This is the time of year when reports come out on the best places to work. Newspapers love to run articles on the “top 100″ in their area. They even break it down by small, medium, large and new companies. The bottom line is that it sells newspapers because it is a way to connect with so many people in the community and touches on something very personal, which is how we feel when we go to work. I think there are some real learnings that can be had by poring through the ratings and looking for patterns.
It is obvious that money is not as critical as all the other benefits and intangibles that really make up the core of these top-rated companies. It is also interesting that so many of the things that differentiate these companies are not that costly to implement and could be copied by many others. I am sure that it wasn’t the CEO who dreamed up all the ideas but rather they floated up from the organization and were then embraced.
Take a look at this piece that discusses some of the reasons why SAS was chosen as the top place to work in 2012. I love the way they point to their 2.6% turnover rate as not just a measure of their employee satisfaction but also as a huge cost saving tool for the company. Note that one expert pegged this savings relative to a normal turnover rate at over $100 million. I like the fact that the CEO recognizes the issues around job security and even promised that he would not fire people. It also seems as though this promised was fulfilled! I love the way SAS told employees that there were budget issues and left it up to them to figure out how to save money and cut costs. Everyone in companies know where the issues are and where there is waste. If motivated enough and encouraged, they can really help implement change where it is most needed. This is especially true if they are not worried that the change will diminish their stature or even their career.
One of the lessons I have learned over the years is that good ideas really do come from the breadth of the organization and move up. Most CEOs are looking for good thinking on how to improve the organization. Obviously, they are not ready to rubber stamp everything that comes across their desk but if positioned properly and backed up with some research most are open-minded to good thinking. Who would have ever thought half day Friday’s or even business casual would become the norm in our industry? How about job sharing and even part time sales representatives? Change can happen but it must be properly positioned.
The important point to take away from the SAS article is how all the positive moves made for employees really resulted in huge savings for the organization. Recognizing the huge cost of turnover and the ability of the organization to eliminate waste and streamline the business is the key. When looking for change it is critical to position it as a tactic to attain competitive advantage rather than just a nice thing to do. Change like what is seen at Google, SAS and other cutting edge companies is not meant to decrease productivity but rather to allow it to propel forward at an even more dramatic pace.
Companies that are forward thinking in the way they treat employees will be rightfully viewed as companies that will be forward thinking in the way they solve business problems for their customers. As Thanksgiving approaches take some time to challenge the way you view your job and your company and try to think of ways to improve the work environment for everyone. You will be making the company stronger through the process. Isn’t that what leadership is all about?