Best Places to Work! Really?

Best Places to Work! Really?

Kamal Karanth 17/04/2018 7

Rating best employers is a tricky affair – are we getting the parameters right or getting too swayed by frills? I am sure many of you love your organisation. If that’s an exaggeration then let’s say some of us do. At least on the days of salary, bonus, promotions and other self-gain days! But certainly, there must be days when you and your colleagues feel great about working for your organisation. In spite of this do you wonder why your company is not talked about as one of the best employers.

It is believed that disengagement is highest amongst employees at the global level right now. At the same time, we have multiple publications throwing up a long list of best places to work. This is where everything is hunky dory. A common aspect when you read the parameters while rating best employers is that of frills. Employers seem to be getting rated on tangibles which can be measured which are all employee benefits.

I looked at what was being touted as great things in one of the published list of top employers. Sample some of them:

  • Additional paid vacation, extended paternity and maternity benefits
  • Fitness centres at work
  • Work from anywhere
  • Free food at office
  • Concierge services
  • Financial support for University Education

Yes, these things will definitely make employees happy. Compare these frills with other workplace experientials like feeling valued, job fulfilment, equal opportunities to grow, great manager. Do you think employees will trade these for the frills and benefits? I am inclined to believe they will go for the great experiences. But then one can argue that great organisations are capable of combining the benefits and valued experiences together. How about organisations who have all the extended financial cum holiday benefits but also have toxic organisational culture, limited career growth opportunities, high attrition and hence lower employer productivity?

Rating employers is a tricky affair, each publication has its own methodology and own logic to enrol participating companies. Sometimes it skews results as some brilliant start-ups never get featured. These start-ups may not tick the minimum criteria the publication would have laid down in its stipulations. But one thing is common across all the surveys - it’s the battle of benefits.

Measurable vs Feel Good

The discussions around dream employers who have authentic leadership, transparent culture, going beyond share holder needs, allowing employees to express themselves, not having silly rules, having meaningful work are still relevant. But it’s becoming difficult to measure these and compare them meaningfully. Think about it. Isn’t it easier to compare number of extended paternity days, gym fitted offices against authentic leadership and transparent work culture?

I am also told these surveys are primarily showcased towards talent attraction where tangible benefits are required to be demonstrated. An HR Head asked me if showcasing the highest productivity would mean that the place was a grind? So, he rather chose to demonstrate tangible benefits which allows visible comparisons than to use imagination about culture and leadership. In many organisations, these surveys are anchored by Marketing departments. So, it becomes an exercise to market than demonstrate the core of the organisation.

Employer Experience

I was once part of a team where we moved attrition from 67 per cent to 30 per cent. Business transitioned from loss to profit and also got higher Net Promoter Scores from customers. We attained higher employee productivity progressively. But, when we asked our colleagues they only remembered some thing else. Things like moving to a 5-day work week from 6, Friday dressing, 4-day work week for top performers were on top of their mind. They also thought highly of the exotic locations annual awards were held, holidays extended to self/spouse birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

But I can’t paint everybody with the same brush. My friend’s daughter who is 23 wanted to quit a large benevolent organisation which had a laundry list of benefits. She said she wanted the grind to ensure that she learnt more when she was young. So, she joined what one could describe as a sweat shop, I guess not all of us are the same.

Tangible vs Culture

The daily experience at work, culture, growth prospects, value adding supervision and authentic leadership are a must. But we haven’t found our way to describe it while attracting talent. Is it easier to list out the financial benefits? Hence the parameters to discover the dream employer mostly revolve around tangible benefits?

Dive down into these lists. It appears that many organisations that make the dream employers grade are also commercially highly successful. They also provide superior customer experience with some cutting-edge products.

Maybe it’s the narrative that needs to change and not how the surveys are done?

My Best place to work? where they play movies all day on multiple screens!

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  • Billy Clements

    The most engaged employees are significantly more productive, drive higher customer satisfaction and outperform those who are less engaged.

  • Misha Farnsworth

    Many companies do not meet the high standards of their employees.

  • Drew Condon

    If an organisation does well, all employees should share in the success, in meaningful ways.

  • Alan Richardson

    More companies should encourage afternoon naps, this will fuel higher productivity in the several hours that follow.

  • Robin Kleinschmidt

    The best companies provide employees with ongoing opportunities and incentives to learn, develop and grow, both in establishing new job-specific hard skills, as well as softer skills that serve them well as individuals, and as managers and leaders.

  • Amine Noor

    I’ve yet to come across a company that meets the full range of people's needs

  • Ryan Notten

    The big IT companies are the best places to start a career.

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Kamal Karanth

Management Expert

Kamal is the Co-Founder of Xpheno, a specialist talent solutions company that offers direct hire, IT staff augmentation and engineering professional services. Xpheno brings people and companies together, to contribute to the creation of high-performing specialist workforce. Kamal holds a Bachelor degree in Microbiology from Bangalore University. 

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