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How to build a “Best Place to Work”

Surprisingly, the secret is not what leaders did


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

Recognition as a “top” or “best” workplace adds value to a company’s brand; the most obvious benefit is the lower cost of attracting and keeping top talent. But the secret is not what leaders did; it is what they believed.

Search the Internet for “what makes a top workplace” and you will find articles outlining a list of perks and/or benefits of top workplaces, such as:

  • Health and Family Benefits
  • Training and Skills
  • Flexibility
  • Friendly social atmosphere
  • Social gatherings and events
  • Community involvement
  • Physical Environment and Location

Here is the problem: You could implement all of these benefits (some of which are quite costly) and still not create the culture of a “top” workplace.  Best places to work are not made by the perks, the pay, or the benefits, and those are not skimped, either.

When it comes to culture, it matters less what you do, than why you do it; and often the foundational whys are unsaid or unseen.

Having an environment where people can be their personal BEST and perform at their peak, is especially critical for businesses that require their people to either:

1) Excel in interactions and relationships with others (a service business) or

2) Rely heavily on innovation or intelligence to create their primary business value (a science or technology business).

There is no one right path to becoming a “best place to work.”  As this series of articles will demonstrate, the paths are as diverse as their owners and leaders.

  • None of the companies highlighted in this series set out to be a top workplace.  It wasn’t their purpose, and at the same time, it is no surprise they achieved that status.
  • None of the leaders interviewed talked about their “brand” and each company certainly has one.   Those who lead and work in each of these Companies, are clear about a) who they are as a company (why the company exists, its purpose), b) what they do well, and c) how they operate (the principles that guide their actions).
  • Each has a logic system that hangs together – a set of values, beliefs, and background assumptions foundational to their unique (and appropriate) structures, systems and benefits rest, and the company-wide actions that are taken with consistency.

This series of articles seeks to uncover the beliefs and thinking behind the design of these unique and highly successful companies. 

  • What possesses or guides founders or company leaders to design their company in a way that scores high for a Top Workplace? 
  • What is the "why" behind how they do business?
  • What are they paying attention to that other leaders might be ignoring?
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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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