8 Ways to Know You Work at a Really Great Company
Work + Life Balance

8 Ways to Know You Work at a Really Great Company

by Christine Jacobson
Photos Diana Zapata | December 22, 2015

WE SPEND A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF OUR WAKING HOURS AT WORK, SO WE NATURALLY WANT TO KNOW THAT WE'RE INVESTING OUR TIME IN A WORTHWHILE COMPANY. BUT HOW DO WE DETERMINE WHAT DEFINES “WORTHWHILE”? 

Much has been said about what our generation wants from an employer. Some arguments are rooted in stereotypes (“all millennials want lots of perks!” or “this generation just wants to move up quickly”), while other research-based reports tend to prove it’s really all about great company culture. 

But when we talk about a rewarding, meaningful workplace, what do we really mean? How do we account for what different companies, in different industries, with different priorities, can realistically provide their employees? 

A lot of it comes down to an organization that fosters growth, opportunity, and reward for everyone within its four walls. Here are eights ways to determine if your company measures up:  

1. REWARDS, FEEDBACK, AND PRAISE AREN’T JUST ANNUAL EVENTS   

The vast majority of companies have some sort of annual review process, where employees can set and/or be reviewed against team goals or other criteria. The problem with this status quo? Employees end up in the dark about how they're actually performing for most of the year, meaning they don’t get constructive feedback or praise at the pace of today’s workplace.

Companies that foster great work find everyday ways to reward and motivate employees. Here are some signs that your current or potential company fits the bill: 

  • “Kudos” systems where employees are encouraged to praise co-workers for a job well done or excellent collaboration 
  • Weekly check-ins between management and direct reports that use a “Stop, Start, Continue” framework to provide ongoing feedback 
  • Small, unexpected rewards for meeting individual or group goals 

2. LEADERSHIP IS TRANSPARENT—AND ACCOUNTABLE  

With all of the social, economic and political crises in recent years, people are starting to expect those in charge to be more human. That means your boss should be able to make (and admit) mistakes. 

We want the leaders of our organizations to not only share their vision for growth with us, but also to course correct when things don’t go as planned. In great companies, transparency and accountability are contagious—because the higher-ups embrace them, so does everyone else. 

3. ALL EMPLOYEES HAVE A CLEAR GROWTH PATH  

Whether you’ve been in the workforce for less than a year or a decade, you've heard coworkers complain that they don’t know “what’s next” for them within a company.

To retain and grow talent, it’s crucial for employers to clearly outline what the next steps will be for great performers, whether that’s taking on additional responsibility or a formal promotion. In addition, individual departments should maintain an org chart, as well as current job descriptions for every role. {Click to Tweet}

4. IT’S ALL ABOUT QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY 

Great companies know that productivity isn’t just about how much you work—it’s about the strength and value of the work you do produce. We can begin to resent our jobs if the focus is on sheer volume, especially if there’s no clear objective. 

It’s important that management at all levels of the company creates an environment where employees don’t feel pressure to put in unnecessary “face time” or do busy work. This includes expecting people to stay late every day, even when the day’s tasks are complete. Look for a company that values work-life balance and time off as an essential part of keeping its team inspired and productive. 

5. HIRING GREAT TALENT IS AN ONGOING EFFORT    

We’ve all been in a situation where a coworker quits or gets promoted, and suddenly there is a position to be filled (and extra work for everyone involved). 

To avoid this kind of “all hands on deck” situation, company management and/or HR should continually maintain a pipeline of qualified talent in different disciplines and departments. In fact, some experts even suggest a continual stream of interviewing regardless of openings to ensure that the company is ready to bring great people onboard as soon as the need arises. 

6. IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT “GROUP THINK”    

Some of the world’s most admired companies, from Zappos to Google, have an uncanny ability to inspire employees to represent and embody their brand. 

However, it’s important that leadership doesn’t conflate genuine excitement for being part of a company with the expectation that everyone thinks the same way or speaks the same language. All too often, company culture becomes “group think,” where a shared way of looking at things actually ends up discouraging creativity or discovering new ways of looking at problems. 

Innovation is key. The best organizations are the ones that set clear expectations about the company’s mission and values, but leave plenty of room for ideas and opinions that don’t immediately fit with “the way things are done.” 

It's important that leadership doesn't conflate genuine excitement for being part of a company with the expectation that everyone thinks the same way or speaks the same language.

7. THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING    

A recent Accenture study reported that while 75% of recent graduates expect to receive formal training on the job, less than 50% actually do. While not all companies can financially support sending employees to pricey seminars or conferences, great organizations understand that training comes in many forms, including: 

  • Lunch and learns where guest speakers, clients or employees share best practices 
  • Access to online training portals such as Lynda or General Assembly 
  • Weekly email digests of news, industry trends or creative inspiration 

8. MANAGEMENT RESPECTS AND VALUES DIVERSITY  

Stellar companies know that different perspectives and ideas are not only welcome, but make the work, and environment, better. In fact, when employees bring their unique backgrounds, skills, and experiences to work, it is easier to solve complex problems and to move the business forward. 

But it’s not as easy as just talking about diversity—the most rewarding companies make an authentic, tangible commitment to it. This includes a holistic approach to hiring that looks beyond keywords to identify unique talent, and creating an equal work environment for women at all career levels. 

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What other qualities do great companies share? Do you have any ideas for making your workplace even better?