In today's volatile and data-driven economy, employee knowledge is a hot commodity. Organizations need the best and brightest employees to maintain their competitive advantage. Though this trend affects all industries, this is even more significant in professional services, where they offer clients knowledge and consulting services. The professional services industry understands that in order to attract and keep the best talent, they must invest in their people.

Given the focus on people in this industry, it is no wonder that professional services organizations make up 20 percent of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For—the highest of any industry. Why do professional services firms dominate the 100 Best list? According to an analysis by Great Place to Work®, some of the strengths of the 100 Best professional services firms include:

  • respecting their employees as professionals,
  • offering exceptional training and development to employees,
  • believing that their leaders are competent, ethical, and communicate a clear vision, and
  • having a strong sense of teamwork.

Recent APQC research found that many companies are currently lacking in these areas. In our predictive analytics research on leadership, we found that the top skills needed in companies today include teamwork, collaboration, strategic planning, and listening. However, professional services firms on the 100 Best list place great value on these skills and nurture them in their employees.

The largest skills gaps in companies today occur for strategic planning, change management, knowledge sharing, listening, and emotional intelligence, and one of the top trends driving these gaps is organizations underinvesting in training and development. Great Place to Work®'s analysis shows that professional services firms on the 100 Best list are also not immune to business challenges, and continuously strive to improve.

Some of the challenges that they are experiencing are ones that affect companies across industries. For example, the 100 Best Companies in professional services must continuously attract, develop, and retain key talent, nurture work/life balance in an industry that demands travel or long hours, and help create a sense of community between in-house and telecommuting employees.

Great Place to Work® finds several strategies for success at the best professional services organizations. For example, professional services firms on the 100 Best list are committed to helping employees achieve work/life balance, and provide high-quality training and development opportunities for their employees.

Professional services organizations looking to foster work/life balance in employees that travel a lot may consider looking into using predictive analytics to pinpoint those who are at risk for business travel burnout or turnover due to the toll from client work and travel schedules. In order to retain workers in global organizations, professional services firms may need to better manage employees' travel experiences. Predictive analytics can help pinpoint the areas that have the most impact on travelers so that professional services organizations can more effectively target their interventions for their employees.

In addition to managing work/life balance, training and development opportunities can be provided to professional services employees in a number of ways. Professional services firms in the 100 Best Companies provide exceptional training and development opportunities to their employees. For professional services firms striving to be more like those on the 100 Best list, they may want to consider providing development to all of their employees if they are not already doing so, whether it is through informal channels or high-potential development programs.

Development for all professional services employees does not need to be costly. For example, professional services firms can develop a culture of mentoring, similar to W.L. Gore, a 100 Best Company and APQC best practices organization in leadership development. Gore embeds development into how they are structured and operates. Gore allows for the natural development of employees through their coaching culture that is supported by what they refer to as "sponsorship." Sponsorship is focused on coaching and guiding an individual as opposed to a team. Associates change sponsors throughout their careers at Gore as their development needs change. Professional services firms can benefit from informal mentoring relationships such as the ones at Gore, given the type of knowledge work that permeates their organizations. In turn, this training can bolster their client work.

Congratulations to APQC members Accenture, Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers and all of the professional services companies for making the 100 Best Companies list in 2015!

To find out more on how these and other companies made the 100 Best list, register now for the 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference on April 22-23 in Dallas, TX.

100 Best Professional Services Key Stats

According to Great Place to Work®, some key averages among the professional services organizations among the 100 Best Companies include:

  • Low voluntary turnover (11 percent),
  • 18 days off after one year of employment,
  • 33 days off after five years of employment,
  • 95 percent offer flexible schedules,
  • 100 percent offer telecommuting options,
  • 15 volunteer hours per year per employee, and
  • 69 training hours per year for full-time salaried employees.


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 and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

4 Elements of a Successful Healthcare Employee Experience

Confronting stressors: It's just part of the job description for any healthcare worker in 2015. Each day this year, healthcare workers will be:

Key Stats

Top Healthcare Workplaces

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

  • Voluntary employee turnover is 7%
  • 45% of execs and sr. managers are female
  • Applicants per job opening = 254
  • complying with regulations new and old,
  • offering patient care that is both low-cost and high-quality,
  • performing well amidst critical talent shortages, and
  • adopting new, digitally-enhanced work processes.

In this type of environment, is it even possible to build a positive employee experience? At the 13 healthcare companies on the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list, it is. And, their employment practices can help other healthcare companies do the same.

In analyzing the healthcare companies making the 2015 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list, Great Place to Work® Institute uncovered four common strategies for success at the top healthcare workplaces.

  1. Foster communication and transparency between employees and leaders. Scripps Health managers and employees use an interactive visual communications map to guide them in discussions regarding organizational changes.
  2. Promote employee health and wellness. OhioHealth provides programs and resources to help employees with inactivity, obesity, stress, and smoking, ultimately positioning employees to feel their best when caring for patients.
  3. Include employees in change and cost-cutting measures so changes get incorporated into how work gets done. Southern Ohio Medical Center involves all employees in discussions about how to tackle financial challenges.
  4. Connect people to purpose—allow employees to do good and find meaning in their work. Atlantic Health System shares progress on patient quality and satisfaction measures as a way to recognize employees' hard work.

See the full list of healthcare companies 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 free healthcare industry resources from non-profit benchmarking and best practices organization APQC.

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

  • Atlantic Health System
  • Baptist Health South Florida
  • Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
  • Houston Methodist
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Meridian Health
  • Ohio Health
  • Roche Diagnostics
  • Scripps Health
  • Southern Ohio Medical Center
  • St. Jude Children's Hospital
  • Texas Health Resources
  • WellStar Health System

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 and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

How Workplace Design Helps Bring Culture to Life

Last week Fortune Magazine published a double-issue featuring the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®. The issue highlights several Best Companies on the list as well as some of the trends and practices seen across the 100 Best. There is a small feature on workspaces as well as a list published online of the 25 coolest offices of the 100 Best.

At Great Place to Work® we receive many questions about the physical workplaces at great workplaces. Invariably, this includes perks and amenities, like free meals and gyms, but increasingly workplace design is becoming a perk in its own right. Many of the Best Companies have inviting work areas, large cafeteria spaces, ergonomic workstations and hi-tech collaboration rooms.

Like all other amenities, workplace design is not a catch-all for creating great culture. Employees will not be enticed by new work stations or better art on the walls if they are fundamentally disengaged from the organization. The Best Companies integrate culture and design, using the physical workspace to promote and enhance their already-strong culture, not the other way around.

Looking Past the "Where" and Getting to the "How"

Last fall, the Harvard Business Review highlighted the changing nature of the workplace and emphasized how it could become a tool to enhance productivity, engage employees, and develop a strong culture within an organization. However, the article does not provide a universal answer to what makes a great work space, emphasizing instead the importance of focusing on how work is done, rather than where it is done. At Great Place to Work® we take a similar approach when we share practices from the 100 Best Companies to Work For®. It is not about what you do, but how you do it.

Current trends in workplace design, like open floor plans and "hot desk" rotational seating, are geared towards getting employees to interact with each other more frequently and more organically than they would in a traditional office setting. Yet this popular approach doesn't work the same in every organization. For example, the article sites one company where unassigned seating was implemented to increase interaction across work teams. Overall, interaction between different teams increased by 17%, but the average number of interactions individual employees had each day decreased by 14%.

These results indicate that while employees started the day in different places, they were more inclined to stay at their desk than they had been before, cutting down on the number of interactions had overall. Due to this change in behavior, team communication in the organization dropped by 45%. This unintended result of changing the office design serves to prove that what works well for one organization will not necessarily work well for another. An organization's values, behaviors and culture dictate more of how employees work together than the spaces they are given in which to work.

Creating Your Perfect Workspace

Like culture change, creating your organization's ideal office requires deliberate and committed work. Great workplaces keep abreast of external trends and research on workplace design, as well as the trends emerging within their own organizations. As work changes, and new methods and technologies become integrated in our organizations, the ways people work, together and individually, change as well. Great companies know this and keep up with the ever-changing needs of their employees, implementing the appropriate modifications into the physical workplace. This attention to the employee experience means that great workplaces design their spaces in much the same way they design their cultures: intentionally.

The physical workplace is a key ingredient in employee engagement and satisfaction. Purposeful design of work environments can build pride, foster camaraderie, inspire creativity and generally produce happier people. At the Great Place to Work® Conference, eleven-time Best Small & Medium Company Kahler Slater will host a breakout session sharing their experience in intentional workplace design, as well as some key learnings from other Best Companies who inspired them.

Join us to find out if your work space is helping grow and sustain your organizational culture. Read more about this session and others at the conference.

Great leaders strive to connect with their teams through clear communication

The words we use in everyday conversation reveal a lot about who we are. Most of us have broad vocabularies, but rely on a core set of go-to words that regularly pop up in most of our discussions. Has a family member ever coined a particular word as a “-ism”? If so, then you understand the concept. Pay attention to your daily speech and you’ll soon see the pattern of your favorite words emerging. You may be surprised to discover the words that are part of your linguistic toolkit.

Language is an important component of leadership. The words (and tone) that a leader uses in conversations with team members or peers are often a direct reflection of the individual’s leadership style. I remember a colleague who regularly used the term “relentless” in her discussions with others. And relentless she was: unyielding, tough and stubborn. By talking the talk as frequently as she did, she eventually walked the walk.

Those confusing buzzwords

Unfortunately, certain words find their way into the business world, becoming buzzwords that many leaders adopt in an attempt to appear more contemporary, strategic or just plain smart. Many of these words are needlessly complex and some, such as “relentless”, are downright harsh. By latching on to these words, leaders may unwittingly send negative or confusing messages to the very employees they are trying to engage.

We know that exceptional leaders are the key element in creating great workplaces. The quality of employee’s day-to-day work experience shapes satisfaction and engagement more than any other factor. Even the best and most innovative programs or benefits can’t compensate for a poor leader.

Great leaders keep it simple

Given that great leadership is so crucial in the workplace and that language has such an impact on how we act and who we are, might it make sense to identify the language of great leadership? Here are a few suggestions for the great leader’s alternatives to commonly used business terms and buzzwords:

Common Leadership Word or Phrase

What Employees Hear

The Great Leader’s Alternative

“Drive results”

Work us hard, without regard for our personal lives

“We will accomplish this together”

“Ensure accountability”

Micromanage us with a magnifying glass

“I will support your success”

“Execute flawlessly”

Mistakes aren’t allowed

“Together, we’ll give our very best”

“Relentless focus”

Nothing else matters (even if it should)

“Here’s why this is important”

“Be strategic”

No clue about my daily tasks

“I’ll explain the long-term goals”


Some kind of change is coming

“We can make things better”


Notice what the great leader’s alternatives have in common? Yes, they are all simple and easy to understand. Most importantly, though, they emphasize partnership. Great leaders know that success is not theirs alone to claim. One cannot be a successful leader without full support, dedication and hard work of a great team.

Examine your leadership language

Certain words – such as the “-isms” - can quickly become anchored into our everyday language. You may not even be aware of some harsh, complex or confusing words that you frequently speak. However, you are surrounded by the very best “language auditors” you can find - your own team. Ask your staff (either individually or as a group) to point out these words and terms as they arise. Then work to change them, with emphasis on simplification and clarity. Big words aren’t always better words. A great leader always strives to connect with staff and in the process, conveys his or her belief that success can’t happen without each other.

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

Deloitte recently released its 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, their annual comprehensive study of HR, leadership, and talent challenges compiled using data from surveys and interviews taken by 3,300+ HR and business leaders in 106 countries around the world. The report identifies 10 major trends that emerged from the most current research, and cites the capability gap (measuring the distance between the importance of an issue and organizations’ readiness to address it) associated with each, as well as practical ideas for how to help organizations combat theses challenges. Ranked by importance, the top ten talent challenges reported for 2015 are: culture and engagement, leadership, learning and development, reinventing HR, workforce on demand, performance management, HR and people analytics, simplification of work, machines as talent, and people data everywhere. Deloitte’s data highlight considerable gaps in capability among all 10 trends, with the majority of capability gaps getting larger compared to last year.

Global Importance vs. Readiness

Let’s take a look at the top five talent issues for 2015: Culture and Engagement ranked as the #1 issue overall for 2015 (not a surprise to us at Great Place to Work®), barely edging out leadership, which ranked as the #1 issue in 2014. This highlights organizations’ recognition that understanding their culture and focusing on building great cultures is a critical need in the face of a potential retention and engagement crisis. Building Leadership ranks as the #2 talent issue for 2015, with close to 9 out of 10 respondents citing the issue as “important” or “very important.” Despite this, Deloitte’s data show that organizations have made very little progress towards meeting this challenge since last year. Learning and Development jumped to the #3 talent challenge in 2015, up from the #8 spot last year. And while the number of companies rating learning and development as important has tripled since 2014, the readiness to address it has actually gone down (!?). Reskilling HR came in as the 4th most important talent issue for the year, with business leaders rating HR’s performance 20% lower than HR leaders’ ranking (and that is with both HR and business leaders ranking HR performance as low on average). Workforce on Demand was the #5 talent challenge for 2015, with 8 out of 10 respondents citing workforce capability as “important” or “very important” in the year ahead.

Through data analysis and extensive conversations with organizations around the world about these challenges, Deloitte arrived at six key findings that give us a bird’s eye view of how organizations are approaching talent and work:

  1. “ ‘Softer’ areas such as culture and engagement, leadership, and development have become urgent priorities.”

  2. “Leadership and learning have dramatically increased in importance, but the capability gap is widening.”

  3. “HR organizations and HR skills are not keeping up with business needs.”

  4. “HR technology systems are a growing market, but their promise may be largely unfulfilled.”

  5. “Talent and people analytics are a high priority and a tremendous opportunity, but progress is slow.”

  6. “Simplification is an emerging theme; HR is part of the problem.”

Each chapter in Deloitte’s report takes a deep dive view into the 10 talent trends they uncovered through their research with some interested findings. For example (in looking at the #4 trend, reskilling HR) Deloitte notes that nearly 40% of new CHRO’s now come from business, not from HR. Why are CEOs bringing in non-HR professionals to fill the role of CHRO? The answer may lie in their sinking belief in HR’s capabilities and abilities to provide solutions to people-related business problems.

HR Performance

Deloitte puts it bluntly: right now HR is just not keeping up with the pace of business, and a reskilling of HR professionals while reinventing the role of HR is becoming critical. This need however, also creates an unprecedented opportunity for HR to play a big role at the highest levels of business strategy. But where do organizations start? Deloitte offers the following advice:

  • “Redesign HR with a focus on consulting and service delivery, not just efficiency of administration. HR business partners must become trusted business advisors with the requisite skills to analyze, consult, and resolve critical business issues.”

  • “Rather than locating HR specialists in central teams, embed them into the business—but coordinate them by building a strong network of expertise. Recruitment, development, employee relations, and coaching are all strategic programs that should be centrally coordinated but locally implemented.”

  • “Make HR a talent and leadership magnet… Create rigorous assessments for top HR staff and rotate high performers from the business into HR to create a magnet for strong leaders.”

  • “Invest in HR development and skills as if the business depended on it… Focus on capabilities such as business acumen, consulting and project management skills, organizational design and change, and HR analytical skills.”

There are very useful insights in this report – as there are every year. But this year the insights also serve as a warning to HR. A warning that it’s losing the confidence of CEOs and other C-Suite executives. That 40% of all CHROs are coming from functions other than HR should be sobering. That the top capability gaps are growing larger, not smaller, should be cause for concern. Without bringing furniture into the conversation, this report is a credible and important HR wake up call!

Trust in the Workplace Building a Foundation for Innovation

Innovation has always been central to achieving a competitive advantage in business, but now, more so than ever, companies are focusing on innovation as part of their business strategy. Seventy five percent of organizations that responded to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, ranked innovation as one of their company's top three priorities, and of those 22 percent said it was their top priority. With all this focus on innovation, how are companies getting ahead? When everyone is investing in innovation, what is it that helps some become truly great innovative organizations?

Innovation and Organizational Culture

At Great Place to Work® we know that having a strong organizational culture rooted in trust is a foundational element of innovation success at best companies. Organizations with strong values, supportive leaders, and an environment that allows for risk taking are far more conducive to innovative success than those without. Our Trust Index survey evaluates many of these important organizational behaviors and we see that companies on the 100 Best Companies to Work for List average eight to twelve points higher on the behavioral statements that we believe are key to innovation.

The specific statements we use to assess innovation readiness measure the following behaviors within organizations:

  • Appreciation of good work and effort

  • Recognizing honest mistakes

  • Genuinely seeking and responding to feedback

  • Involving others in decisions

  • Fostering cooperation among employees

Not only are these behaviors important to creating and sustaining great workplaces, they are key to successful innovation. Without a supportive and trusting culture that allows employees to make mistakes, seek feedback, and cooperate with one another, innovation initiatives go nowhere, which is why despite the significant investment companies make in innovation programs they don't all see success. Innovation is about so much more than learning a new model, recruiting top talent, or creating fun workspaces. True innovation comes from an organizational culture founded in trust, which fosters collaboration, risk-taking, and creative thinking.

How Your Organization Can Create a Culture of Innovation

Like all great workplace initiatives, the work starts at the top. Organizations with truly innovative cultures have strong missions and committed leaders that guide employees through challenge and allow innovative behaviors to occur. Employees must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in order to succeed when crossing into the uncharted territory demanded by the innovation process. They need to know which behaviors are accepted in the organization and which are not. It is within the supportive and clearly-defined space of a strong organizational culture that employees have the most freedom to innovate in ways that truly serve the mission and the success of their organizations.

Organizational leaders who can create this space are allowing their employees the ability to engage in more innovative behaviors on a regular basis. When thought of in this way, creating an organizational environment that fosters innovation, is really no different than creating a great workplace culture.

Learn More About Culture and Innovation

This year at our conference Great Place to Work® consultants and leaders of recognized Best Companies will be presenting breakout sessions on innovation. To learn more about these sessions and others, or to register for the annual conference in Dallas in April visit our conference webpage.

Here are four sessions at the conference that will address the intersection of culture and innovation at great workplaces:

  • American Express - Reimagining Learning: Using Design Thinking to Create Engaging Learning and Development Experiences That Drive Innovation and Growth
  • Goldman Sachs - The Innovation Generation: How Millennials are Reshaping the Workforce
  • Scripps Health - Driving Culture and Innovation through a Five Generation Workforce
  • Great Place to Work® - Using Organizational Culture as a Compass for Innovation

If you are interested in learning more about how Great Place to Work® assesses organizational culture and innovation readiness visit our site to learn more about our services.

About Hannah
Hannah Jones is an Analyst on the Services and Products, Consulting Team at Great Place to Work®, supporting client delivery, research and product development. Hannah has a degree from UC Berkeley in Psychology of Leadership.

Just as Asia is awakening as an economic power, so too are its best workplaces rising to new levels of trust, pride and camaraderie. And they are on the forefront of a new, hopeful era of better workplaces throughout the globe.

That’s the good news as Great Place to Work® releases its inaugural list of Asia’s Best Workplaces. Google is the region’s best multinational workplace; cosmetics company MECCA Brands is Asia’s best workplace with more than 500 employees; and software firm Atlassian is best in the region among small and medium-size companies.

All of the 60 organizations that made the 2015 Best Workplaces in Asia list have plenty to be proud of. But so does the region as a whole. Our research into the best workplaces in Asia shows that employee trust levels have been rising in recent years in a solid majority of the nations in which we operate across the region.

Trust is the foundation of a great workplace and a key ingredient in employee engagement and business success. Our findings are based on Great Place to Work’s employee survey, the Trust Index®. Of the six Asian countries for which we have data from at least two years, five have shown improved Trust Index scores. The region’s biggest nations, China and India, are among those where the best are getting better.

There are caveats to this positive news for employees and employers in the region. The findings focus on trends among the best workplaces rather than companies overall. In addition, Asia’s best workplaces lag behind the benchmarks set by best companies in other parts of the world, including North America and Europe.

Top 60 in Asia

But Asia’s best are making progress. Increasingly, they are taking on the contours of what we call “Enlightened Organizations.” Enlightened Organizations blend the best of Eastern and Western traditions. They are hungry for data and high performance but balance these goals against the need to treat employees and all stakeholders humanely, to put people at the same level, if not above, profits.

Asia’s best also are part of a wider global trend toward higher levels of workplace trust at the best workplaces. This positive development is rooted in a number of factors. These include the rise of balance-minded millennials, increased transparency into organizations, and mounting evidence that high-trust cultures lead to better business results.

Those factors aren’t just pushing the best to get better. They are affecting all companies in the region and throughout the globe, nudging them toward higher levels of trust, pride and camaraderie. As a result, we believe we are at the dawn of what we call The Great Workplace Era. In it, all people can expect to work for an organization where they trust their leaders, enjoy their colleagues and take pride in what they do. A time, in other words, when workplaces make the world better by making people’s lives better.

The best workplaces in the world — including Asia’s best — are helping to shepherd in the Great Workplace Era. Just as Asia is assuming a leadership role in the 21st century economy, so too are its best workplaces leading the way into a new, more hopeful age.

Read our full report, The Great Workplace Era Emerges in Asia.

Ed Frauenheim is the Director of Global Research and Content at Great Place to Work and Editor at Great Rated!.

In a recent report by Universum, a tactical view of how organizations are attracting talent and combating problems is given with some fresh insight. The report: State of Employer Branding is part one a four-part 2020 Outlook series, based on responses from 2338 interviews conducted in the winter of 2014 in 18 different countries. Respondents represented a variety of industries and job functions with more than 50% working within HR, 16% being the CEO of their respective organization, and 23% working for organizations with more than 1000 employees in the country. Universum’s report starts by posing a necessarily blunt question to its readers, “How long have executives argued over the need to make talent attraction a corporate strategy rather than an HR strategy?” Point taken, talent acquisition remains an ongoing point of struggle for organizations, but is a critical strategy for organizations to remain competitive.

March 10 2015 Talent Acquisition Concerns

As Universum makes clear, we’ve known this for a while, so what are organizations doing to step up to issues relating to talent? Let’s take a look at the meaty details of Universum’s report….

Talent acquisition and retention is a complex equation involving (among other things) talent management and development, employer branding, and analytics to measure effectiveness. Part of the problem with employer branding is where responsibility lies:

  • 60% of CEO’s feel they own employer branding.

  • 58% of HR executives, 63% of talent acquisition executives, and 57% of recruiting executives say HR owns employer branding.

  • 39% of marketing executives point to HR owning the role and 40% to the CEO owning the role.

Why all this variability? Universum underlines repeated studies that have shown CEOs don’t believe HR is up to the task, as well as studies that say HR itself is not confident in their current approach, or do not feel their approach is innovative. Greater stakeholder cooperation is another broadly identified need when it comes to employer branding efforts:

  • 70% of senior executives see a closer need for stakeholder cooperation in the next 5 years.

  • 77% of HR executives see a closer need for stakeholder cooperation.

  • 53% of CEO’s see stakeholder cooperation as a growing need.

Though this is an identified need, without changing CEOs’ confidence in HR to solve strategic talent challenges, HR will be hard pressed to effect change in this area.

Universum asked respondents about their employer branding objectives, and how these objectives will change in the next five years.

March 10 2015 Employer Branding Objectives

Interestingly, of all the objectives listed, none earns much more than one third of respondents’ votes. The most critical need is “to fulfill our short-term recruitment needs” but is claimed by just 36%. This should lead us to ask why so few executives (and CEOs in even lower numbers) are prioritizing such objectives? Universum offers the following explanations

  • Organizations face a lack of clarity about which objectives matter most

  • There is a perceived lack of ownership for the discipline of employer branding

  • Employer branding is not viewed as a critical priority when organizations face many other pressing challenges

To better understand their commitment, Universum studied how organizations are currently investing in employer branding:

March 10 2015 Employer Branding Budget

Overall, we see that organizations are overwhelmingly focused on external employer branding efforts. KPIs, however, often measure almost inclusively internal factors (presenting another potential issue).

Organizations also face a perceived gap when it comes to the association between consumer and employer brands. Recently there has been a concerted effort to more closely align employer and consumer brands, yet when executives were asked how closely they feel these are aligned, the responses indicated there’s still much work to be done:

  • 19% say their employer and consumer brands are the same

  • 36% say “there is a connection today”

  • 17% say there is no connection at all

When marketers were asked this question though, the answers were remarkably different, with marketers much more likely to report a connection between the employer and consumer brand.

How do organizations more forward with an employer branding and talent strategy when there appears to be little consensus about how to do so? Universum’s report cites from PwC’s global CEO survey, which reports that while 93% of CEOs say they know they need to change their strategy to attract and retain talent, 61% say they have not taken steps to do so yet. The first step towards addressing “the talent gap” may just be to get organizations to accurately recognize areas of misalignment and differing perceptions. Employer branding, as we see from this data, is certainly one of these areas. Organizations must also commit to an investment strategy; as Universum states: “If talent is as important to competitive might as capital, it must be managed and measured with the same disciple applied to financial planning and management.”

This report makes me think we have a massive showdown coming between HR and CEOs. I don’t know about you, but I think I know who’s going to win unless something big happens. And the only thing big I see happening is Marketing swooping in to save the day. HR, if you think you’re hearing footsteps, you probably are!

Gaining Insight from List-Making Companies at the Great Place to Work® Conference

Last week, in partnership with Fortune Magazine, we released this year’s Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list. At Great Place to Work, clients regularly ask for stories and insights from these 100 Best Companies that will help them change their culture. We stand by the truth that no company is the same as another, and that practices and cultures that work for an organization like the ever-coveted Google, won’t always for your organization. Building a great workplace is about understanding your organizational culture, what makes you unique, and how you can build trust specific to your organization and its needs.

We also know that while learning from the Best Companies likely will not provide other organizations with a blueprint for culture change, it can serve to inspire and motivate companies to improve. For this reason, we place an emphasis on telling the stories of great workplaces with the hope of encouraging more widespread culture change in organizations.

Attending the Great Place to Work Annual Conference is a great way to hear these success stories, interact with leaders engaged in culture change, and learn from Great Place to Work employees who work with some of the country’s best organizations. Each year we host a breakout session focused on trends from the 100 Best list, as well as a session on the methodology behind the list. Both of these sessions provides attendees with an understanding of what great cultures look like and specific examples of how they are created.

"Making" the List: The Great Place to Work Evaluation and Review Methodology

If you are considering applying for our lists, are curious about how we evaluate organizations, or are looking for a clearer understanding of what we mean when we talk about organization culture, our breakout session on our list methodology is a great fit. Great Place to Work's Best Companies Director, Erin Bartulski, who oversees the list evaluation process, will address commonly held questions on how companies participate in the list process and will also give insight into the selection process. There will also be an overview of the models we use to define great workplaces and understand organizations. This session will provide participants with an understanding of why an organization’s culture is far more than the sum of its perks, and how they can articulate culture change at their organization.

A Deeper Dive into The List: Findings among the 2015 FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For®

Attendees at our conference will have the unique opportunity to learn about the Best Companies, how they became great, and what they do to stay on top. This year we will focus on some trends from the 2015 100 Best, as well as share some stories from list-making companies who have steadily improved their culture and their position on our list. Join Great Place to Work® Associate Consultants JP Mantey and David Shanklin to hear the compelling findings across the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® including common areas of focus amongst Best Companies. Learn the areas where these forward-looking organizations are excelling and how they continuously push the boundaries of what it means to be a great workplace.

Attend the 2015 Great Place to Work Conference on April 22-23 in Dallas, TX! Read more about these sessions, and others offered by both Great Place to Work and our clients here: 2015 Great Place to Work® Conference Agenda.

If We Ask the Right Questions We Can

The "Uberization of work" is coming. That's the latest work world prediction. As with years past, the transition between 2014 and 2015 has been marked by a barrage of assessments about HR's past performance and a flurry of predictions about the future of work. According to my newsfeeds:

HR Trends: What's Your Truth?

I shouldn't complain because over the years, I have written my share of assessments and predictions--some proving more spot on than others. However, each year at this time, I find myself in search of the truth about talent and organizations today.

  • How well did organizations handle human capital management in 2014?

  • What are organizations most pressing human capital needs in 2015?

  • Which trends will substantially change the way we work by 2020 and which are mere distractions?

To find the truth about talent, APQC launched its Talent Trends Survey which will collect perspectives on human capital performance in 2014, talent needs for 2015, and predictions for 2020 and beyond.

What's your organization's strategic course for people in 2015? Take the survey and you'll receive a copy of the results and white paper.

HR Scorecards: Do You Measure Up?

While you wait for your results, checkout the findings from last year's HR Priorities, Performance, and Trends survey. Find answers to questions such as:

  • What are the top issues facing learning professionals today?

  • Are compensation and benefits offerings aligned with CEO objectives?

  • How well have recruiting functions performed?

Use these complimentary HR scorecards to see how your organization compares to others in how it performs key HR processes.

Elissa Tucker is a research program manager at APQC, a nonprofit benchmarking and best practices organization. Elissa is responsible for developing and executing APQC’s human capital management research agenda. She has written and been featured in numerous HR industry publications including and is a regular speaker on HR industry webinars and at HR 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 HR consultancy, 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 and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

As a daily watcher of CNBC’s morning show, Squawk Box, I was thrilled to see the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For© list highlighted this morning. And as someone who works with companies everyday who are either on the list, or aspire to be on the list, I felt compelled to share some insights about what I’ve learned about these companies and the list itself.

First, I often find there is a common misconception that making the list is all about the perks. Bill George captured my sentiments well: “I don’t think the perks matter”. Indeed, as Alan Murray mentioned, “the perks are an indicator” of a great workplace, but they are not the driver.

So the natural question is, “what does matter?” The answer is really quite simple: relationships—primarily the relationships employees have with their leaders. And this is what Great Place to Work® measures with our Trust Index© survey that accounts for two thirds of the list selection criteria. We ask about the consistency of trust-building leadership behaviors in an organization. How do leaders show up every day at work and how do they build credibility and demonstrate care for employees in ways that inspire heroic efforts from their people that produce results? Their results lead best companies to outperform the market nearly 2:1.

With this in mind, let me conclude by addressing one additional question that was asked during the interview: “What are HR departments doing to jockey for position on the list?” This is a question I get every day from clients who are trying to “crack the code” and get on the list. And I always re-direct by posing a different question that leaders, especially senior leaders, at aspiring best companies should be asking themselves daily: “What am I doing to build trust?” What I see in best organizations are leaders who are deeply committed to their employees and continually striving to up their own game every single day. The list isn’t an end in and of itself; it’s a byproduct of truly believing employees are their most valuable asset—and treating them as such. Just ask Jim Goodnight whose company, SAS, has been in the top 5 for the last 6 years: “If you treat employees as if they make a difference to the company, they will make a difference”.

Recognition programs are vital tools in an organization’s total rewards strategy, but beyond the knowledge that “recognizing employees is a good thing to do” we can look to data that back up recognition programs as an important part of an organization’s culture. WorldatWork and ITA Group’s Trends in Employee Recognition 2013, is a good example of a data driven look into why recognition programs are important. Their report summarizes the results of a survey sent globally to 5,520 WorldatWork members, which aimed specifically to measure specific types of recognition programs and the impact on the workforce. Respondents were randomly selected members who had designated responsibilities at the executive, top or senior level and members that specified total rewards as their specific function area. While many functions and structures of the workplace are shifting as the world of work becomes more global, tech-enabled, and demographically diverse, recognition programs remain steady as a utilized tool among organizations.

% orgs with recognition programs

What shifts in the landscape of recognition programs is not the use of programs themselves (as we see from the percentage of organizations using recognition programs remaining steady over a 5 year period) but the types of programs used. Of the top 5 recognition programs in 2013, the top 3 remained the same (length of service, above-and-beyond performance and peer-to-peer recognition) but programs that motivate specific behaviors moved to the 4th spot for most used programs, with a 7% increase over 2011 to 41% (a statistically notable change since 2008). Also notable is the drop in retirement recognition programs as a prevalently used program. As WorldatWork states in the report, the data seem to indicate organizations are moving away from legacy recognition programs towards programs that can drive results (how much and fast is the landscape changing, though?).

ecognition Program Changes

While fresh-off-the-press data is valuable, looking at data like this (with a bit of hindsight) is also valuable in that it reminds us that data and reports around organizational culture can accurately predict trends in upcoming years, and allows us fact-check theories and perspectives. WorldatWork’s data pointed to organizations moving towards recognition programs that can be leveraged to have a more direct impact on business results (like peer-to-peer recognition, programs to motivate behaviors, and above-and-beyond performance) vs. recognition programs like length-of-service and retirement recognition programs which have been in use for many years. They note that programs to motivate specific behaviors grew every year by 16 percentage points since they survey was first instituted in 2008. We’ve seen such trends hold true, with organizations in today’s increasingly fast-paced and competitive context instituting recognition programs that can more quickly impact strategic goals. Workplace wellness programs are another type of recognition program that WorldatWork’s survey points to which we’ve seen adopted at a growing pace. In 2011 and 2013, respondents noted wellness rewards programs as “other recognition programs” that their organization use.

Some other nuggets of data to consider from WorldatWork’s report included:

  • In 2013, the top 4 recognition goals remained primarily unchanged from past years and were recognizing years of service, creating a positive work environment, creating a culture of recognition, and motivating high performance.

  • The most common types of recognition awards reported in 2013 were: certificates/plaques, cash, gift certificates, company logo merchandise, and food.

  • Organizations in 2013 budgeted an average of 2% of their payroll budget to be used for recognition programs (the same as 2011).

  • Only 12% of organizations in 2013 reported training managers on recognition programs.

  • 46% of respondents in 2013 reported management perceiving recognition programs as an investment vs. an expense.

  • Only 34% of respondents in 2013 said they believed recognition programs had a positive impact on retention.

The fact that organizations have consistently utilized recognition programs over the years reminds us that this is an important part of creating a great organizational culture and a great total rewards strategy. But are organizations reworking recognition programs to be as impactful as possible, or are they just sticking with “tried and true” methods? Do plaques, gift cards and food motivate employees to stay engaged and on board? Perhaps the respondents in this survey, only 34% of whom believe recognition programs had a positive impact on retention, are on to something. Perhaps sincere appreciation from trusted leaders and peers are more meaningful than a certificate. Perhaps a hand written thank you note from the CEO for above and beyond performance creates more stickiness than a $25 gift card. Or maybe a video message from a senior leader on a milestone employment anniversary date motivates greater engagement than a plaque.

We at Great Place to Work® certainly see positive correlations between lower levels of turnover and great workplace cultures. So if leaders don’t associate recognition programs with lower levels of turnover, there’s more work to be done. Maybe ditching the plaques and adding some human touches to your recognition programs might be something to consider. One thing is certain: everyone – regardless of generation – wants to be appreciated for their contributions by leaders they trust. It’s really not that hard to understand. But how do we make it happen?

Using Organizational Culture to Better Serve Patients at the 100 Best in Healthcare

We know there are tangible business benefits to being a great place to work, like lower turnover, more stable growth and higher rates of return . But what about other performance indicators that matter to organizations? At Great Place to Work we work with many healthcare organizations--companies that do focus on profitability and growth, but who also hold patient satisfaction at the center of their business models.

A key tool used to measure patient satisfaction in American hospitals is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). This survey is the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients' perspectives of hospital care, and helps hospitals better assess and understand their rates of patient satisfaction.

In addition to the business benefits seen by the 100 Best Companies to Work For, the 100 Best Hospitals see improvement in their HCAHPS scores. According to industry-specific research done by Great Place to Work, on average the 100 Best Hospitals experience HCAHPS scores that are 1.4 percentage points higher than their non-winning counterparts, and 1.7 percentage points higher than the national average. All of the hospitals on the 100 Best list in 2013 received service awards for patient care. Hospitals with great workplace cultures have happier employees that deliver better care to patients across the country.

Great Culture is All About Your People

One such hospital is Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), a hospital network that serves the state of Georgia and has made the 100 Best list for nine consecutive years. CHOA President and CEO, Donna Hyland, will be a keynote speaker at the Great Place to Work Annual Conference in April. Donna will be speaking about the organization's employee strategy that was established in 2003. This people-centered focus helped them improve their culture and see business results. She will also address how their people strategy shifted and developed as the healthcare industry faced challenge and change. At the core of CHOA's strategy is a simple commitment to employees, and doing all they can to help employees focus on what they love: taking care of the kids who need them most.

CHOA focuses on quality care for kids and knows that to best serve their patients they also have to serve their people. Their website lists the organization's mission and values clearly. The mission, "To make kids better today, and healthier tomorrow," is clearly articulated and connected to their work, but it is the values that illustrate what makes CHOA a uniquely great place to work. The first value, listed before "Passionate About Kids", is "Care About People." CHOA recognizes that without receiving care and support from the organization, their employees would not be able to provide the same care and support to patients. This people-first mentality has solidified CHOA as a Best Company, and helped them to be one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country. If focusing on creating a great workplace culture at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has helped them improve the lives and futures of thousands of children, what could it do for your organization?

Hear Donna Hyland’s keynote, and many others at our annual conference April 22-23rd in Dallas, TX. For more information and to register.

In conjunction with the release of our Strategic HR Partnerships Best Practices Report, APQC is conducting a series of interviews with people who have experience with the topic of strategic HR partners. This third post in the series features China Gorman, CEO, Great Place to Work® Institute and author of the HR blog series, sharing her views on the topic of strategic HR—why it matters and how HR can become more strategic.

APQC: Why does the strategic HR business partner topic matter?

China Gorman: I don’t really think of it in terms of partnership. I think of it as HR being part of the strategic business leadership of the enterprise. Partnership means it’s separate and another thing. My perspective is that strategic HR is the thing not a separate thing. I think that most CEOs and C-suite leaders are beginning to understand and believe that HR isn’t a separate thing but has to be part of the strategic leadership of any size organization.

At the same time, there is this growing perception of a skills gap. CEOs and other C-suite members are becoming very concerned about talent issues across the board. The Economist Intelligence Unit/Lloyds Risk Index surveys board members, CEOs, and other C-suite members from the largest global companies and asks them to rank 50 risks to their businesses’ success. Then, it asks each of them how prepared their organization is to mitigate those risks. The number one risk was loss of customers. The number two risk, of 50, was talent and skill shortages. That means that business leaders of the largest organizations around the world really are starting to see people and talent issues not as a separate thing but as a critical part of the strategic leadership of the enterprise.

I think that is why strategic HR really matters; it’s because it’s the foundation of any organization’s success whether the organization is large, small, for-profit, non-profit, a start-up, or a mature business. People and talent issues are the most important issues in organizational leadership today. So it’s just business leadership. It’s not a separate thing.

APQC: Why aren't all HR functions already operating as strategic business partners?

China Gorman: From my perspective the question is: Why aren’t all HR functions already operating strategically? It’s a historical artifact. HR really got started in the 1940s and 1950s. HR was about controlling and keeping track of time—about controlling tasks and administration. Then, HR very quickly moved, in the United States and then around the world, to a regulatory compliance function. It was called personnel administration. Administration was part of the title. HR was about administration and risk mitigation with a strong focus on regulatory compliance.

Fast forward to 2013, the compliance and regulatory environment is off the charts, not just in the United States but around the world. A day doesn’t go by in the United States when either at the municipal, state, or federal level there isn’t some new requirement for reporting or another kind of organizational behavior that gets you in trouble if you don’t do it. So, just at the time when HR really understands that it needs to be part of the strategic leadership of the organization, the compliance and regulatory piece keeps pulling it back down into administration. So, why isn’t HR acting more like a strategic leader of the business? It’s because the compliance piece is keeping it mired in administration and risk mitigation.

Truthfully, many organizations below the Fortune 200 haven’t had their HR budgets recover from the recession of 2008 and 2009. HR staff haven’t caught back up with where they were before the recession hit. There isn’t an HR person alive, I think, that doesn’t understand the need to be more strategic and to be a greater part of the business. But, the regulatory and compliance laundry list of stuff that has to be done keeps growing and HR doesn’t have the budget or the staff to do much more than the day-to-day tactical—get people paid on time, make sure we’re not overspending our benefits budget, understand what the requirements are for the new health care environment, understand the staffing requirements coming from the state house or Capitol Hill, etc.

It sounds like an easy excuse: “Well we can’t be strategic because we are so focused on the tactical.” But, I believe it. I am out with HR people all the time. And, I am not talking about Fortune 200 companies who have the budgets and whose HR leaders are really strategic business leaders and at the right hand of the CEO. That’s a whole different experience. I am talking about the millions of companies that have 2,000 or fewer employees.

APQC: What are 3 actions that an HR professional can take to be more strategic?

China Gorman: One is that they have to know their business. And, I don’t mean the business of HR. I mean the business of their business. From the ground up, they have to know: How do we make money? What are the costs? What’s the distribution? What’s R&D? How does technology play a part? What are the financial models? What about our competitors? They really have to know the business. The good news is that most HR people know their businesses. They know their businesses inside and out.

So, that leads to my second point which is they have to talk like a business person, not like an HR functional expert. I talk to HR people all the time and it is clear to me that they understand their business, but they talk like HR people. They don’t talk like business people.

And the third thing is to become solution oriented. In a lot of organizations, you hear that HR has the reputation of being the department of “No.” “No, you have to follow the policies.” So, if you become solutions oriented as opposed to policy enforcement oriented, and you speak the language of business as opposed to the language of HR, I think you’ll have a vastly different relationship and you will be seen in a vastly different light by your colleagues in other functions in the organization.

APQC: What are 3 actions that an HR leader can take to position his or her function to operate strategically?

China Gorman: First, have HR operate as a business strategy function, not a tactical compliance unit. This means have a different language and different operating structures, so that you become integral and not a separate thing. Second, create a reputation for providing talent-related business solutions, not roadblocks, to the desired business outcomes. So, that takes the risk mitigation piece away. Let the general counsel do that. Be a partner in providing solutions so that the others in the organization know that if I go to HR with an issue, they are going to help me speak about the answers as opposed to telling me what I can’t do. And then the third thing is to make sure that HR speaks the language of your business, not the language of HR. When you talk to marketing and you talk to sales and you talk to finance, they’re mostly talking the language of business. Inside their departments, they talk the language of their function. But once they are talking to the business, they talk the language of business. And I think HR could do a much better job of that.

China Gorman is Chief Executive Officer of Great Place to Work®. With 30 years’ experience in strategic business leadership roles within HR professional services organizations, China has firmly established herself as a sought-after speaker, writer and thought leader within the human resources domain. Prior to joining Great Place to Work, China became well-known for her tenure as Chief Operating Officer and interim CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Most recently she served as CEO for CMG Group and has also held the posts of President of DBM North America, and President of Lee Hecht Harrison, the global consulting division of Adecco, which became the performance leader in its industry under her leadership.

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 and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

That Any Leader Can Bring to Life

It's that time of year again! No, I am not talking about March Madness or spring break.

It’s almost time for the release of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list, produced by Great Place to Work® Institute. Each year, I look forward to this publication.

As an employee, I love to read about the latest and greatest workplace perks: free food, flexible work schedules, concierge services, on-site fitness centers—sign me up!

However, as an HR researcher I know that being a top workplace isn’t about offering top perks. Perusing the annual list of top workplaces, the researcher in me wants to know: What are the essential building blocks of a great workplace?

In search of these deeper insights, I checked out the Great Place to Work white paper: Lessons for Leaders as they Build a Great Workplace. Here is what I learned:

5 Elements of a Great Workplace— That Any Leader Can Bring to Life

  1. A Healthy Work Environment—Act on the belief that employee health, workforce productivity, and HR costs all hinge on providing a health atmosphere for employee.
  2. Shared Values and Trust, Not Absolute Rules and Micromanagement—Empower employees to decide, act, and innovate in a coordinated way.
  3. A Positive Daily Work Experience— Involve, inform, develop, and reward employees.
  4. Active and Accountable Leadership—Hold yourself and others leaders accountable for fostering a great workplace.
  5. Personal, Not Transactional Relationships—Treat employees as you want them to treat the company.

These five elements are a great start, but how do you put these concepts into practice at your organization? What do these elements look like within the different companies on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list?

We at APQC want to know. That is why we will be taking part in another great thing that takes place only at this time of year—the Great Place to Work Conference. This event will highlight trends, best practices and innovations in positive workplace culture through dynamic speakers, panel conversations, and opportunities to connect with these leaders and other peers working to improve their own workplace cultures. We’re looking forward to hearing:

  • Bright Horizons Family Solutions’ David Lissy, CEO and Danroy Henry Sr., Chief HR Officer share the business case for building and maintaining a culture of honesty, respect and accountability, and demonstrate how supporting employee well-being is a critical element of that strategy.
  • Scripps Health’s Victor V. Buzachero, Corporate Senior Vice President for Innovation, Human Resources and Performance Management and Cara Williams, MBA, FACHE, PHR - Corporate Senior Director of Human Resources talk about using change agents in the form of leadership and employee groups to lead and communicate culture change. They will describe how as the culture changed, Scripps continuously gathered feedback from employees of different generations and added more work-life programs leading to double-digit increases in employee engagement scores, higher retention rates and reduced time-to-fill.
  • Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants’ Steve Pinetti, Senior Vice President, Inspiration & Creativity make the case for the power of personal, unscripted interactions between employees and customers. He’ll share Kimpton’s approach to surprising and delighting guests on an emotional level, so they become rabid brand advocates. And he’ll explain how at the heart of it all are empowered, passionate employees, who use their individuality, creativity and instincts to make a lasting impression on customers.

We hope to see you in Dallas!

Elissa Tucker is a research program manager at APQC, a nonprofit benchmarking and best practices organization. Elissa is responsible for developing and executing APQC’s human capital management research agenda. She has written and been featured in numerous HR industry publications including and is a regular speaker on HR industry webinars and at HR 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 HR consultancy, 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 and learn how you can make best practices your practices.

Learning from Great CEOs at the Great Place to Work® Conference

We at Great Place to Work® are often asked to explain why focusing on culture matters. This is because for more than 30 years, we have been studying the relationship between a strong culture and organizational performance. In addition, our research compiling the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® List each year has resulted in further insight into these outstanding organizations, allowing us to truly understand the impact a great workplace culture can have on an organization’s overall success.

Trust Breeds Strength and Stability

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that Millennials have a median job tenure of just over three years, making them the generation with the highest rate of turnover. Couple that report with the fact that within the decade Millennials are expected to make up 75% of the workforce, and this finding poses a major concern for organizations. However, the 100 Best Companies have experienced as much as 79% less voluntary turnover than their industry peers. And from 1997 to 2013, one of the more turbulent periods for the stock market, Best Companies outperformed the market by a factor of more than two.

Consulting engagements with Great Place to Work have helped companies overcome challenges and contribute to more profitable results overall (visit our whitepapers and case studies page for examples). We continue to see positive change in the organizations we work with and know that during times of change, increasing levels of trust in the workplace is one of the most powerful ways to ensure stability and strength in the future.

A Forum for Trustworthy Leaders

Shifting to a culture of trust and engagement is a challenging journey for all organizations. A key part of this journey is the inspiration, commitment, and support that leaders of the organization provide. However, it is not easy for leaders to consistently champion a great workplace culture in the face of many competing priorities.

To respond to this need, we are hosting our first ever CEO Forum at our annual Great Place to Work Conference in Dallas on April 22nd. Best Companies CEOs Brett Roberts of Credit Acceptance, and Dr. James R. Downing of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, will share their organizations' journeys to achieving high-trust cultures. They will discuss the role of the CEO in sustaining a high-trust culture, share lessons learned, and the impact trust has had on their organizations.

Participants will have the opportunity to engage with presenters and fellow CEOs also working on advancing their companies’ cultures.


Learning to listen to employees the hard way

I just watched Undercover Boss for the first time, and I am officially hooked! CEO Bernt Bodal of American Seafoods went undercover as a deckhand and factory foreman, among other jobs, and truly recognized the value of his employees in this week’s show.

For those of you not familiar with the series, Undercover Boss is a reality TV show that airs on CBS on Friday nights at 8 p.m. This week featured CEO Bernt Bodal of American Seafoods who has 39 years of experience in the industry, including beginning his career with 13 years as a deckhand. Originally from Norway, undercover CEO Bodal posed as an immigrant in search of the American dream. He tried his hand at four different jobs in the company and was generally terrible in all four positions!

While this is the sort of thing you might expect from this type of show, what was unexpected was the amount of time Bodal spent speaking with employees at the end of each shift. He took the time to get to know his coworkers personally and asked them what challenges they faced on the job. The reoccurring theme was feeling cut off from family and friends, an unfortunate byproduct of working out at sea for months on end. Bodal pledged to get internet on each and every vessel to help employees stay connected with their loved ones, despite the several thousand dollar per year cost.

When Bodal introduced himself to the staff on the boat and made the announcement, the crowd immediately broke out in applause. It was clear that Bodal was equally happy to bring about such a well-deserved change, and it never would have happened had he not listened to his employees in the first place.

At Great Place to Work we help leaders and managers listen to employees!

Do you feel listened to?  As a manager, are you an active listener?  What tips do you have that can help us all become better listeners?

Building a Great Workplace through Generosity

An important lesson we can learn from great workplaces is that employee loyalty, commitment, and productivity are all real byproducts of generosity. Whether that generosity takes the form of transparent communication, increased autonomy, an intense focus on development, or simply the gift of a leader’s attention, all are guaranteed to be wise investments in a successful employer/employee relationship. And, as evidenced year after year by the 100 Best Companies to Work For, the generous spirit that we see at great workplaces only serves to enhance the bottom line.

However, leaders often have a hard time letting go of the idea that if they are overly giving, then they will foster a culture of entitlement. This fear can stop employers from being generous with the people that matter most—their own employees.

At last year’s Great Place to Work® Conference, we learned many great practices from our Best Companies presenters that demonstrate generosity in practice. Some are simple to implement—others more difficult—but ALL serve to foster trust, build a great workplace, and maybe even to inspire others to try something similar.

Examples of ways great workplaces “pay it forward”:

  1. Zappos: “Wishez”
    What do your employees wish for? If you don’t ask the question, you may never know. In the Zappos “Wishez” program, employees can write what they wish for and post it publicly. This empowers other employees to grant the wishes of their colleagues. Some are simple, like “I wish for a Frappuccino.” Others are more complex, such as “I wish my dad had the hearing aid he needs to continue working,” or “I wish I could afford the attorney fees needed for my daughter and me to become American citizens.” These wishes, too—with the help of Zappos—have been granted.

  2. Cirrus Logic: Valentine’s Day Bailout
    For employees at Cirrus Logic, Valentine’s Day is stress-free, as the company brings in cards, flowers, and boxes of candy so employees can come home a hero. And if employees still need to impress their honey, they can sign up for the quarterly “Date Night,” where the company arranges cooking classes, painting classes, and other fun evening activities for employees and a guest.

  3. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants: Know Thyself
    In addition to the many personal, professional and leadership development programs at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, approximately 100 top leaders per year participate in the Self Insights Executive Leadership Program. This program helps leaders better understand their own personality and to get the most in life out of being their own unique self.

An organization’s most critical assets are its employees. No other bothers to argue against that point any more. An organization’s workforce is also, however, its most expensive asset, and workforce management (the development of employees, retention of skilled talent, etc.) is consistently cited as one of the top issues facing organizations today. In a recent Aberdeen report, 60% of all organizations reported a need to improve workforce planning capabilities as a driver of their total workforce management efforts.

Improving workforce planning capabilities took the top spot for pressures driving workforce management efforts, but better access to workforce data (in order to improve decision-making) was close behind, 60% vs. 52%. In our current “golden age of technology” there are ample workforce management technology solutions that can help organizations with workforce management, from timekeeping and leave of absence management to labor forecasting and analytics. The adoption of automated workforce management solutions though (as with other tech solutions) has been slow among organizations. Aside from the fact that the global workforce is rapidly driving towards a place where technology and automated workforce solutions will be a necessity for companies to remain innovative and successful, we have data that show – on a much simpler level – that workforce management technology is a good investment because it offers organizations multiple financial benefits.

Research shows that the use of automated time, attendance, and scheduling solutions results in 8% to 20% lower replacement costs (as a percentage of annual pay) for hourly workers, which can be attributed to the reduced cost of administration needed to manually manage such functions. Aberdeen’s research also found that average revenue per full time employee increased four times in organizations with automated absence/leave management technology and two times for organizations with automated scheduling, time, and attendance technology.

Organizations that automate scheduling, time/attendance and leave/absence management also saw increases in customer satisfaction levels ranging from 9.2% to 10.4% (compared to a 2.9% to 6.2% range of improvements for organizations that did not have automated solutions).

Automated workforce management solutions can also help to reduce unplanned overtime. While it’s expected of organizations to experience some overtime, having an inaccurate idea of what employees schedules will look like can quickly increase an organization’s spending. Best in class organizations experience less than 4% of unplanned overtime costs in comparison with 27% for laggard organizations. Automated solutions can help managers with critical scheduling accuracy, freeing them to give more time and attention to core business needs.

Another benefit for organizations that use automated time and attendance software is greater workforce capacity utilization. These companies have employees who, on average, work at 12% more their capacity than those who rely on manual processes or spreadsheets (83% vs. 74%). Automated leave and absence management additionally helps to lower costs by accurately tracking employees’ time off, making sure PTO is recorded as it is taken (ensuring for example, that employees are not owed leave at the end of the year they’ve earned but not taken) and by providing organizations with software to properly submit and track leave and absence requests (mitigating the impact of planned/unplanned losses).

A May 2014 report by Aberdeen found that optimizing scheduling is a key attribute of leading firms. These firms experienced consecutive years of improvement in customer satisfaction by 17.8% compared to firms who did not have a focus on optimizing scheduling and actually lowered their customer satisfaction rates by an average of -3.9%. This should be the key take-away for organizations when it comes to automated workforce management solutions – we know that automated workforce management software can drastically help organizations to improve and optimize scheduling, and this is a key attribute of successful companies. And if the slow adoption of automated solutions comes from a concern that instituting such software could turn into a micro-managing nightmare, organizations should note that, as with all tools, its about how you introduce them and support their adoption. The potential benefits of automated solutions far out-way any cons, so dipping a foot in the automated solutions pool seems well worth the risk, even if it may require an investment in training and change management. We’re already witnessing the expansion of HR and administrative roles within organizations; these functions are providing organizations with instrumentally more strategic value than they have in the past. Free up these departments time and energy from consuming workforce management tasks like monitoring attendance/leave and scheduling, and see what happens when tactical, manual roles become automated and enable more strategic data analysis and insight to enter the mix!


You’ve probably heard that organizations with a focus on diversity have stronger organizational cultures – they have happier and more productive employees, and are more socially ethical than other organizations. You might have also heard that organizations with a focus on diversity perform better financially than organizations that do not invest energy in diversity programs, or in fostering a diverse workplace. Why, exactly, is this the case though? McKinsey & Company’s 2014 report, “Why Diversity Matters” answers just this, looking at the reasons why organizations with a focus on diversity simply do better, financially and otherwise, shining some data driven light on, well, why diversity matters.

McKinsey’s report examines the relationship between the level of diversity (defined as a greater share of women and a more mixed ethnic/racial composition in the leadership of large companies) and company financial performance (measured as average EBIT 2010–2013). Their research is based on leadership demographics and financial data from hundreds of organizations and thousands of executives in the United Kingdom, Canada, Latin America, and the U.S, allowing for “…results that are statistically significant and…. the first [analysis] that we are aware of that measures how much the relationship between diversity and performance is worth in terms of increased profitability.” Analysis of the data collected from 366 companies disclosed a statistically significant connection between diversity and financial performance, with organizations in the top quartile for gender diversity 15% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median and organizations in the top quartile for racial/ethnic diversity 30% more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. This pattern also held true in reverse, with organizations in the bottom quartile for gender or racial/ethnic diversity more likely to fall below the performance of the top-quartile companies and organizations in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnicity underperforming (not just “not performing” but lagging) in comparison with the other three quartiles.

McKinsey’s research also noted a positive relationship between financial performance and diversity in leadership, although this varied by country, industry, and type of diversity (gender or ethnicity). The U.S, for example shows no statistically significant correlation between gender diversity and performance until women make up at least 22% of a senior executive team. Even once that point is reached, the relationship observed for US companies is still of relatively low impact: for every 10% increase in gender diversity there is an increase of 0.3% in EBIT margin. The UK boasts a much more significant relationship between gender diversity and performance, experiencing ten times the impact for their focus on gender diversity than U.S organizations (even after they’ve reached the 22% tipping point). The correlated benefit is an increase of 3.5% in EBIT for every 10% increase in gender diversity in the senior executive team (and 1.4% for the board). It is also interesting to note that while U.S. companies have made efforts in recent years to up the number of women in executive positions (progress is limited but measurable), the data show that less attention has been given to the attainment of racial and ethnic diversity.

Above-median financial performance was achieved by a higher percentage of companies in the top quartile than the bottom quartile for ethnic diversity in all the countries and regions McKinsey investigated. The message that diverse organizations perform better is clear, but as we asked earlier, why? McKinsey & Company offers the following supported hypotheses that diversity helps to:

  • Win the war for talent
  • Strengthen customer orientation
  • Increase employee satisfaction
  • Improve decision making
  • Enhance an organization’s image

In the war for talent, diversity increases not only an organization’s sourcing pool but attracts talent that has shown to place significant value on diversity (such as Millenials). Additionally, because groups targeted by diversity efforts are usually underrepresented, they are often great sources of desirable talent. McKinsey & Company’s report cites a recent study that found, on average, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) recruits tend to be more highly skilled and more likely to have advanced degrees. By focusing on diversity, organizations align themselves with an increasingly heterogeneous customer base, enabling stronger bonds with customers. Workplace diversity increases employee satisfaction and fosters positive attitudes and behaviors and creates better decision making through combining diverse groups of thinkers. These organizational aspects that diversity bolsters ultimately make up the foundation for organizations that perform better financially.

As the workforce becomes increasingly global, diversity is only going to increase in importance. Regulators in some European countries have already introduced diversity targets for boards, such as those set out in the UK Equality Act 2010. Despite the importance of diversity, many companies’ approaches are still very one-dimensional, opting for just a single diversity program to cover all aspects of diversity: racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation. This may be why, on a large scale, companies often make progress in only one area of diversity.

McKinsey & Company’s research suggests that this one-dimensional approach to diversity results in a focus on a particular category rather than the opportunity as a whole. They advise that organizations should instead adopt tailored programs and make more targeted efforts within specific areas of diversity, believing that these will be necessary to make measurable progress and ensure relevance to business goals.

It does seem odd that we’re still making a statistical case for what everyone knows to be true: diverse thought, experience, outlooks and cultures make for stronger solutions, more rapid innovation, more engaged employees and customers, and better all around performance. I guess more evidence doesn’t hurt.