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(posted: May 1st, 2012)
The 125 companies ranked in their publication clearly understand that their people are their priority. These exemplary companies foster work environments that attract and retain happy, engaged, and productive employees.
"Talent is the engine that drives any successful company, particularly in the Bay Area's knowledge economy. Smart employers know the race for talent is always on and the competition is growing."
Mary Huss, Publisher
In this post I would like to share some of the best practices and innovative programs these companies use to keep their edge and earn their position on the "Best Places to Work..." list. I hope they will inspire you with ideas for your own company, and that, as a leader, you can learn from the winners' success stories.
As the economy continues to improve, it is increasingly difficult to find and keep good people, which makes creating a great work environment all the more important.
Keeping employees happy in tough times involves being straight with them during the good and the challenging times.
Honesty and transparency are the key:
"As a result, employees don't have to second-guess if the axe is going to fall on them because they know the CEO and executive team will always tell the truth about what's going on."
Gaye Landau-Leonard, Blach Construction
EMC shares that the "never enough communication philosophy" is important. This includes both sharing and the big L word: LISTENING!
It is amazing what employees will share if we simply ask the questions and keep our ears and minds open to hearing their responses. When employees love working for the company, they love working for the clients too.
"Content, motivated, and respected employees create an environment that leads to very satisfied guests."
Refuse limits, Resist assumptions, and Realize excellence are three of Stanford University's core values. They believe changing the world is their legacy.
Intuit's learning culture includes reverse mentoring - To share how they approach social media, among other things, young team members are paired with senior executives; in return, the senior executives teach their juniors about leadership and career trajectory.
Intuit also offers incentives for employees to come up with game-changing ideas.
"The mindset we are competing against is "I'm going to take one particular role and when that's done, go to another company". We want employees to know we're innovators and there are many different things you can do here, so you don't have to leave. This is a culture that will take a risk on you."
Sherry Whiteley, Sr. VP Human Resources, Intuit
EMC believes flexibility is a key to a satisfied workforce. This includes a program they have developed called "WorkWise", which allows employees to work from home, and an approach that tailors each job to the employee based on their strengths, interests, and career path.
"I have the ability to create my own success, and it is very empowering."
At Workday, they practice what they preach:
"Our most important assets are the employees, and people who are having fun do a better job. If you love what you're doing you end up having a positive effect on those around you. It's really vital."
CEO Dave Duffield, Workday
One great idea that captured my attention was Workday's annual 24-hour hackathon, in which the staff stays up all night and brainstorms product ideas. Or a sabbatical in which any employee can trade in his or her regular job duties and instead spend three months working with Workday Labs, the company's center for research and innovation.
SOAProjects CEO Manpreet Grover loves the fact that someone can walk into her office and say: "I'm really upset with you."
Employees should not be afraid to say or do anything. Fight like family, reconcile like family. It's all about communicating and never being afraid to try something.
At Dropbox they believe the key is not to limit anyone at the company from being amazing. Still in startup mode, they are doing everything they can to make sure their employees' talent stays nimble and doesn't get blunted by daily routine. One of their major defenses against stagnation is programs that encourage people to work on new projects.
RIBs and random rewards are the keys to Primitive Logic's success and happy employees.
Many of these top companies also encourage employees to volunteer in the community and compensate them when they do.
"RIBSs = Respect, Integrity and Balance."
CEO Jill Reber
Sure, many of these companies may provide happy hours, gym memberships, complementary dry cleaning, chefs preparing gourmet meals, pool tables, and nap rooms. But there is more to it than this.
I think it comes down to doing whatever you can to make your employees happy.
As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, says:
"What are things you can improve in your work or attitude to WOW more people? Have you WOWed one person today? We want to see random acts of WOW-ness."
Happy and engaged people at all levels keep employees at their companies. Executives and management have a responsibility to create an environment that enables and fosters communication.
We all want to work alongside people who share our passion. This is about creating a culture of collaboration, teamwork, and excellence.