Lesson 4 of 5: Lessons for Leaders as they Build a Great Workplace

Lesson 4 of 5: Lessons for Leaders as they Build a Great Workplace

Lesson #4: Leaders need to be on board for a great workplace culture to thrive.

How much money would your company save if turnover were cut in half? Turnover rates at companies with high levels of trust are just a fraction of those of their industry peers. Turnover costs the average company 30-50% of the annual salary of entry-level employees, 150% of middle level employees, and up to 400% for specialized, high level employees. So, being a great workplace is not just good for employees—it's good for business, too.1


For this reason and many others, leaders of recognized FORTUNE Best Companies to Work For all the way up the ladder are committed to the goal of being a great workplace. This was one of the key takeaways that came from the 2014 Great Place To Work® Conference, where these leaders shared that for them, investing in workplace culture is a top priority.

Bill Emerson, CEO of Quicken Loans, shared that he spends 40% of his time attending to the company's culture. As CEO of the nation's largest online home loan lender, Emerson has many competing priorities. However, as an example of his commitment to the culture, he and Chairman Dan Gilbert lead a full-day session with all new employees to review the company's book on culture, "ISMs in Action."

It doesn't stop there. Blake Nordstrom and his executive team spend 50% of their time on the road, staying close to both the employee and the customer experience. And Terri Kelly, CEO of W.L. Gore—regularly recognized as one of the most innovative companies in the world—believes that an important part of her role is to align Gore's values, practices, systems, and actions to reinforce culture every day.

However, the truth is, not every company starts with leaders who share this perspective. If your organization falls into this camp, a place you can take action is to take a look at your own role as a leader in your company. What behaviors can you model that will serve to build trust—the cornerstone of a great workplace—with employees? In our work at Great Place To Work®, we've seen examples of small scale change leading to larger advances over time. Are there ways you can exert your own influence within your immediate department, to start moving your organization down the path of the larger changes you'd like to see?

Great Place To Work® CEO China Gorman encouraged leaders who are passionate about this work to begin taking action, building the momentum that may eventually turn the tide of the organization's overall stance on being a great workplace. Said Gorman, "Once something is started, it creates momentum...regardless of your role, regardless of the level of buy-in you have from your senior managers. YOU do have the ability to get this started."

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and get started. Others just may follow.

5 Lessons Whitepaper Action Item

If senior leaders at your company are not yet convinced of the benefits associated with being a great workplace, consider sharing these Business Benefits with them to begin the conversation.

Download the Five Lessons for Leaders as they Build a Great Workplace whitepaper to read more about this and other key takeaways from the 2014 Great Place To Work® Conference!

1 Blake, R. (2006). Employee retention: What employee turnover really costs your company. ManagerNewz.