The Fortune List: Not an End in Itself

The Fortune List: Not an End in Itself

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”.