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The secret to becoming a best company to work for

It's not just kegerators and dog-friendly offices, there's got to be some heart in it


(Editor's note: This is the last of a five-part series intended to give business leaders, founders and executives greater insight into building a great workplace.)

Receiving recognition as a top workplace requires intentionality from every corner of the company.

It's worth noting that most "Best Companies to Work For," lists are based on employee feedback. It can be easy to get bogged down by the perks – gym memberships, kegarators in the company kitchen, mini badminton tournaments – but there has to be a genuinely exceptional corporate culture to back that up.

Amy Bachelder Bayer, Lane Hornung and Andrew Graham have different approaches to steering and building companies; but all of their leadership philosophies tap into strong human needs and serve as building blocks for engagement and peak performance, including:

  • To build (or be part of) an idea that is bigger than ourselves
  • To experience being part of a community in which you are valued and respected
  • To have a say in how the work is fulfilled and the future you have
  • To grow as an individual, expand skills and competence

A list of external perks and benefits (on its own) doesn't meet these essentials. To put it another way, they may be the reason a employee joins the team, but rarely are perks attributed to why someone stays.

When your company meets your needs, without any ask on your part, you will have fans both inside and outside the company. Oh, and you have a walking advertisement for talent acquisition. 

Leslie Resnick of 8z Real Estate serves as a case study for this kind of people-centered company design. Leslie is a third generation Coloradan who became a licensed Realtor in 1992 and later joined 8z in 2010. Ask her what makes 8z an exceptional work environment and she can easily read off a list, including: ethics, transparency, her team, the challenge to grow personally and professional and the ability to positively impact the community.

When she's not working, Resnick is an elite cyclist, a time-intensive activity her team supports her in, 100 percent. 

Marketing and promotional spend cannot equate to an honest rave review about an employees' work environment. And it's a natural byproduct of being committed to building a great place to work, day in and day out.

Trying to shortcut or copy what other leaders and companies do won't work either. 

Listening, learning from others and doing substantial research is useful to clarify your beliefs and values and then execute.

However, to paraphrase Graham –

"You must build it yourself,"

– from your values and beliefs.

It may be as simple as creating an environment built on respect – of people, of product, of processes, of the planet.

Trust yourself. If something doesn't work for your team, change it or eliminate it.

You can also start with a big purpose and build a framework around it, as Hornung did.

How do you pick a purpose, you might ask?

Purpose probably already haunts you. As Hornung says, a purpose: "Drives you..."

You're in it to win it. But it's not all about the title or the honors. The demands and distractions of today could negatively impact your company's future.

Ask yourself: Is your future worth your investment in thinking of how to do business better?

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Rachel Davis

Rachel Davis, PhD. founder of The Leadership Elevator, is no stranger to complex and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Her unique approach was developed working with more than 100,000 individuals in 12 countries and in a wide variety of cultures and settings. Her current focus is elevating leadership, communication and engagement for the purpose of greater results and quality of life..

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