11 Traits of a Great Employer

How do you measure up against the best of the best employers?
Mr. AllBiz, The Strauss Group, Inc.
January 19, 2011

Darcy Breeman works for Edward Jones, a company that recently came in at No. 2 in Fortune’s annual list of the 100 Best Places to Work. So what makes that investment company unique and why is it on the list? Well, just consider Bremen’s story:

“I’m in the process of adopting a newborn and will be a single mom. Jones will send someone to my office to cover me while I’m gone and serve my clients... I can [then] come back and take a couple of appointments a day and then come home. If I want to bring my daughter into the office, that’s fine. They [even] have an adoption reimbursement plan.”

Wow.

One thing I always tell small business people is that we do not need to reinvent the wheel. Big businesses have scores of smart MBAs coming up with great ideas and there is nothing wrong with cherry-picking the best.

So here then are some of those ideas. How do you measure up against the best of the best employers? Here’s how to tell: You know that yours is a great place to work too if:

1. You offer a flexible work schedule:

In this e-era, employees expect that they will be able to occasionally work where, and even when, they want. The 9-to-5 age is dead. Offering flex-time, allowing people to make schedules that work for them, and being supportive of those choices is an easy and affordable way to attract great employees.

2. You make your workplace kid-friendly:

Obviously, Edward Jones does this, but so does the company that was named the very best place to work in 2010, the software firm SAS. Aside from offering a laundry list of great benefits like unlimited sick days and a medical center on site, the company also offers its employees discount childcare and, in the summer, day camp. Again, making a workplace kid-friendly or even pet-friendly is an easy, affordable, and welcome way to make your staff happy.

3. You foster a culture that is creative and fun:

When you read or see profiles of high-flying, successful startups like Google or Facebook, what do you notice about the workplaces? One thing for sure is that they cultivate an atmosphere of looseness and creativity. For example, items like ping-pong and Foosball tables tend to be liberally spread around. At Facebook, people go from meeting to meeting on scooters.

Adding an Xbox to the break room or a basketball hoop in the parking lot are simple ways for small businesses to easily emulate these ideas.

4. You cultivate the whole person:

Great workplaces appreciate that people have various skills and interests. They are about more than having that person do their narrow job every day. Instead of denying that people have interests outside of work, great employers use that.

At Qualcomm, employee benefits include “baseball games, surfing lessons, kayaking tours, white-water rafting, bonfires, bowling, and volunteering opportunities.”

How happy do you think their employees are?

5. You don’t tolerate jerks:

We have all worked with jerks, heck, most of us have worked for jerks. But not at Robert W. Baird & Co. The investment firm has a rigorous hiring process that supports my favorite policy on this list:

Baird has a “No [jerks] rule.”

6. You reward great customer service: 

The Methodist Hospital System measures the satisfaction of their customers (i.e., patients), “every quarter. If the hospital goals are met, bonuses for non-management staffers of up to $300 are handed out.”

7. You understand people have lives outside of work:

At the Johnson Financial Group, employees who have to go on leave due to a personal crisis continue to get full pay. CEO Richard Hansen says, “JFG will always do what is right.”

8. Your mission inspires your people to do their best:

Great businesses are about a lot more than just making money, and the best employers get their employees to buy into their mission.

Example: The mission of the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk is to “find a cure for diabetes.” As one employee put it, “How many pharmaceutical companies can claim that their goal is to cure the very disease that keeps them in business?”

9. You listen:

At CHG Healthcare, employee suggestions are not only welcomed, they are actually implemented. As a result, the company now has an on-site fitness center, daily fruit baskets, and a yearly wellness fair.

10. You have a good incentive program: 

Almost every company on the Fortune 100 list has some sort of creative incentive program that rewards employees for a job well done.

Do you?

11. You pay a decent wage:

People work for all sorts of reasons, but the main one is pay. You cannot expect to be considered a great employer if you don’t pay well. It need not be above the norm for your industry, just a good, honest, fair wage. If you don’t, all of the fancy creative benefits in the world won’t make up for the fact that your people will feel underpaid and unappreciated.

Bottom line: Almost any of the benefits listed here can easily and affordably be implemented by any small businesses, and all will make yours a better place to work.

 

Image credit: purplemattfish

 

Mr. AllBiz, The Strauss Group, Inc.