Low-cost and big impact: Ideas from the Best Small & Medium Workplaces™ - and why they work.
Small companies often worry that they can’t afford significant investments required to recruit and retain top talent. But our research shows that in many ways they have an edge on larger workplaces.
On 50 different employee feedback metrics analyzed by Great Place to Work, the Best Small Workplaces scored 95% positive on 50 survey statements. By contrast, Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for - companies that are at least 10 times larger - scored 95% positive on only 4 out of 60 metrics.
That’s because the root of a great workplace isn’t onsite daycare or free kombucha on tap. It’s whether leaders can build a sense of trust with every employee in their organization. Those kinds of positive relationships are often easier to scale in smaller organizations.
Front, an email collaboration firm headquartered in San Francisco secured the top spot on the Best Small Workplaces list. What benefit do employees rave about? Legos.
But before you put toys on your “building a Best Workplace checklist,” it’s essential to understand why these colorful plastic bricks were such a hit. The key to success with all benefits is not what you provide, but how you do it.
Budget-Friendly Programs From the Best Small Workplace – According to Their People
1. Welcome & Team Building with Legos!
“Fronteers” as they're called, love their Legos. On their first day, new hires pick a set and have fun building it with their team. “It's a unique part of Front's culture,” says one Fronteer. It “facilitates both individual expression in the set you pick, as well as team-building.”
Why it works: The Lego experience is an enduring part of Front’s workplace culture. If employees never used Legos again, or if their culture wasn’t one that valued teamwork and the lightness of play, this experience would be an empty oddity. Instead, it authentically introduces new hires to Front’s unique workplace.
2. Values & Learning from Failure
The playful Lego spirit continues as CEO Mathilde Collin presents culture-driving awards made of Legos at weekly all-company meetings.
Peers nominate each other to be “Fronteer of the Week” when they go above and beyond and live Front’s values. Employees self-nominate for the “Stumble of the Week” award, which recognizes big mistakes and what people learned from them.
“It's an environment where people volunteer to tell the whole company about a recent stumble they had and what they learned from it,” said one employee. “Everyone applauds them for it. If a company that encourages growth and transparency is not a great place to work, I'm not sure what is.”
Why it works: Leaders not only signal company values through awards, they embody them. 100% of respondents say Front is a safe place for honest mistakes.
“Make a mistake? Managers help you pinpoint what went wrong and how to fix that,” said one employee.
That Lego link also makes the awards feel unique to Front – and unlike an anonymous corporate purchase - through an ongoing in-joke that builds their unique sense of team.
3. Monthly Employee Happiness Check-ins
Front’s mission is to “make people work happier” through better email collaboration.
Monthly employee-to-employee check-ins are where staff ask, “What made you happy last month?” And “What made you less happy?” That feedback shapes how managers support and develop their people.
Why it works: Asking whether their people “feel happy” makes sense at Front because its core to their culture and mission. Questions should reflect the focus of your company. Maybe your business thrives on passion, curiosity or care? Whatever it is – don’t ask about it unless you’re willing to do something about it.
4. Cross-Team Support for Goals
When aiming for goals, it’s a fun, all-team affair. Each quarter, teams across the business take a turn designing a unique experience to support Sales hitting its target, everything from smoothie bars to handmade cards to jumping on calls with the team.
“In a sales role anywhere, the end of month and end of quarter push can be super challenging,” explains one team member. “At Front, literally every single team rallies around sales to make it happen.”
Why it works: Everyone understands the whole organization benefits from hitting those targets.
“We're all committed to the company's success,” explains a team member. “There's no ‘sales side’ and ‘engineering side.’ We go through the tough times together and we celebrate together.”
The Secret Sauce
Is it the monthly game nights? The annual company-wide musical? “Ideation dinners” where anyone can present an idea that will grow the business 10x?
When it comes to the programs companies offer, money doesn't always mean an advantage. If programs meet employees' real needs, are true of expressions of who the organization is, and build trust beyond symbolic gestures, they will have meaningful impacts.
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