So, You Want to Be a Top Workplace?

Published: June 7, 2021

Recognition as an employer-of-choice becomes a magnet for recruitment and retention. The nomination is the easy part. Ultimately, being named a top workplace comes down to the quality of the culture. The recognition opportunity becomes a snapshot of the organization through the lens of employees. While each competition is a little different, they all basically evaluate the same things. How does your workplace measure up?

Employers-of-choice don’t win ‘best place to work’ recognition easily. These awards follow sustained commitments to workplace culture. In a continuous improvement approach, top workplaces stay attentive to evolving strengths and vulnerabilities. They harness their assets to recruit and retain the most talented workforce and devote resources to improve areas of relative weakness. At any given moment, they are always looking for an opportunity to solidify the culture. These ten strengths are a place to begin.

Clear mission/values: The organization is driven by clear values and a sense of mission and vision that permeates the culture, is shared by everyone in the organization, and serves a unifying purpose.

Open communication: Honest and transparent communication creates trust, enhances commitment, and encourages innovation.

Customer focus: There is an extraordinary focus on the client and an emphasis on building long-term relationships. These organizations take pride and purpose from participating in events and issues outside of the workplace in the communities in which they live.

Family-like culture: Leadership has intentionally created a sense of community within the organization.

Sustainability: Leadership takes a long view of the business in order to thrive in both prosperous and challenging economies.

Employee learning & development: The organization supports career path engagement by taking a comprehensive approach to developing employees.

Succession focus: The organization invests in their workforce and believes that most of their future leaders are already working in the company.

Teamwork: Teamwork is considered a core competency. Collaboration holds teams together and helps motivate action toward achieving goals.

Stewardship: Employees act like owners and are collectively committed to the long-term success of the organization.

When employer-of-choice application committees are evaluating best places to work, they do not expect that all areas are strong. They do expect that employers-of-choice are always assessing the anchors of their culture and dedicating resources to the areas that need strengthening. As is true with most organizations who seek continuous improvement, the gift lies in the awareness of relative weakness, not the celebration of strength. Constructive critique tells us where to go next.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.