Organizational Traits of a Great Place to Work

The organizational traits that make any place a great place to work are not many. They are not complicated. They are universally applicable. There are five, and they are:

  • People feel that they are doing valuable work. Whether their work puts them in the limelight, or keeps them behind the scenes, people need to see how the work they do contributes to the mission of the organization to which they belong. Your job as the leader is to make that connection for them — don’t give them a job, give them a purpose.
  • People feel that they are valued when they do their work well. It is certainly important that an organization put its money where its mouth is. However, money is more of a de-motivator by its absence than it is a motivator by its presence. Also, you’re probably operating under a number of constraints as to the merit increase and bonus money available to you. People understand this. But there are also a lot of things that cost little to nothing that you can do, things that have a longer lasting effect, that a leader can do to show a person that they are valued when they do their work well. A personal word or a handwritten note of appreciation, or a shout-out at a team meeting, expressed in a way that shows that you have a clue and are truly paying attention, and aren’t just being an empty suit going through the motions, goes a long way. Who gets the lightning awards? Who gets the highly desirable special assignments? Who gets to attend the special conference? Who gets extra education and training dollars? Who gets an extra paid, personal day off?
  • People have confidence in each other’s competency and trustworthiness. To have a good working relationship, people need to have confidence in each other’s competency and they need to be able to trust each other. One without the other won’t work. Jane may be a world-class code slinger, but she can’t be trusted — It’s no good. Jack may be unconditionally trustworthy, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing — It’s no good. You need both.
  • People are friendly. Co-workers don’t have to be drinking buddies or socialize with each other outside of work, but they do need to be friendly with each other. They need to be respectful of each other. They need to be civil with each other in times of disagreement. And they can’t be duplicitous (e.g., sweet-talk a person to their face, but bad-mouth them behind their back).
  • People are allowed to practice their craft in a way that gives them pride. No matter what job people do, they want to be proud of what they produce. Don’t ask them to knowingly produce crap.

Pretty straightforward, right? And these five traits are not only the result of our decades of experience, but they are also corroborated by the research done by Robert Levering and documented in his book, A Great Place to Work: What Makes Some Employers So Good (and Most So Bad).

Notice that all of these organizational traits are characteristics, not of any process, not of any technology, not of any property — they are characteristics of the culture. Also notice that each and every one of them costs nothing, or next to nothing. The only thing required to make the organization that you have the good fortune to lead a place where people can — are expected to — connect, surprise and not just succeed, but crush it, is strength of leadership.

We’re agilityIRL. We’ve been where you are. We can help. Contact us.


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