“Best Places to Work” – A Dying Breed

Best Place to Work

Anyone who cares about making employee experience better knows that culture is not a new idea. We’ve been talking about it for decades now. The problem is, though, that’s about all most organizations do…talk. And some of those organizations, I’m sorry to say, are even those perennially listed on what has increasingly become the cliche of “Best Place to Work” lists.

When it comes to culture, we don’t like to talk about “best” or “great.” Those terms are terribly relative – to the person, to the market, to the industry, the geography, to the unique and distinct characteristics of any one organization. Simply put: what’s ‘best’ for me is not necessarily ‘best’ for you.  

Every organization possesses a unique culture fingerprint or DNA (we like to talk about it as a Workplace Genome®). It’s time to start thinking about culture as a business imperative – as an operating system that impacts our success in real and tangible ways. Turn culture into your competitive advantage by measuring it, analyzing it, and then acting on it in a way that creates real and permanent change in your workplace.

Here are three things (of many) to keep in mind as you start to get serious about managing culture in a way that attracts the right talent, creates the right employee experience, and generally reinforces and clarifies the right success drivers for your business. Your distinct success drivers (not someone else’s)!

1. Culture Is Not a Recipe that Can Be Copied

Let’s assume your company has already landed on a “best place to work” list. No doubt, this generated a lot of pride and back-patting too, and other business leaders might have envied you.

Excuse me while I rain on your parade a bit. The problem with comparing different work cultures is simply this: you can’t. The key factors that drive your organization’s success might not be the same for other organizations and vice versa. So why compare at all?  Stop worrying about what’s happening around you and start looking inwards. A thriving culture cannot be copied. It needs to be built.

2. Culture Drives the Employee and the Customer Experience

The employee experience drives the customer experience. We know this. We’ve done the research. We see strong correlative and causal relationships between Employee Experience and Customer Experience. Makes sense, right? To the extent we can create an experience that’s rewarding, challenging, engaging, and offers a strong sense of belonging and purpose for our employees, there’s no reason they wouldn’t naturally do the same for our customers. The most evolved and futurist workplaces on the planet are those that have in fact dispensed of the old adage of “Customers Come First” and shifted their focus to “Employees Come First.

3. Values Vs Valued

Many organizations talk about company values, but what is genuinely valued is what spawns the organization’s culture. Values are really only powerful when both customers and employees actually experience them – at every turn. Saying your organization values something means very little unless you can back it up in ways that your people – internally and externally – can quickly nod their heads because they’ve seen those values come to life. Saying you value “Trust” and then not allowing your employees to make decisions without subjecting them to layers of review and approval doesn’t jive, for instance.

Getting and staying serious about managing culture doesn’t have to be complex, but it takes a lot more than lip service. Start by stopping. Stop worrying about whether you are “The Best Place to Work” and start focusing on whether you’ve built the “Right Place to Work.” Stop trying to copy every other “culture cool kid” out there and start keeping your eyes on your own paper. Stop saying you “value” something if you can’t prove it’s actually “valued.” Start paying attention to culture – measure it, analyze it, and then act on it.

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