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Great Places to Work. Part one: What makes somewhere “A Great Place To Work”?

A few weeks ago and related to a talk I was planning, I put a survey out regarding what is most important in making somewhere “a great place to work” (GPTW, for brevity).

I had about 100 responses and the results were really interesting to me, and it is time to share them!

I wanted the survey to be brief and still produce some useful information. In addition to a few demographics, I offered 11 items and asked people to sort them in forced-rank order of what, in their opinion, makes somewhere a GPTW.

Who answered the survey?

Responders were mostly people who self-identify as:

  • Mid career (53%) or late career (32%)
  • Located in North America (95%).
  • Indicate that the top priority in their life is (61%) “work and family”, or (31%) “career & professional work”.

Based on the audiences who were told about the survey, I’m guessing that most people are professional class, working in offices for companies of various sizes.

What makes a great place to work?

Regarding the rank-ordering, I can say that 5 things stood out from the 11 items I offered the responders. The number in parentheses is the average ranked score of the item.

The top two were highly consistent and close in order:

Flexibility (1.3)
Daily work I like doing (1.7)

The next three were also highly consistent, with two being almost tied for position:

Excellent company culture (3.3)
Professional growth (4.0)
Excellent supervisor (4.3)

So what? What should this mean to me?

There are 5 things people say that create a GPTW.
If you are an individual contributor, you can control or influence 3 or 4 of them.
If you are a manager that number goes up by one.

We’ll talk about what you can do to influence each of these in part 2 of this article; but for now, let’s consider what they mean.


Flexibility to manage one’s own schedule, handle routine and emergency family events, and self-direct their own activity is simply critical to employees today. And, I don’t think the generation of the employee makes a difference! Given that our responders put family first, and are people in mid-to-late professional careers, this is an expectation of the workplace.

If your workplace isn’t acknowledging this fact of modern professional life I’m willing to bet you have a staff turnover problem at your office.


Daily work I like doing

A lot of people say they don’t like their job, but once you make the distinction between a “great place to work” and “a great place to take a vacation”, they admit they do like their job, in the context of potential employers.

Excellent company culture

This means different things to different people. There are obviously a lot of ways to think about this, as it is a bit of a “squishy” term. I think that even if we can’t define it perfectly, we all know a good one from a bad one – at least for ourselves! Let’s try this one.

Culture: the way that people in an organization hold to a particular set of values, driving forces, and goals, as well as the behaviors they exhibit in doing so.

What jokes do they tell? How seriously do people take the mission of the organization? How much do leaders acknowledge/commend/reward those who act in alignment with the mission and values? This is part of what goes into “culture”.

I can definitely say that it is created by people. That means that we contribute to it wherever we work.

Professional growth

The ability to grow, learn, and advance in one’s profession as a routine job experience is a priority. It may not be on every project, or every day, but it does mean that people want some innate development in the course of their work.

Excellent supervisor

“People don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors”, is a common truism. In a troubled workplace, a great supervisor can be like a lifeboat captain, ensuring the safety of the team, earning their trust, and guiding them through the storm. That team is solid and may hate their workplace, but love their job. In a great workplace, a bad supervisor is like having a reservation at a 5-star hotel…but you have to sleep in the laundry room.

A supervisor is the company to their employees, and good or bad makes a big difference.

Having a supervisor who you trust, who has your back, who demonstrates caring about you as person and a professional, is never to be taken lightly.

What’s in it for me?

Before reading part two, think about these questions:

  • What do you look for in a great place to work?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the survey results and my interpretation?

Last, if there’s anyone that helps make your place somewhere great to work, let them know! They’ll appreciate it!