What makes a company good to work for?

In looking at companies which have philanthropic values, I discovered that a side benefit of that is employee satisfaction. What else contributes to making a company a good employer? Let’s have a look at some who have been on either the BRW Australia’s Top 50 Employer list or the Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For list, to see what’s common amongst the companies there.

RedBalloon

RedBalloon is an experience-based company, offering experiences which people and organizations can give as gifts. It’s continually on the best employers list.

Here are their values:

  • Integrity
  • Generosity
  • Leadership
  • Sense of Humour & Fun
  • Little Dog with a BIG dog personality!

Here is their state ways of creating the employee experience:

  • Welcome: We love to wow our candidates and newbies through our welcome process as it paints a picture for who we are. 1st impressions are lasting.
  • Flow: Our flow of information and communication across the business is key to ensuring everyone is aligned and understands the ‘what, why and how’ we deliver on our purpose.
  • Tools: It’s all about providing our people with the right tools and space to do the job!
  • Grow: Everyone is their own career personal trainer and are provided with the time and resources to make it their reality. We ensure performance is measured, challenged and stretched.
  • Appreciate: We know our people and we work endlessly to create an environment to reward and recognise them. Our key to making it work is being spontaneous and creating an element of surprise!
  • Wellness: We love providing a sense of balance between the ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ of work. We create opportunities for our people to volunteer their time and engage in health and wellness.

Their introductory video for employees sums it all up:

The RedBalloon blog has more examples of how these are lived out, and the fun things the company does, as individuals and as a company. Their work hard, play hard approach does seem provide healthy working environment for its employees.

Thoughtworks

ThoughtWorks is a global IT consultancy, delivering custom software and tools it has developed, providing consultancy services for transforming companies. It has over 1,700 employees around the world.

And then ThoughtWorks’ Values are:

  • Customer commitment – Delighting our customers.
  • Social responsibility – Creating a better world.
  • Uncompromising principles – Respect. Openness. Humanity.
  • Best people – An exceptional community.
  • Fun – Have fun. Be passionate.
  • Entrepreneurialism – Imagine. Pursue.
  • Global – A transnational team.

Here is what ThoughtWorks says about their Company Culture:

Our culture can’t really be explained in a paragraph. We don’t wear suits. (Well, not often.) We work hard and we play hard, we have created an environment where you are working amongst the best, so being ‘top of the class’ isn’t really an option, but being challenged is.

And then ThoughtWorks lists these “cultural characteristics and imperatives”:

  • Do the right thing
  • Attitude, aptitude and integrity
  • Service to others and society over self
  • Solidarity over charity
  • Serve holistic goals over achieving targets
  • Personal and organizational transparency
  • Curiosity, creativity and passion
  • Fail fast and publish our mistakes
  • Intolerant of intolerance
  • No jerks
  • High values alignment, loosely coupled

Google

Google needs no introduction. But what might not be as well known is that Google is considered one of the top employers, in the US and in Australia.

About working for Google in Australia:

And about working for Google more globally:

Zappos

Zappos is the largest online shoe retailer, also selling clothes. It has been taken over not long ago by Amazon.com. Why has Zappos been one of the top US Employers?

Here are Zappos’ core values:

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More With Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble

And here is their video about all of that:

And a fun video:

Atlassian

Atlassian is a software development company, with offices around the world.

Here are the Atlassian values:

  • Open Company, No Bullshit. Atlassian embraces transparency wherever at all practical, and sometimes where impractical. All information, both internal and external, is public by default. We are not afraid of being honest with ourselves, our staff and our customers.
  • Build with Heart and Balance. Everyday we try to build products that are useful and that people lust after. Building with heart means really caring about what we’re making and doing – it’s a mission, not just a job. When we build with balance we take into account how initiatives and decisions will affect our colleagues, customers and stakeholders.
  • Don’t #@!% the Customer. When we make internal decisions we ask ourselves “how will this affect our customers?” If the answer is that it would ‘screw’ them, or make life more difficult, then we need to find a better way. We want the customer to respect us in the morning.
  • Play, as a Team. We want all Atlassians to feel like they work with Atlassian, not for Atlassian. We think it’s important to have fun with your workmates while working and contributing to the Atlassian team.
  • Be the Change You Seek. We think Gandhi had it pretty right when he said “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world”. At Atlassian we encourage everyone to create positive change – we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our company, our products and our environment.

This is the Atlassian video going into more details about the values:

Then here’s how the company works for its employees:

  • Open and transparent. We tell it like it is, warts and all, and make it a priority to be open with our employees and customers. The truth will set you free.
  • Make that change. New ideas are not only welcome, they’re expected, even if it’s “not your job.” You can be the change you seek in our culture, products, or business.
  • Expand your mind. Work with amazing people doing amazing things. You’ll learn heaps and be challenged daily.
  • Fly free. Between our FedEx Days and 20% time programs, you’ll have plenty of autonomy to work on what *you want* to.
  • Foundation days. Get 5 days off per year (paid) to do charity work of your choosing.
  • Let’s party. End of year scavenger hunts, Friday beer carts, holiday parties, team events… we like working together as much as we enjoy partying together.
  • Team building. Whether it’s just grabbing dinner together or sea kayaking, every team has a budget for some fun team building.
  • Killer setup. A sweet chair, ergonomic workstations, Mac or PC, your choice of OS. Work how you like to.
  • Good on ya, mate. We recognize people for their hard work through a company kudos program, end of year bonuses, our company blog, and stock options.
  • Still here? Pat yourself on the back that you made it this far. (That’s just the kind of perseverance and curiosity we look for in a candidate!)
  • Start refreshed. Did we mention that we’ll send you on vacation before you start the job? Stop reading this list and apply for your dream job now.
  • Bike to work. We’re a bike-friendy bunch. Park your bike in on the ground or on the wall! If your bike needs repair, just ask one of our bike-savvy Atlassians for help.
  • Welcome, Fido. Pooch-friendly office. Especially if your pooch knows how to code.
  • Open office. We hate cubicle farms. Our offices are open, with tons of natural light, and an occasional hip soundtrack.

The “FedEx” days are times set aside for employees to work on whatever they want, skewed towards being connected to products, with the aim of delivering something in 24 hours. Then there’s “20% Time”, where employees spend 20% of their time working on their own ideas.

But wait, there are more perks:

  • Medical, Dental, and Vision coverage… all the stuff you’d expect.
  • Fully stocked kitchen. Food, beer, Red Bull, and other essentials.
  • An office Xbox. With Rock Band.
  • Aeron chair and any other ergonomic accoutrements you need.
  • After 5 years we’ll give you $3,000 to take a vacation.

What lessons can be learnt?

Admittedly this is a short selection out of the 150 or so companies combined on the Australian and US Top Employers list, but there does seem to be a common theme.

The most frequent perks seen include: healthcare, telecommuting, free food and drinks, birthdays off, flexible working hours, letting staff take time off when needed, working from home one day a week, and well-being programs such as gym memberships.

All of these are important, but without a healthy culture, those things fade into insignificance. Some of the cultural values of these top companies include:

  • A sense of humour and fun. The work hard, play hard ethic works! Play encourages creativity, builds relationships, relaxes, and provides the best of environments for work.
  • A positive environment. Appreciating employees, thanking for work well done, encouraging each other, removing cynicism, and creating harmony.
  • Generosity. A generous approach in ealing with each other, throughout the organization, and with customers, being open and honest and humble, with integrity, serving each other.
  • Trust. This flows on from management’s credibility, the respect with which employees feel they are treated, and the extent to which employees expect to be treated fairly. Time and time again at a recent conference, I heard (even from execs) that people are usually motivated and want to do a good job, so managers should empower employees to get the job done, and then get out of the way. Resist command and control. In this area, as in all, managers lead by example.
  • Passion and determination. Dreaming about what could be done, and having a dogged perseverance to see the work well done.
  • Values philanthropy. As noted in the last post, more and more companies are recognizing the value in giving back to the community, including giving paid days off to employees for helping with charitable organizations, and often by giving cash to charities.
  • Diversity. Valuing the contribution from people of different abilities and strengths helping to round out the organization.
  • Innovation. Related to the “passion and determination” value, is the pursuit of new ideas, new ways of doing business, ways to improve the products / services offered, ways to improve customer service. The company needs to be encouraging every employee to be innovators, to stay fresh and current and continually growing. Curiosity is a closely related value.
  • Communication. Keeping the communication channels open, ensuring that everyone knows what is happening in the company, so they can understand how what they do is part of the whole picture. Managers need to be approachable and transparent for this to work. If managers expect a free-flow of communication back their way, it also has to go the other way, to their staff. Don’t send mixed messages!

What’s missing from these lists? What would you add as priorities for perks offered by a company? What would you add as priorities for the company culture?

Managers and the whole person

I came across an excellent article about management. Here’s a quote which resonated:

I hate to break it to all the corporate running backs out there, but feelings are a part of people and therefore a part of business. Frustration, defensiveness, fear; courage, conscience, love. Work is a human thing, the product of human brains, human muscles, human spirits, human hearts. And so work, like the humans who do it, can be awkward and exciting and scary and sometimes messy. And it has the human potential for joy, if business would only make room for it.

But too many companies behave as if the goal of work is to leave our humanity at the door. How else to explain why companies so often reward bad managers?

… The message is clear: results count more than the human beings who produce them. That message plays out in a hundred different ways at work. You’ve seen it. Contempt for failure and the implied disdain for learning that underlies it. Fear of conflict, and the equal fear of collaboration. The absolute terror of being wrong. The stomp-it-like-a-bug response to vulnerability. The insane idea that credentials, theories and statistics are more real than people’s experience. The focus on product and profit as the sole measure of success, where dealing with people is just a necessary chore on the way to the next dividend.

… Why do companies continue to expect excellent results from people who are managed in terrible ways?

Food for thought, heh!

A thriving team or a struggling team?

Esther Derby sets out in two articles a list of features in a mind map of a well-functioning team and of a struggling team. Well worth reviewing both, and asking yourself where your team has a closer fit. If there’s a problem, identifying it is the first step towards fixing it.

No micromanagement

Mike Cohn, one of the Agile gods, has a new article about micromanagement, or not micromanaging to be precise. Good reminders about 1) sharing information, not hoarding, and 2) making sure the team has full autonomy to do what they need to do, and other points. All too often I see information hoarding used as a power trick, but the team players suffer as a result.

I really do love Agile and Scrum: seeing each member of the team encouraged to perform to their best using their skills, with all contributing to the outcome of the work. So much better than top-down dictatorial direction-giving, which ends up being disempowering.

Are you or your boss “transmit only” people?

I came across an article which got me thinking. It talks about how some bosses have an overbearing, “all transmission, no reception” style. One method for gaining a feel for whether you or your boss fall into that category or not is to figure out the ratio of statements and assertions to the number of questions asked. And then how many times are others allowed to ask questions or interrupt or make assertions? How much does the “high status primate in the group” interrupt or add value statements, often before the other has even finished talking?