You Want to Be a Great Workplace. So Now What?

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You Want to Be a Great Workplace. So Now What?

It is true that becoming a “great workplace” doesn’t happen overnight. But instead of getting overwhelmed by a seemingly endless list of programs and offerings (and money...being “great” must cost so much money!) that so called “great workplaces” should all have, let’s take a look at what it means really to be “great”—with a few practical bite-sized pieces that you might be able to tackle at your organization right now sprinkled in for good measure.
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The 15 Attributes of a Great Workplace

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The 15 Attributes of a Great Workplace

ERC's NorthCoast 99 program recognizes great workplaces that excel at the attraction, retention, and motivation of top performers. ERC is proud to have recognized great workplaces in Northeast Ohio, and has accumulated a great deal of insight into what makes a workplace truly great through the research we conduct as part of the program.

What makes a great workplace that draws extraordinary employees to love coming to work every day? What makes a great workplace that attracts, retains, and motivates the very best talent?

Here are 15 attributes that we believe are characteristic of great workplaces for top talent, based on our research over the last 15 years.

1. Offer Challenging and Meaningful Work

Great workplaces understand the importance of keeping employees' work interesting, exciting, challenging and meaningful, because consistently, top performers say that challenging and meaningful work is the number one attribute they seek in a job.

2. Hire and Retain Great People

Great workplaces are made up of great people. Within great workplaces, top performers work alongside other top performers who are positive, hardworking, committed and loyal, believe in what the organization does, and participate in making the workplace great.

3. Provide Competitive Compensation

Great workplaces offer competitive and fair compensation, above-average pay increases, and opportunities to earn more pay based on performance, such as bonuses, profit sharing, and other incentives to keep and reward top performing talent as well as attract new talent.

4. Value and Reward Employee Contributions

Great workplaces show they appreciate and value employees and their contributions. They celebrate success often, and praise, recognize, and reward employees in a variety of formal and informal ways. They never miss an opportunity to say 'thanks' for employees' hard work.

5. Invest in Training and Development

Great workplaces invest in training and development for their workforce to grow their talents and capabilities. They make time for learning and support it by paying for employees to participate in various opportunities and offering/delivering a variety of training and career development programs.

6. Guide, Support, and Develop Top Performers

Through performance management practices that help guide, support, and develop exceptional performance, great workplaces provide clarity on how to be a top performer, help other employees become top performers, and assist existing top performers in sustaining top performance. Reaching for excellence each and every day is what makes great workplaces successful.

7. Encourage Work/Life Balance

Great workplaces are flexible to employees' work/life needs and encourage work/life balance by offering flexible schedules, providing generous paid time off, accommodating individual requests and needs, and creating a supportive work environment that is understanding of personal and family obligations.

8. Invest in Employees' Health and Wellness

Great workplaces genuinely care about their employees' well-being. They offer wellness options that help employees develop healthy lifestyle behaviors as well as provide an array of benefits which support their employees' health and personal welfare.

9. Involve and Empower Employees

Great workplaces involve and empower employees by listening to their input, involving them in moving the organization forward, and giving them opportunities to lead initiatives, collaborate with one another, participate in decision-making, and make a meaningful difference at work. At great workplaces, employees believe that their opinions matter and that they can positively impact their organizations.

10. Share Information About the Organization's Performance

Leaders frequently share information about the organization's performance, its financials, the vision and direction of the organization, and other critical information and updates at great workplaces. In addition, leaders regularly interact with and communicate with employees one-on-one, in small groups, and as an entire staff. Additionally, great workplaces help everyone understand the mission and purpose of the organization, and how their work connects to the big picture.

11. Are Led by Exceptional Leaders

Great workplaces are led by exceptional and inspiring leaders. Leaders set the example from the top and lead the organization well. They genuinely care about and value employees. Relationships between leaders and employees are characterized by mutual respect, trust,  honesty, and support.

12. Encourage Innovation and Growth

Great workplaces are successful, growing, and innovative. They hold themselves to high standards, are focused on delivering exceptional customer service and quality, and strive to innovate and continuously improve their organizations. They are always raising the bar in their businesses and in their workplaces.

13. Hire the Best of the Best

Great workplaces hire the best—and only the best. They recognize that a great workplace and culture results from great people. They define the talent they need, strategically recruit it, and put into place selection practices that identify top performers, as well as on-boarding practices that engage top performers and set them up for success from the start.

14. Create and Sustain a Unique Culture

Great workplaces have a unique culture that is their own, often described as fun, congenial, collaborative, positive, passionate, and creative. Their work environments, people, and workplace practices all help create a vibrant, positive, magnetic, and infectious culture.

15. Serve the Community

And last but not least, great workplaces make an impact on and give back to their local community. Not only do they generously donate their company resources to the community, but they also serve their communities by helping others in need and offering their staff's time and talents.

There is no magic formula for achieving a great workplace, and these are just some common attributes of many that great workplaces seem to have. While no workplace is perfect, many organizations strive to become a truly great workplace and come close. The NorthCoast 99 winners are among these organizations, and they, as well as all other organizations that strive everyday to be great workplaces, should be applauded for their efforts to become employers of choice in Northeast Ohio. They are truly making a difference.

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How to Build Your Own Great Workplace

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At ERC, we believe that creating a great workplace is about creating an environment and culture that supports the talent your organization needs to be and stay successful. It means creating a place in which great talent want to come work and where they want to stay and build their career. It’s about enabling superior performance and eliminating the policies, practices, and norms in your workplace that hinder your top people’s success, progress, and innovation.

If this sounds like something your organization wants to achieve, here are 5 steps we recommend for creating a great workplace.

1. Commit to creating a great workplace.

Making a true commitment to be an employer of choice is the first and hardest part of creating a great workplace. It requires getting your management team on-board with their support, securing and committing resources for the initiative, and creating a vision of where you see your workplace in the next 3-5 years. It also entails meeting regularly with your managers to talk about and identify ways to enhance your workplace. You can't create a great workplace without your leadership and managers on-board, the willingness to put resources behind the effort, and on-going discussion.

2. Identify your top performers.

Great workplaces are built from great people. This requires hiring the right people from your receptionist to line employees to managers to top leadership. Rarely do organizations have all the right people. This is why it is especially important to identify who your top performers are and define what attributes top performers have at your organization. Knowing which employees are successful and why they are effective will help you hire more of those people, create a workplace that meets their needs, and weed out the wrong fits.

3. Ask employees for their feedback.

Great workplaces have feedback-rich cultures that care about, appreciate, and use employees' input, ideas, and opinions. To create and maintain a great workplace, you need to know what engages your people, specifically what would make them stay, what would make them leave, and what is important to them. In our experience, the answers to these questions (though similar) vary by organization. Whether it's conducting one-on-ones, focus group discussions, or an engagement survey, start somewhere and invite employees to share their feedback.

4. Benchmark your practices.

Data and measurement are important parts of creating a great place to work. In order to create a great workplace, you must gauge how you stack up against other employers of choice – how your total rewards package, policies, culture, and results compare to the standards set by best-in-class organizations. This not only helps your organization determine what it takes to be a great place to work, but after determining where the gaps are, you can develop strategies to help build, change, and enhance your policies and practices.

5. Evaluate your progress.

Building a great place to work is an on-going endeavor – it never ends. It will require constant attention, changes, and improvements. It will also require that you monitor and evaluate your progress regularly to make sure that you are meeting your goals in becoming a great place to work.

If your organization is progressing towards becoming a great place to work, over time it will see its investments pay off. Attracting and hiring top talent gets easier, great talent sticks around, your workforce is more engaged and productive, and your workplace’s reputation improves. The road to a great workplace is undoubtedly a path that is worth pursuing if your organization wants to secure top talent to achieve long-term success.

Additional Resources

NorthCoast 99 – 99 Best Places to Work in Northeast Ohio If your organization is interested in being recognized as a best place to work and thinks it excels at attracting and retaining top talent, begin your application today!

Benchmark Reports Interested in targeted metrics for top performers and benchmarking how your organization's practices for attracting and retaining top talent compare to others in the region? Please take a look at our benchmark reports which provide tons of information on great workplaces and top performers.

Consulting & Project Assistance
ERC is a leading provider of quality, affordable human resources consulting services in Ohio. Our HR consulting services provide the crucial strategic and technical expertise needed to support your HR goals and workplace initiatives.

4 Musts for Retaining Employees

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A flurry of resignations hits your HR department or you could be facing an epidemic of employees that have “quit and stayed.” These are employees who feel trapped (and perhaps even miserable) at their organizations, but are afraid to leave or explore the job market.

These are two common scenarios that many organizations are experiencing this year. Retention of great talent has become a major issue affecting a number of organizations. Before your organization hastily decides to launch a series of HR initiatives to address your retention problems, look first to these four areas of your business.

1. Look at their job

When faced with the red flag of potential turnover, take a hard look at their job first. Is the job playing to their strengths? Could the employee be used in more productive ways that would improve their engagement and is their job naturally progressing with more responsibility and challenge? Most employees need to feel a sense of importance in their work – that their skills and abilities are being put to good use, that they are doing something meaningful with their time, and that they have a say in decisions and how their work is produced. Consistently ranked as the most important attribute among top performers and a key driver of engagement, there is no substitute for making challenging and meaningful work the first priority when solving a retention problem. The job is usually the best place to start.

2. Look at their manager

Employees leave managers, not organizations. Employees are more likely to stay when they are treated in a supportive manner by their boss. In fact, this concept of feeling supported has been time-tested and is consistently found to be the leading indicator of whether employees stay engaged and committed. Support is most commonly manifested in how managers interact with their employees – whether employees are receiving the right amount of interaction and flexibility, the resources they need, help solving problems, and recognition and appreciation. So ask yourself: do employees have a positive relationship with their supervisor and do they feel supported by them in their job, career, and even personally? Consider whether the employee’s manager is doing everything they can to support employees and make them feel valued and confident in themselves.

3. Look at their opportunities

Numerous studies link the relationship between confidence and retention. Generally-speaking, employees will leave their employers for other opportunities. The more confident employees are in their prospects for continued employment and advancement opportunities, and their ability to earn more pay over time, the more likely they are to stay. You can help build a sense of confidence by emphasizing the organization’s success and long-term strategy and discussing advancement opportunities and career paths periodically. The bottom line is that you must give employees confidence that their career will thrive at your organization and that you are prepared to offer those opportunities.  Many organizations fear committing to providing a certain career path to their employees. The reality is that if you don’t, some other organization will.

4. Look at your competitors

Even when the job, manager, and opportunities are aligned with retention, sometimes competitors’ practices snatch a great performer. With pay information publically available on the internet to employees, an influx of passive recruiting via social media, and more employers heavily branding their workplace and culture as great places to work, your organization is constantly at risk of losing its best people. If your organization has fallen behind in terms of making sure its pay and benefits align with those of other businesses, make sure it stacks up before it’s too late. Get to know your competitors’ HR practices intimately and adjust yours if it makes sense.

Contrary to most popular beliefs, retention usually isn’t complex. It’s not a complicated formula requiring a multitude of HR initiatives. It usually comes down to whether employees are doing challenging and interesting work, being supported by their boss, seeing opportunities and security, and receiving fair pay and benefits in comparison to what is offered elsewhere.

Additional Resources

Talent & Performance Management Consulting Services
When it comes to managing talent retention, there are a variety of programs and initiatives to consider including employee engagement surveys, performance management, rewards and recognition programs, succession planning, mentoring and career development programs, job description updates, and exit interviews. To learn more about how ERC can assist you with these consulting projects, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

Top 5 Workplace Attributes Most Important to Top Performers

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According to the results of the 2011 Top Performer Engagement Survey, conducted by ERC on over 2,400 top performers in Northeast Ohio as part of its NorthCoast 99 program, 24% of top performers report challenging and meaningful work as the most important attribute that they seek in jobs. This attribute continues to be most important to top performers when compared to other attributes, and has been consistently ranked as most important over the past five years.

Both compensation and job security were the second most important attributes with 14% of top performers reporting compensation and job security as the number one most important job attribute. Work-life benefits and career development were other important job attributes that top performers ranked as most important in 2011.

“It’s important to consider what your top performers value as most important when prioritizing and budgeting for HR and workplace initiatives,” says Susan Pyles, Senior Talent Consultant & Trainer. She adds, “By making sure that your workplace is meeting the needs and interests of your top people, you’re more likely to retain those employees.”

Note that percentages reflect the percentage of all rankings as the #1 most important job attribute by top performers.

For more information or to purchase the 2011 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report, please click here.

Top Performers Promoted Within 2 Years, On Average

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A 2011 report released by ERC shows that the average time that it takes a top performer to be promoted for the first time at employers of choice is less than 2 years.

According to the 2011 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report, the average number of months that it takes top performers to be promoted for the first time is 18 months, however winners say they may promote top performers for the first time in as little as 6 months of employment at the organization.

Additionally, top performers in professional services and manufacturing industries tend to be promoted for the first time more quickly than top performers in the health and human services industry. Winners in professional services and manufacturing industries also are more likely to report that higher percentages of their top performers had been promoted from within during the last year and that their organizations’ training and development efforts had improved the advancement and engagement of their top performers.

In our experience conducting employee engagement surveys with many local employers, advancement and career development opportunities are consistently reasons that top performers cite as most important to their decision to stay or leave their organizations. Employers of choice are clearly creating a competitive advantage by identifying their top people early on and formulating effective leadership development programs and strategies to develop them into higher roles more quickly than other employers. As a result, these organizations generally see higher retention and engagement.

For more information or to purchase the NorthCoast 99 Winners Reports, please click here.