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12 Min Read

The Best Companies To Work For Now Focus On Human Potential And Leadership Effectiveness

David Mizne
David Mizne

In 2017, did your company have what it took to be one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For? Well then, congratulations are in order…

Wait a minute though, it looks like the rules have changed.

The 100 Best Companies To Work For is an honor granted to a select few businesses based on an annual survey of millions of employees. But for the first time in twenty years,  Fortune (and Great Place To Work) have changed their methodology.

A “great place to work” is no longer simply one where employees trust each other, have pride in their work, and enjoy their colleagues. The original formula of only focusing on trust, pride, and camaraderie is no longer enough.

You may be asking yourself, Why does this even matter? Why would our company even want to be considered for this designation? Well, in addition to helping with recruiting efforts, Fortune shares that publicly-held companies that appear on the list have delivered stock market returns two to three times greater than major stock indices.

Here’s what you need to know to make the cut next year:

The Rules Have Changed

Today’s Best Companies To Work For realize that success is reached through modern management methods that keep up with the rapidly accelerating pace of change in business. More than ever before, technology has increased the pace and volume of transparent communication both internally among employees and externally to customers via social media.

Greatness at work is now achieved through a commitment to a new set of criteria. After reviewing an applicant’s employee survey and culture audit, companies seeking to be certified as The Best were then rated based on these 6 categories:

1) Values
2) Innovation
3) Financial Growth
4) Leadership Effectiveness
5) Maximizing Human Potential
6) Trust

Let’s unpack some of these to discover how modern businesses are changing their focus to become more universally people focused, while quite literally improving the world around them.

Maximizing Human Potential “For All”

Great Place to Work now looks at how well companies create a consistently positive experience for all employees, stating that “every employee matters in an economy that is about connectivity, innovation, and human qualities like passion, character, and collaboration”.

Their latest research shows that companies that rate at the top of this new “For All” standard grow revenue three times faster than their less-inclusive rivals. With this change in criteria, Salesforce shot to the top of the list–a new #1 for the 1st time in 7 years! This ascension was largely due to Salesforce’s efforts to create a “Great Place to Work For All”, and for creating a globally-cohesive culture.

One exceptional way to universally maximize human potential is to create a clear mission and vision along with a list of core values. Creating core values is a powerful exercise that allows companies to codify their organizational culture by purposefully distinguishing the elements that are unique, strong and positive. (Note that Values is also the #1 category by which workplaces are considered for placement on the 100 Best Places list.)

Clearly articulating your values and continuing to use them as a cultural touchstone over time, also helps to Maximize Human Potential “For All”. An organization can use their values to amplify their Diversity and Inclusion efforts.

According to 15Five CEO David Hassell, hiring for culture fit can be dangerous and often is used as a euphemism for hiring people from similar backgrounds. Instead, hiring for values fit can help create a standard that is more universally inclusive. When a candidate is excited about the company mission (in our case to create workplaces where people become their greatest selves), they will likely be a fit regardless of background, personality or work style.

The next step is to gauge whether a potential hire is a values fit:

“The key is to ask questions about the candidate’s personal and professional lives and try to understand why they have made the decisions they did. If an employee shares your company’s key values, then she can learn to embrace your more specific day-to-day work culture. You can’t force someone to adopt your company’s culture, but you can lead by example and openly discuss core values at every opportunity. Pretty soon, it will become apparent whether a new employee fits with these core values.”

So how can businesses become more values-driven, build more trust, develop their leaders, and maximize human potential? (I didn’t forget about innovation and financial growth, I’ll get to that later.)

The Path to Greatness

In short, the answer is a commitment to the greatness of every employee via agile performance management software.

Looking for an agile performance management software solution to maximize human potential at your company? Give 15Five A Try!

The March edition of Harvard Business Review is entitled “The New Rules of Talent Management“, and contains three connected articles. In the first piece entitled, “HR Goes Agile”, Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis essentially echo what we have discussed for awhile, that The Industrial Revolution is over, yet businesses continue to use outdated strategies and tactics like command and control management and the universally loathed annual performance review:

“Technology and a new generation of employees has fundamentally changed the nature of work. This new generation performs at their peak when given flexibility, feedback and growth opportunities. What’s standing in your way of success is not a savvy competitor — it’s antiquated practices like top-down management, annual performance reviews and slow feedback loops. ”

Or as Cappelli and Tavis put it:

“People Management is changing. Successful companies are now trading annual performance reviews for more regular feedback and performance conversations. They are separating development conversations from discussions that evaluate past performance, especially as a consideration for advancement and pay increases.”

All of this hinges on more effective leadership, and the process of transforming managers into coaches. This includes giving employees leeway to take risks. Celebrate the wins and coach them through the lessons of each failure.

A great place to start is by asking employees questions. This is according to leadership coach Ed Batista in the introduction to Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Coaching Employees. According to Batista, questions “help them fulfill their immediate responsibilities more effectively and advance their development as professionals over time”. He goes on to discuss that a leader’s impact is not in telling people what to do but in empowering and motivating them.

Coaching may seem intimidating at first, especially for managers that have little to no experience. But today’s employees want to learn and grow, and demand more than just being told what to do. According to Gallup, 87% of millennials say that learning and development is important to them.

Fostering Innovation & Financial Growth

See, I told you I would get to these elements…

While Innovation and Financial Growth are numbers 2 and 3 on the list of criteria to be considered one of the Best Companies To Work For, they should be at the bottom of the list. Mind you that isn’t because they are unimportant–just ask your CFO. It’s because they are a byproduct of focusing on the other areas.

That’s why 15Five CEO David Hassell wrote an article in Entrepreneur, entitled, “To Be Results Focused, Stop Focusing On Results”:

“Many managers create monthly and quarterly revenue goals and work backwards using scare tactics to get the team on board… Instead, establish trust and transparency with the team. Employee engagement and accountability will naturally emerge when your people feel heard and seen, encouraged and supported… Build trust and provide challenge to foster natural accountability. To come out on top financially, always start with the drivers of financial success–your team.”

As far as innovation is concerned, that also emerges organically in healthy work environments. When we are in overly competitive environments or otherwise feel threatened, we cannot think creatively. There is a biological reason for this. According to this Harvard Business Review article, to perform at a high level and to be more productive and creative, company leaders and individual managers must create psychological safety:

“The brain processes a provocation by a boss, competitive coworker, or dismissive subordinate as a life-or-death threat. The amygdala, the alarm bell in the brain, ignites the fight-or-flight response, hijacking higher brain centers. This ‘act first, think later’ brain structure shuts down perspective and analytical reasoning. Quite literally, just when we need it most, we lose our minds.”

You may not be looking to become one of the 100 Best Companies To Work For any time soon, but you probably do want to be financially successful. You may even be one of those leaders who wants to re-humanize business by making your company a place where people can self-actualize and have a positive impact on the community at large.

The path to either your lofty goals or more traditional benchmarks for success is the same. Codify your values and create endless opportunities for employee growth. Transform the leadership and management at your company so that everyone is focused on coaching employees towards greatness.

Finally, implement continuous performance management technologies and processes that actually improve employee performance instead of simply measuring it. This strategy is the future of work, and apparently the future is already here.

David Mizne 15five

David Mizne is Marketing Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David’s articles have appeared on The Next Web & TalentCulture. Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credit: Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash