China Gorman, chief executive officer of Great Place to Work, has more than 30 years of experience in human resources. Her company focuses on helping create better work environments. Before heading Great Place to Work, Gorman was the CEO for The Society for Human Resource Management, which has more than 250,000 members in more than 140 countries. Here, she talks about qualities of good workplaces and how companies can improve.
Question: What are the most important qualities of a great place to work?
China Gorman: The most important qualities of a great place to work are that people trust the people they work for, have pride in the work they do, and enjoy the people they work with. In practice, that means things like transparent communication, connecting employees to the deeper meaning of their work, fair pay and profit sharing, creating an atmosphere that is enjoyable to be a part of—and much more. Our organization has been conducting this research for 30 years now, and we have seen that over time, across countries, and even across generations, these qualities remain foundational to creating a great workplace culture.
Q: How can companies improve their culture in order to become a great place to work?
CG: One of the most important steps in this work is getting senior leaders on-board, because that’s where the most substantial change can be made. More and more, executives are seeing that being a great place to work has real business benefits associated with it—not the least of which are lower turnover rates, which can be hugely expensive to companies. There is a lot of information about these sorts of benefits on our website, which I encourage people to take a look at and share with their leaders if they’re looking to make real change in their company’s performance.
Q: What role does thanks and recognition play in the millennial workforce?
CG: The reality is, all employees want to be thanked and recognized for their work. Millennials are no different. The most important element is that all people feel regularly recognized for their work—and believe opportunities for recognition are available to everyone. As it relates to the overall company culture, this is more likely to be the case in organizations that foster a broader culture of recognition, where recognition and appreciation are a part of life and not just something that happens occasionally or only for specific groups.
Q: Do you have any advice for CEO’s on managing talent?
CG: Once piece of advice here would be for CEOs to make sure they are investing in their leadership pipeline. Between the war for talent and shifting age demographics of the workforce, organizations must be sure they are identifying, retaining and developing their top talent so they are not left in the lurch as senior leaders retire or as competitors attempt to draw top performers away. As I mentioned, Best Companies have voluntary turnover rates that are just a fraction of their peers. These companies invest heavily in the training and development of employees, and tend to have a special focus on leadership development programs, succession planning, mentorships, and many other programs to ensure not only that employees are engaged, but ultimately that the company creates a strong bench of leaders.
Q: How will HR leaders and companies overall benefit from a strong employer brand and a positive workplace?
CG: Being known as a great workplace can be a big draw for top talent as they decide where they would like to work. We also see factors like financial performance, customer satisfaction, and more improve along with workplace culture. The bottom line is that companies who invest in efforts to be a great place to work have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.