Inc. magazine has always been one of my favorite reads. From its news content to it business profiles to its just-for-fun stuff (wackiest interview questions, anyone?), the outlet does a great job balancing the informative with the insightful.
Every year Inc. comes out with a list of the best companies to work for, and it’s always interesting to see who makes the list and why. But the thing I find more valuable than the list itself is the survey the magazine uses to arrive at its picks.
It’s a self-nomination process, so any company can come along and say ‘here’s why we’re so great.’ To get the real story, Inc. goes in and surveys every employee of all the companies in the running. That’s where the true insights lie.
The employees are asked what they value, what they love and hate about where they work. To me, the results say just as much about the business climate as a whole as they do about any individual company.
The results of the 2017 Best Workplaces survey are in—all 169,000 of them—and the results shine a (big, bright) light on what employees truly value in a workplace. Spoiler alert: the ping pong table in the break room isn’t nearly as important as you might have thought.
Benefits Are A Must
Cutting benefits in favor of less expensive but flashier “perks” is becoming more of a routine practice, but the survey says loud and clear this is simply unacceptable to the top talent.
Health insurance, dental insurance and a company retirement plan aren’t so much benefits as they are basic necessities, and every single one of the 50 companies who made this year’s ‘Best Companies’ list offer them.
Health insurance in particular is a hot-ticket item, now more than ever. Premiums have ballooned more than 50% since 2006, and the average worker has shouldered a 78% increase in the portion of the premium they must pay.
It’s understandable, then, that if a company provides a quality health insurance program and covers a substantial portion of the premium, it’s a significant way to stand out above the competition when recruiting.
Flexibility Is More Important Than Ever
For many forward-thinking companies, work-from-anywhere is now standard operating procedure. In 2016, 43% of American workers said they spent at least some time working remotely, and they did so for longer periods of time than in years past.
According to Inc.’s survey, the best companies embrace this shift, with 86% of the employers in the top 50 offering flexible work arrangements. At least one company cited gives its employees total control of where, when and how they work.
Working remotely isn’t just an excuse to phone it in for the day, either. In a separate survey, 71% of senior staff members said telecommuting actually allows them to get more work done.
Perks? Opt For Professional Development
From free lunch and a fridge full of beer to nap pods and bring-your-dog-to-work privileges, there’s no shortage of crazy perks in today’s workplace, particularly in the competitive tech world.
And yet, employees of the best companies say it’s not outlandish offers that woo them; rather, professional development opportunities like career coaching and tuition reimbursement for higher education are what really matter.
Based on the survey, even small companies can attract top talent by focusing on perks that contribute to an employee’s career development (though it’s worthwhile to note that free food and beverages consistently rank among the favorite, more frivolous perks).
“Fun” Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be
Sure, there’s something to be said for having fun at work. When employees enjoy their work environment, they tend to be more engaged and have better communication with their colleagues than in an uptight workplace.
And yet, only 56% of this year’s 50 Best companies described themselves as a “fun” or “happy” place to work. This number struck me as a surprise—I’d expect it to be higher. But the survey seems to show the best companies place value on meeting employee needs and offering development first, while fun is secondary, more of a by-product of a great workplace than a cause of one.
The biggest concept I took away from the survey is that company culture and performance are clearly two halves of the same continuous loop. When you focus on one, it’s impossible not to also impact the other. When one thrives, the other does too, and the positive cycle keeps going.
Cushy perks may catch candidates’ eyes, but it’s the meaningful benefits that keep them around—and keep them happy—in the long run.
Do you agree with the results of the survey? Leave a comment and share your take!
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