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What Makes the “Best Places to Work” the Best Places to Work?

We’ve all seen lists of the best companies to work for, or articles about how company X and brand Y are the best places to work. But less often are we able to glean what exactly that perfect formula is for a “best place to work,” and, crucially, how it can be applied to our own working environments. Ahead we will break down the “big two” positive attributes of a “best place to work,” why they benefit everyone, and how you can apply them to your own business.

Flexibility

One of the most popular words you’ll hear thrown around by people talking about how much they love their jobs is the word “flexibility,” and it isn’t too difficult to work out why. Who wouldn’t want to be able to decide, within reason, when, where, or for how long you engage in work-related tasks. The fact is, life itself isn’t always accommodating of your work schedule. Little Timmy isn’t going to consult your calendar to determine when the best time to get tonsilitis might be, nor are everyone’s circadian rhythms ready to be disrupted every morning at 6 am, and that’s without even talking about those who are married to a bartender or who have a standing board game night with their friends at 10 pm every Wednesday, or a who take care of their nieces on date night 45 minutes uptown. The fact is, everyone has a different home life, different social life, and different personal life, etc. so it’s becoming more and more difficult to expect everyone to have the same work life.

This doesn’t have to be a bad thing for companies. In fact, the injection of a little more flexibility can be a great thing for all those involved. What’s more important to the end goals of any business? An employee who is at their desk for 8 specific hours, or an employee who produces results? Most people would say the latter, but most workplaces are geared toward the former. When your focus shifts to results, however, that’s what you’re going to see… Results! Think about the amount of time wasted throughout the day even with employees at their desks. Coffee breaks, checking the phone, setting up for the day. It adds up. And that’s without even mentioning the amount of time on the employee’s end spent commuting, getting ready, packing lunch.

We’re not suggesting that everyone makes the shift to work-from-home name-your-own-hours overnight, but a little bit of extra flexibility can go a long way, as can even a subtle shift in overall philosophy away from person-at-desk and toward actual measurable results. And we’re not talking about improvements just in terms of moral, reduction of employee stress, better work/life balance, and an increase in employee commitment. Although these are all positive changes you can expect to see. But we’re also talking about efficiency, progress, and work getting done.

So how can flexibility be brought in on a small scale? Try looking for the right tools to fit your individual toolbelt. There are a lot of powerful software options for fostering and measuring productivity in much better and more comprehensive ways than making sure everyone is staring at a computer screen for eight hours.

Focus on communication. This isn’t going to work if you simply leave everyone to their own devices. Not only do the same communication channels have to remain open and active, but communication should also actually increase. While you’re on your flexibility test drive (and will there ever be a better time to try it out than now?) make sure your employees and managers are communicating, learning what works and what doesn’t, getting feedback, implementing changes, learning about preferences for communication, and building trust. Remember, this is an exercise in flexibility. Don’t be afraid to be flexible for your employees as well.

Now that everyone is communicating with one another, learning from one another, and measuring the results thereof, it’s time to focus attention on those results, and hold people accountable for those results. You’re telling your employees you don’t care if they get it done at 7 am or midnight, but they do have to get it done. They have to deliver. If they don’t, well, you have those communication channels open for a reason, don’t be afraid to let them know that you expect them to do more with the flexibility and trust they’ve been given.

Employee Focus

When your employees come first, business thrives. At least that’s what seems to be borne out in the evidence after countless of the “best places to work” are shown to be incredibly employee-focused.

And maybe it’s no surprise that employees who are given a great employee experience will be able to turn around and deliver a great customer experience. But what exactly does employee-focus look like? Well, it starts all the way back with onboarding. Employees should come to understand on their very first day that they are part of a team that will listen to, respect, and value them as workers and as people. You’ve, no doubt, heard about the unending importance of first impressions. Well, the same goes for a new employee’s first impression of their new workplace culture, coworkers, and overall onboarding experience. From orientation to settling in, to getting to know everyone, this process should be prepared for and done right.

As employees continue to work and grow on your team, you also have to remember to pay attention to their individual needs, goals, and metrics for success. And it’s no surprise again that employees who have job-ownership and a real connection to their work and the people with whom they work will be more ready, willing and able to produce their best work.

Employee focus also looks like support. And a large part of taking care of your employees is giving them the tools and avenues to take care of themselves. Give them the tools they need to boost their own productivity, to foster positive working relationships, and the proper avenues to explore in the event that there’s a problem. Making problems easy to solve, and help easy to find, is great for everyone involved.

Employee focus also looks like employee recognition and appreciation. When employees are recognized for their achievements, they’ll feel more appreciated, they’ll be happier in their work, and they’ll be more satisfied with the work they’ve done. Not only that, but they will continue to strive to live up to that recognition. The same is true of employee appreciation. Taking steps to demonstrate how much you appreciate your employees individually and as a whole will only make them want to work harder and better in the future. Gestures of employee recognition on the individual level, group level, and as a whole are all great avenues to explore. Consider also employee benefits. Another one of the biggest things brought up by people who work for a “best place to work” is the benefits. Don’t look at employee benefits as something you have to give, but rather as another way to demonstrate how tremendously valuable these individuals are to your business as a whole. Good benefits can attract and hold onto better employees, which means more/better clients and customers, along with a happier and healthier working environment and team.

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