Best Companies to Work For: What Are Their Qualities

There has been a decisive shift in the business world in recent years as the demand for talented, specialized business professionals has grown. In the past, the majority of companies needed bodies to fill desks and pick up phones, handling menial tasks and physical labor. Similarly, the pool of available workers with those unspecialized skills was massive, as anyone who had a modicum of education and social skills could effectively perform the tasks necessary.

However, the business world has increased in “savvy”, and as international business and the globalized society has grown more complex, so too has the demand for a different breed of professional. The increasing rate at which innovative ideas steer our culture has created a knowledge economy in which the demand for highly specialized intelligence is at an all-time high. Younger generations have recognized this, as have forward-thinking veterans in many industries, and they have realized that blindly applying to any job that will take them is no longer their only option. In fact, workers now have more control than ever before. Companies are eager to attract, recruit, and retain the top talent in their given industry to remain competitive, which means that top professionals can often choose where they want to work. Corporate headhunting, which previously only applied to an elite level of executives or a narrow range of skillsets, is now widespread. Outside of contractual obligations, companies no longer have a guarantee that the talented resources they possessed in one year will stick around for the next quarter, or even the next week.

This has steadily increased corporate attention on establishing themselves as attractive options, as they know that competing companies will similarly try to woo talent with better offers. From a superficial, surface-level perspective, some companies still believe that the almighty dollar will be the ultimate lure for talent, but that simply isn’t the case. Modern philosophies about career paths and work ethic aren’t dominated by the desire for money as they once were; people have realized that happiness in a workplace can be far more important than take-home pay. Many smart twenty-something professionals would rather take a 10% pay cut if it means working in a stimulating, supportive, and relevant environment. While fair pay remains an important aspect when looking for a job, it is now on par with many other critical factors.

A significant percentage of our lives is spent working, so the environment in which we spend that time is of the utmost importance. A great place to work should embody the same values as the employee, aligning with their goals and beliefs so that working can be a rewarding endeavor. As an employer, you should strive to inspire passion in employees, while as a potential employee, you should seek out a company for which you feel passionate. Workers will be far more productive and dedicated if they believe in what they’re working towards – and it shouldn’t just be a paycheck.

Secondly, the work should be inherently motivating and interesting, inspiring true dedication and allowing chances for innovation and creative thinking. Every top-quality candidate has a certain basic skill set that qualifies them for the position, but to unlock an individual’s true potential, their work should consistently drive them to work harder, to solve new problems, and to overcome every new challenge in an intellectually stimulating way. Boredom is the surest sign of being in the wrong industry or an inappropriate position; the world has rarely been changed by people who aren’t turned on and tuned in by the task at hand.

A job should contribute to self-improvement. If an employee is in a field that they truly enjoy, they should naturally seek out ways to improve their skills and increase their expertise. This isn’t limited to positions where advancement is easy or immediately apparent; the best companies to work for encourage and facilitate self-improvement by offering continuous training and opportunities to go above and beyond the normal expectations of a given job title. For ambitious professionals, hitting a brick wall in terms of forward progress can be extremely frustrating, leading them to search for new positions in companies that respect their potential and provide ways to unlock it.

While most professionals don’t want to be micromanaged, they also don’t want to be left completely to their own devices. A company that can balance empowerment, guidance, collaboration, and trust will retain their most talented employees by giving them the benefit of the doubt in even their wildest ideas, while still offering the support network of resources and peers that gives them the proverbial “room to run” with something they care about. Independence only goes so far, so ensuring that a workforce becomes a unified team, moving towards a common goal is essential. Providing individual outlets for personal creativity should seamlessly blend into the larger vision of an organization, because great companies understand that the “next big thing” can come from very unexpected places.

Those other corporate characteristics are important, but properly rewarding and recognizing achievement is also crucial for the confidence and continued loyalty of great workers. Employees should understand their own worth, and should be managed by people who respect and openly acknowledge when a job has been done well. This traditionally took the form of increased salaries and more lofty positions, but in a knowledge economy, giving workers more responsibilities, more exciting projects, or more leeway in how they spend their free time are also viable options for demonstrating satisfaction with their output. It is impossible to put a monetary value on the self-worth that an employee feels when their hard work is recognized; in terms of that employee’s loyalty and continued dedication to a brand or a corporate ideal…that sort of recognition is priceless. In today’s competitive marketplace, professionals understand their value to a company, so withholding recognition or well-deserved promotions will not drive them to work harder; it will simply drive them to work somewhere else.

Corporate perks and flashy promises only go so far; at the end of the day, employees want to feel that the time and energy they’ve spent is worthwhile, personally rewarding, stimulating, recognized, and part of something greater than themselves.

The quality and culture of a company is measured by far more than what they pay their employees; the businesses outlined in the following chapters exemplify those traits that make an organization truly desirable as an employer. Some of the companies featured in these case studies demonstrate one or more of the qualities that define a great place to work, but all of them are founded on the understanding that employees are the most valuable resource they possess.