7 best practices for creating a great place to work

By in Appreciation, Culture, Insights, and Webinars
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What makes a great place to work? It’s the people—not the leaders or the benefits—who every day show up inspired to do great work. This year O.C. Tanner’s People & Great Work team have led with the theme, “We make the workplace a people place.” A theme highlighted when Fortune ranked O.C. Tanner #40 on their 2015 Best Companies to Work For® list.

During this month’s webinar, Charlotte Miller, O.C. Tanner’s Senior Vice President of People & Great Work, shared her experience of applying for the list and insights into creating a great workplace culture.

Her key takeaway: Never lose site of what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s not about applying or making a list or winning an award—it’s how you continually strive to improve and create an environment where you’re making a difference in people’s lives.

Miller shared highlights from her team’s application process (starting with an inspired brain storm session where team members wrote on post-its what they loved about the company) and came up with seven best practices to keep in mind:

1 – Know who you are.

Every company on the Fortune 100 list is different and each one has its own unique story. Don’t try to be like one of the other companies, and especially don’t try to be like all of them. This really comes out when you unpack what matters to you as an organization and in the stories you tell.

2 – Identify what’s working (and what could be better).

Two thirds of the Fortune application score is based on an employee survey, called the Trust Index Survey. This is a great tool to help evaluate what’s working well (as is any survey you use) and helps you look at what you should continue to support and what could be better. Pay attention to the survey results. When you get results in, share them with the team (making sure no one feels like they’re in trouble for the results but rather see them as a great tool to understanding how people are feeling). At O.C. Tanner, Miller explains, team results are shared in small groups with individual team members asked to talk about ways things can be improved.

3 – Find ways to build trust.

This will come up by managers, team, and department—but it all comes down to, “How can you open communication and continue to build trust with employees?” Interactions build trust. Creating forums for open communication and idea-sharing builds trust. Manufacturing employees at O.C. Tanner meet bi-annually to discuss their goals. Teams identify areas for improvement and after six months reevaluate progress made and set new goals. This helps employees identify how the work they do connects to the mission and vision of the company.

4 – Ask: Do people feel inspired?

Some of the questions on the Great Place to Work application are around, “How do you thank employees? How do you celebrate? How do you listen? And, most importantly, how do you inspire? On the other hand, in the survey employees are asked about how you make them feel: “I feel I make a difference here.” “My work has special meaning: this is not ‘just a job.” “When I look at what we accomplish, I feel a sense a pride.”

So you need to think about how you’re making people feel? Miller shared that at O.C. Tanner we use the same tools our clients use to appreciate, recognize, and inspire. We are ‘a lab’ for our clients, connecting us closer to our purpose. Before they join, each employee receives a welcome card, signed by the whole team. We send baby gifts, celebrate big events, give eCards, present recognition for going above and beyond, and receive Yearbooks for career celebrations. Our employees see themselves as a learning lab, giving recommendations and suggestions to improve the company’s and client’s programs. All these ways to thank each other helps us connect, deepens bonds, and builds trust. And, this creates a culture of inspiration.

5 – Do a benefits audit. Are they making a difference in people’s lives?

What is sometimes overlooked as an area for improvement, a benefits audit can give insights into participation rates and utilization. When people use and understand the benefits you’re offering—they’re more inclined to say, “Yes! This is a great place to work, and here’s why.” To improve participation in O.C. Tanner’s award-winning 401(k) plan, the company facilitated one-on-one meetings for all employees to learn more about the plan and understand how it benefitted them. The same approach was used with raising utilization rates of an offered Section 125 plan. Small group meetings were set up so employees could overcome their fears and ask any and all questions to better understand what was being offered.

6 – Find ideas that are a true culture fit.

Think about what sets your culture apart. What do you value? When you hear about great things other companies are doing, make sure it has meaning for your culture. Never add in benefits to get on a list or win an award—add a new benefit when it’s the right thing for your people. A few years ago at the Great Place to Work conference, several companies talked about giving employees paid time off (PTO) for volunteer work. This was an idea that made sense for O.C. Tanner. With a long history of philanthropy and employees who continually look for ways to support each other and the community—getting leadership buy-in to this was made easier as it felt like the right thing to do. This year, every employee now gets eight hours PTO for volunteering.

7 – Remember, it’s not an event, it’s a process.

When you focus on creating a great place to work you’re never finished, but always trying to improve. Miller shared that at O.C. Tanner, practicing a process of continuous improvement is a philosophy that’s part of the fabric of everything we do. As Obert Clark Tanner said, “All my life I have tried to touch the fringes of perfection, and at best I sometimes came near.”

“In our team,” Miller explained, “we are looking at every process, every form, every policy and asking, ‘What does this do?’ ‘How does this help?’ What can we do to make it simpler, friendlier, more powerful. Then we start again with the same questions.”

Bonus tip: Don’t forget to have fun.

To listen to the full webinar recording, click here.

For more ideas on creating a great place to work, sign up for our weekly appreciation tips.

By angie haugen
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