in retail does not have to be this way. The many retail companies featured each year on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list confirm it. In particular, the 13 companies on the 2015 Best Companies list illustrate how retailers are creating positive employee experiences today. In fact, Great Place to Work® Institute studied these 13 top retail workplaces and uncovered three strategies that are key to their success:

  1. Investing in store-level managers as key organizational leaders.
  2. Inspiring a sense of purpose among employees.
  3. Recognizing and rewarding employees for their work.

Here are examples showing these three strategies in action at retailers on 2015 100 Best Companies list.

Nugget Market Invests in Store Managers

At "Nugget High," grocery store managers take part in many training courses, including those that involve role playing scenarios that store managers often encounter. Read about it at: http://fortune.com/best-companies/nugget-market-26/.

Employees at Zappos Decide How to Carry Out Its Mission

Those who have heard me speak about APQC's leadership research have heard me talk about Zappos' practice of holocracy, or having no managers. Employees at Zappos decide the best ways to achieve their work expectations, giving them a greater sense of contributing to the organization's success than if they were told what to do by supervisors. Read about it at: http://fortune.com/best-companies/zappos-com-86/.

Rewards for Working at CustomInk Are Many

From 99 percent of health insurance premiums paid by the company to free meals once a week and weekend bonuses for volunteering to work unplanned overtime, CustomInk employees feel recognized and appreciated for the work they do. Read about it at: http://fortune.com/company/kmx/.

Key Stats

Top Retail Workplaces

13 retail organizations are on the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies List. Averages among these organizations include:

  • 21% Voluntary employee turnover (U.S. Average is 32%)
  • 76 Training hours for full-time hourly employees
  • 46 Applicants per job opening

See the full list of retail organizations on the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list below. Read more industry insights about the top workplaces in the Great Place to Work® analysis: "Industry-Specific Strategies of Winning Companies." And, check out these retail industry resources from APQC:

Share your thoughts on what makes a great employee experience in retail. Leave a comment on APQC's blog, send me a tweet at @ElissaTucker, or drop an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® List: Retail Companies

  • Build-A-Bear Workshop
  • CarMax
  • General Mills
  • CustomInk, LLC
  • L.L. Bean
  • Nordstrom
  • Nugget Market
  • Publix Super Markets
  • QuikTrip
  • Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)
  • The Container Store
  • Wegmans Food Markets
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Zappos.com


Elissa Tucker is a research program manager at APQC. She is responsible for developing and executing APQC's human capital management research agenda. Elissa has written and been featured in many HR industry publications and is a regular speaker for HR industry webinars and conferences. Elissa has more than 15 years of HR research, writing, and advising experience. Prior to joining APQC, Elissa worked as a senior research consultant at, Hewitt Associates (now AonHewitt). Elissa co-edited and contributed to the book: Workforce Wake-Up Call: Your Workforce Is Changing, Are You?, John Wiley & Sons, 2006.


APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the leading proponents of benchmarking and best practice business research. Working with more than 500 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC focuses on providing organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. Every day we uncover the processes and practices that push organizations from good to great. Visit us at www.apqc.org and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

The Five Elements Meaningful Programs Have in Common

All companies face the question of how to recognize and reward their employees. It has always been a cornerstone of effective management, but today, as the competition for talent becomes stronger, the ways in which organizations value their employees becomes increasingly important. But creating a recognition program is not something organizations do once and accept as perfect. Great organizations are constantly reiterating and reevaluating the way they reward employees, changing to meet the needs of their people and match the expectations of the market. As companies grow this becomes even more of a challenge and leaders are forced to rethink the way they add value to the employee recognition experience.

The Truth About Recognition

We all want and need recognition. From a very early age we crave it from parents, teachers, and friends. Our whole lives are modeled around constant social feedback and acknowledgement. So strong is our desire for positive affirmation, particularly during developmental periods, that even a neutral reaction can be perceived as a negative one. When we move to the workplace, this orientation is no different. It is key that employers focus on how they can make authentic and meaningful recognition part of their management philosophy in order to retain top talent and encourage high performance.

A recent whitepaper commissioned by Fortune 100 Best Company to Work For and Great Place to Work® Conference Sponsor, O.C. Tanner, investigates the root cause of great employee performance and how managers can tailor their workplaces to promote it. The paper gathers its conclusions from an open-ended survey where respondents were asked the question, "What is the most important thing that your manager or company currently does that would cause you to produce great work?" Respondents answered in their own words, providing a variety of responses, but some clear patterns did emerge. Overall, 37% of respondents stated that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work more often. While other themes like autonomy and inspiration did surface, recognition was the most dominant, illustrating the importance of affirmation, feedback and reward for motivating employees to do their best work.

The complete results are illustrated in the chart below:

How to Create a Meaningful Recognition Culture in Your Organization

Despite the fact that this study and others prove the importance of meaningful recognition, it is still something that many companies struggle to define and produce. At Great Place to Work® we see many of our clients, even those with strong cultures, face challenges when it comes to team and individual recognition on a large, organizational scale. While there is no universal program that will work at every company, there are a few key elements of authentic recognition that all organizations and managers can use to create more meaningful recognition experiences.

  1. Be Specific, Be Relevant – Recognition is more meaningful when it is tied to a specific accomplishment or business objective. Being specific helps employees relate the recognition to their behavior, encouraging continued strong performance.
  2. Be Timely – Recognition that is given months after the fact loses its meaning by degree. The longer it takes for managers to recognize employees, the more likely it is that the actions will be perceived as less authentic.
  3. Recognition Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes – There is a great deal of research that indicates people are motivated by more than money, but monetary gifts can go a long way when recognizing employees. Beyond a bonus or a raise, consider personal gifts, tickets to events, or other purchases that show employees their reward is personalized to them.
  4. Little Things Go a Long Way - While it is very important to recognize significant accomplishments and milestones, everyday thanks yous can be just as, and sometimes more motivating, to employees. Writing handwritten notes, or using the intranet to promote the good behaviors of individuals can help instill a regular culture of recognition. These thank yous and shout outs do not have to come from managers alone; they can also come from peers, which some employees may find more motivating.
  5. Connect to the Bigger Picture – Use recognition practices to help employees see that they are valued in the organization and an integral part of the success of their team, their department and the company overall. This is particularly key when organizations grow or change as it helps employees build a sense of security in their value to the company, motivating them to continue high performing work.

Learn Recognition from the Best

This year's Great Place to Work® Conference will feature breakout sessions on employee recognition for those interested in learning about how other companies have tackled this organizational challenge in different ways. Some particular sessions of interest include:

Driving Business Impact Through Meaningful Recognition Experiences
Presented by: Intel Corporation

At Intel, the "Great Place to Work" recognition program offers a comprehensive calendar of external and internal events to engage employees and provide meaningful experiences for them and their families. After four successful years of building out a calendar and system that provides well over 200,000 individual experiences annually for our employees and families, the program is evolving to offer new and meaningful recognition experiences at Intel. Personalized recognition experiences as a form of a department "thank you" coupled with the opportunity to enjoy experiences outside of working hours with some of our senior leaders pairs a leadership connection with a meaningful experience that leaves a memorable and favorable impression on recipients. The premise of this session centers around 1) finding and fairly deploying innovative ways to utilize exclusive employee events as a form of recognition and 2) elevating the menu of recognition offerings to compliment and best support the mission and values of the company.

Conquering the Salary Stand-Of: How Rethinking Total Rewards and Career Development Can Help You Attract and Retain the Right Employees
Presented by: West Monroe Partners

At West Monroe Partners, developing people is an integral part of their "people first" vision. Career Equity is a way of thinking and a framework used by West Monroe Partners to help people understand how to build and deploy career assets in pursuit of meaningful work and job satisfaction and do so in an intentional and purposeful way. Built on the principle that great results are achieved on purpose, not by accident, Career Equity provides tools and strategies to start and keep people on a path toward the careers they envision. And as West Monroe Partners continues to grow, both in size and profitability, the potential for greater individual rewards increases right along with it. In fact, as their people progress through the career model and lengthen tenure with West Monroe Partners, the compensation and incentives received will only continue grow meaningfully over time. They've found this to be a winning formula for attracting and keeping the right people.

To learn more about these and other sessions at the Great Place to Work® Conference, as well as to register to attend, please visit our conference website here.


When I venture to Dallas this April for the Great Place to Work® Conference, it will be my third rodeo (pun intended!). At Salesforce, we're delivering social and mobile cloud technologies that create a more transparent, collaborative and fun experience for our employees that we think contributes to our being named to the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list for the past 7 years running—and in the Top 10 for the last 2 of those years. So, in the spirit of creating a more engaging experience for all conference attendees this year, I wanted to share my top 5 techie tips.

  1. Download the Great Place To Work® Conference App

    Plan your attack right from your phone. The conference app has all the sessions and speaker bios right at your fingertips, and I'm told there will also be more interactivity with the sessions in the app this year. Take advantage of the app to check out where you want to go next before leaving your current session. Using the app is a whole lot less conspicuous than pulling out the full size brochure and leafing through it while wedged between two other attendees in a packed session, and a whole lot more fun.

  2. Connect with others on the spot

    The sessions are fantastic, but there is also a ton of great action in the halls, at meals and in the break areas. If you meet someone you want to stay in touch with, send them a connection request on LinkedIn immediately. Trust me, you will lose business cards and/or forget to follow up. You can also follow speakers on Twitter and follow the pages of companies you learn about and admire on Great Rated!TM, LinkedIn or Facebook.

  3. Join the conversation

    If you hear an inspiring quote or great idea during a session, why not share it with others on your social networks? Don't be shy. Tweet it up! Make sure to @mention speakers and their companies so they feel the love, and of course, use the event hashtag – #GPTWconf

  4. Follow the hashtag

    Sign in to Twitter and follow the event hashtag #GPTWconf to see what other attendees are talking about. By doing this at my first conference, I learned you do not want to miss the Kimpton Hotels session. Apparently, it's always a crowd pleaser. And, as mentioned in Tip #3, people will be tweeting their favorite quotes and ideas from sessions, so the Twitter feed for the hashtag is a like a CliffsNotes version of the whole conference.

  5. Take notes on your phone

    People are always furiously jotting down notes in notebooks, on the brochures and on scraps of paper throughout sessions, and I have to wonder if any of those notes ever get used. I'm guilty of taking volumes of handwritten notes and never doing anything with them when I get back to work. Lately I've been taking notes on my phone's notepad instead. Notes on the phone are easy to refer back to and/or to share with others when you get back at the office, or better yet, do a quick copy and paste and email ideas to colleagues right away.

    I'm looking forward this year's conference and to sharing actionable insights in the session I'm co-presenting with Ana Recio, SVP Global Recruiting at Salesforce, titled: "Disrupt Everything: Use Culture, Technology and Analytics to Win the War for Talent". We'll be talking about what culture is, why it matters and how to build it. We'll also share why most HR technology doesn't work in a social, mobile, and connected world, and how to start using analytics to make smarter talent decisions. Are you ready to get disruptive?

W. L. Gore and General Mills Have What it Takes

Eight manufacturing organizations are on the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list. Great Place to Work® Institute uncovered three strategies that these organizations use to overcome manufacturing industry challenges. Namely, culture, communication, and fair pay practices help these manufacturing companies provide a consistently positive employee experience across locations and job roles

Key Stats

Top Manufacturing Workplaces

8 manufacturing organizations are on the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies List. Averages among these organizations include:

  • 5% Voluntary employee turnover
  • 58 Training hours for full-time hourly employees
  • 63 Applicants per job opening

APQC has had the opportunity to study human capital management (HCM) best practices at two of the manufacturing companies on the 2015 100 Best Companies to Work For® list. Our case study-based research on W. L. Gore & Associates and General Mills provides examples of the three success factors identified by Great Place to Work®.

1. Connect Employees Via Shared Culture, Values, & Purpose

W. L. Gore's mission is to create and nurture a culture that engages all associates so they can deliver innovative products and great business results. Gore has articulated its culture in four fundamental beliefs: belief in the individual, power of small teams, all in the same boat, and long-term view. Read more about Gore's culture and shared beliefs in Reviving Leadership Capabilities: W. L. Gore Case Study.

General Mills has five values that Tim Gluszak, currently manager, learning and development, global diversity & inclusion at General Mills, indicated to APQC are success factors for retaining talent:

  • We build our great brands.
  • We strive for consistently superior performance.
  • We do the right thing all the time.
  • We innovate in every aspect of our business.
  • We respect, develop, and invest in people.

Each year, General Mills conducts a global climate survey to measure progress in working in accordance with these values. The results are dissected and action plans developed to address any issues that have emerged. Various manager programs have been developed in direct response to the climate survey results.

2. Communicate Regularly with All Employees Regardless of Location or Shift

Mary Tilley, HR leader at W. L. Gore, shared with APQC that the organization strongly values direct one-to-one communication among associates. There are no barriers to accessing other associates, including the CEO. Associates are expected to share knowledge and information. They conduct work by networking, sharing, and collaborating.

Similarly, General Mills has many avenues to communicate with employees and for employees to communicate with each other. An internal Facebook-style network allows all employees across the globe to: look up and contact each other, enter information about themselves and their areas of expertise, and form their own communities around technical or outside interests. The organization also has an expert locator system through which employees ask and respond to each other's technical questions.

Employee affinity groups provide connection opportunities for General Mills employees who identify with a range of diverse populations. Groups include the Hispanic Network, the Black Champions Network, and Betty's Family, which brings together lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. Each group stages a one-day or multi-day development event, which includes a range of workshops and interactions with executives. In addition, General Mills has an internal learning academy that facilitates knowledge transfer among employees by planning job rotations, project assignments, and formal training opportunities.

3. Establish Equity Through Fair and Transparent Pay and Profit Sharing

In addition to being shaped by four fundamental beliefs, Gore's culture is also defined by four guiding principles: fairness, freedom, commitments, and waterline. Fairness guides all Gore associates to treat coworkers, customers, and vendors fairly. However, fairness does not mean that all associates are treated equally. W. L. Gore's assessment and rewards process illustrates the fairness principle as well as Gore's commitment to transparency regarding how decisions are made. At Gore, rewards are focused on an associate's work contributions. The performance assessment process begins with all associates in a unit providing feedback and relative rankings for the contributions of their peers. These relative contribution rankings are the basis for compensation decisions. To be rewarded, associates must deliver business results and do so in accordance with the organization's foundational beliefs and core principles.

General Mills also adheres to a pay for performance philosophy, offering base pay, incentives, and stock rewards based on individual employee and/or company performance. In addition, General Mills has an Individual Development Plan process that puts employees in the driver's seat of their careers but with the support of their managers and HR. Read more about how General Mills rewards and retains employees in the following two APQC resources: Retention and Work/Life Balance Programs at General Mills--April 2012 HCM Community Call and Technical Talent Management - General Mills Case Study.

See the full list of manufacturing organizations on the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list below. Read more industry insights about the top workplaces in the Great Place to Work® analysis: "Industry-Specific Strategies of Winning Companies." And, check out these manufacturing industry resources from APQC:

Share your thoughts on top workplace practices for manufacturing organizations. Leave a comment on APQC's blog, send me a tweet at @ElissaTucker, or drop an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® List: Manufacturing Companies

  • Arthrex
  • Devon Energy
  • General Mills
  • Hilcorp
  • JM Family Enterprises
  • Mars, Incorporated
  • Stryker Corporation
  • W.L. Gore & Associates

Elissa Tucker is a research program manager at APQC. She is responsible for developing and executing APQC's human capital management research agenda. Elissa has written and been featured in many HR industry publications and is a regular speaker for HR industry webinars and conferences. Elissa has more than 15 years of HR research, writing, and advising experience. Prior to joining APQC, Elissa worked as a senior research consultant at, Hewitt Associates (now AonHewitt). Elissa co-edited and contributed to the book: Workforce Wake-Up Call: Your Workforce Is Changing, Are You?, John Wiley & Sons, 2006.

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the leading proponents of benchmarking and best practice business research. Working with more than 500 organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC focuses on providing organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with confidence. Every day we uncover the processes and practices that push organizations from good to great. Visit us at www.apqc.org and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

Why Great Workplaces are Increasingly Shifting their Focus to People

There has been a notable shift in the way organizations define their human resource functions. Increasingly, we see departments like "People Services" or "People Operations." Human Resource executives have titles such as "Chief People Officer" and "Vice President of People" and we see entire departments focused on analyzing an organization's people. The way traditional HR works is changing, and no matter what organizations call it, one thing is clear: people are at the center.

The Case for People-Focused HR

At Great Place to Work® we interact with these "people" functions in our client organizations on a regular basis and we know that these departments have significant power to change organizational culture. Through our experience we see that companies that find success in cultural change initiatives use a few common tactics:

  • Align executives around the initiative and integrate business objectives
  • Establish a core team to manage the initiative
  • Align HR practices around the vision of an ideal culture
  • Involve leaders and employees at all levels in looking for solutions
  • Prioritize strategic communication, using face-to-face as much as possible
  • Define and celebrate success

While these tactics are effective, they are certainly not easy. Organizations need champions for change, and those champions are often found in HR. HR groups facilitate culture change in some of the most successful organizations, and those who do it well are those groups that are focused first and foremost on people. HR departments who see people as both their key asset and their key responsibility know that culture is the common denominator. Great cultures bring in great people, and if they are cultures that can sustain greatness, they will keep great people too.

Recently, Deloitte released their report on trends in global human capital. The annual study compiles data from surveys of more than 3,300 HR and business leaders around the world, and identifies major trends. As highlighted in a recent Great Place to Work® blog post about the report's findings, culture and engagement are ranked as the top issues organizations face when competing for talent. What was once considered the "soft" side of business has now become an urgent priority for many organizations. Organizations that can attract and retain the best people are making significant business strides, whereas those who cannot are falling behind. This is where people-focused HR departments that prioritize and lead culture change initiatives are helping their companies succeed in big ways.

Learn from Transformative People Functions at Recognized Best Companies

This year's Great Place to Work® Conference will feature several breakout sessions that highlight the importance of transformative people services and the impacts they have on great workplaces. Even just glancing at the list of sessions shows many people-focused topics, but there are many that focus on specific ways in which the best companies serve their people and how they frame people as their biggest asset. Some particular sessions of interest include:

  • The Future of Work: Creating the Ultimate Employee Experience – Cisco

    This workshop will cover the role that Human Resources plays at Cisco, driving the company's overall transformation, leading organizational strategy, elevating team performance and ensuring employee development. Cisco's new People Strategy focuses on what the organization can do for employees, and what those well-served employees can then do for the organization.

  • Building Leaders Who Build the Future – PwC

    PwC knows that people are at the heart of their success, which is why building a great employee experience is a top priority for the firm. PwC cultivates organizational leaders through a focus on a style of leadership development that emphasizes frequent feedback, and real time learning. Through this framework, PwC invests in their people, increases their talent pipeline, and better prepares the organization to meet the challenges of the future.

  • Disrupt Everything: Use Culture, Technology and Analytics to Win the War for Talent – salesforce.com

    salesforce.com knows that hiring top talent and keeping them engaged is challenging, and they know that the old way of doing things just won't cut it anymore. This is why Global HR Operations at salesforce.com has transformed the way they use modern technology and analytics to better understand and engage their people. With the help of new and innovative tools they are strengthening their culture and improving life for their people every day.

Register today for the 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference in Dallas, TX on April 22-23!