Employee experience is as strong as ever at the 100 Best Companies
The workplace is forever changed. The lines between our home and work lives have blurred and intersected in ways we could have never imagined and with profound reverberations.
The events of the past two years have prompted a massive reprioritization of American lives, fueling an epic labor shortage. Workers are reevaluating their lives, quitting to find more rewarding jobs, taking career sabbaticals, or starting their own businesses. They’re no longer tolerating bad bosses, inequities, burnout, and lack of purpose and meaning at work.
They are demanding to be supported and seen—their full selves and their full lives—by their employer. They don’t need your job anymore. You need them to want to work for you.
Many organizations responded by offering high salaries, large sign-on bonuses, and eye-catching benefits. Others have doubled down on what our decades of research tells us actually matters—trust, respect, purpose, and community. Those organizations have landed on this year’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, where the employee experience is astoundingly as strong as it was pre-pandemic.
The best companies go beyond perks to create aspirational workplaces. They foster a culture of inclusion, purpose, caring, and empathy. Then they dig deeper and personalize those values in creative and inspiring ways, genuinely listening to their workforce. They meet employees where they are—sitting at a desk or standing in a checkout line—and support them outside the office as much as they do inside.
These organizations work hard to understand the current realities of their workforce, from marginalized, hourly workers to white-collar desk workers. During the pandemic, home life spilled into work life in unprecedented ways. Parents became homeschool teachers overnight, many having to choose between their children and their jobs. Burnout raged and mental health suffered.
The best companies learned to pivot and adapt to these challenges. Many came up with new ways to show care and respect, and provided their employees with much needed flexibility. They took a holistic view of workers to support their full lives, which includes their families, communities, and personal lives outside of work.
Most importantly, they took action. They focused less on broad policies and more on what each person needed—in real, tangible ways. This transformed mental health assistance, elder care support, childcare, and isolation support resources. From candid listening sessions to employee resource groups, they showed up for their people and strived to ensure everyone felt included. They created a workplace “for all”—even when more and more of their employees work separately.
This doesn’t happen with lip service or shiny perks. It never has. Words without action weaken trust. Benefits without behavior fall short. As with our personal lives, we want to be seen, heard, and know that we matter. Work is no different. Show them, don’t tell them.
It’s not easy. It takes hard work. You can’t afford to stay on autopilot in our current shifting workplace and expect to remain on top. The ways you support your people need reinvention.
What happens when employees are heard and cared for in ways that are meaningful to them?
The best companies experience half the turnover as their peers and have employees who are six times more likely to help recruit talent. Eighty percent of employees on the best companies list look forward to coming to work and feel psychologically and emotionally healthy. Ninety percent say their company is a great place to work and they feel cared for. At average workplaces, 52% of employees feel management sincerely cares about them as a person, and 57% say their workplace is great.
We often get asked: Tell us what to do to become a Best Workplace. How can we attract, retain, and motivate employees? Our answer: Your people will tell you. You must understand who your employees are and what they need. Ask them. And meet them there. That’s what separates the 100 Best from the rest.
There are no shortcuts, no one-size-fits-all checklist. Leaders who dismiss the Great Resignation as employees simply looking for higher salaries are dodging questions they should be asking: Do employees trust us? Do they have a sense of purpose? Of belonging? Not asking these questions and then taking action will only breed further turnover once employees are on board, after the bells and whistles of perks quickly fade.
A look behind the curtain of the 100 Best
There’s a lot we can learn from this year’s best companies. The common themes can shed light on how to create workplaces that attract and enrich employees, not make them flee.
1. Foster inclusivity. At average workplaces, 25% of employees feel lonely and 30% don’t feel like they belong. At best companies, 88% feel like they can be themselves at work. Why? Employees at the best workplaces are encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work through employee resource groups and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging programs, for example. The best companies are focused on ensuring every employee feels included.
2. Listen deeply. This isn’t accomplished by handing out an employee survey and responding by adding a perk or two. That’s good, but what’s great is listening to employees in a variety of ways. The best companies support employees through various listening sessions to better understand them. They ask: What is your story? What is it like to be you? What more can we do?
That goes a long way. Companies with great listening programs hear from employees who are typically marginalized. And companies that pay attention to marginalized workers historically thrive during financial crises. Our research shows their stock performance increased 14.4% across the Great Recession years, while the overall market dropped 35.5%.
3. Show genuine care and empathy. The best companies have an increased focus on workers’ whole well-being—their personal life, family life, life in their community—even after an employee leaves. These workplaces extend health insurance, offer training and development, and provide food and COVID care for those laid off or furloughed.
Caring and understanding does not mean offering a mediation app or one-size-fits-all policy like working from home. It might, in part, but it depends on your people. The best companies personalize the employee experience to create meaningful flexibility wherever their employees work—sitting or standing—and make that workspace equitable, safe, and productive. Doing so contributes to employee satisfaction. Half of U.S. employees believe their employer encourages work/life balance compared with 86% at the companies on this list. Only one in six U.S. employees are flourishing compared with 58% at the 100 Best.
Listening and empathy without action weakens trust. Don’t bother asking for feedback if you don’t plan to do anything with it. Follow-through is critical to establishing trust. Do nothing after an employee survey or listening session, for instance, and don’t expect employees to believe you when you make other promises. Pay lip service to their needs without actionable support, and you’ll see morale decline and trust erode.
4. Create a sense of purpose. Best companies purposefully connect their mission with employees’ jobs. Half of employees at average workplaces find meaning in their jobs as opposed to 90% at the best workplaces. Our research shows that companies whose employees feel a sense of purpose at work and believe leaders set clear direction and expectations outperform the market by 6.9%. They’re also proud of their company’s reputation, values, and place in the community.
History tells us that the companies that will be the financial leaders and employers of choice tomorrow are taking care of all their people today. Let their example guide you on your path to creating a great workplace for all.
How we determine the 100 Best
Great Place to Work determines the list using its proprietary “For All” methodology to evaluate and certify thousands of organizations in America’s largest ongoing annual workforce study, based on over 870,000 employee survey responses and data from companies representing more than 6.1 million employees, this year alone.
The survey enables employees to share confidential quantitative and qualitative feedback about their organization’s culture by responding to 60 statements on a five-point scale and answering two open-ended questions. Collectively, these statements describe a great employee experience, defined by high levels of trust, respect, credibility, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. In addition, companies provide organizational data like size, location, industry, demographics, roles, and levels.
Great Place to Work measures the differences in survey responses across demographic groups and roles within each organization to assess both the quality and consistency of the employee experience. Statements are weighted according to their relevance in describing the most important aspects of an equitable workplace.
Each company also answers six essay questions that provide greater insight into how and why the organization is great for all people. Responses are rigorously evaluated and cross-reviewed according to Great Place to Work’s research-driven criteria. Survey data analysis and essay evaluation results are then factored into a combined score to compare and rank the companies that create the most consistently positive experience for all employees. Many companies survey every employee, even though workplaces with more than 5,000 employees can survey a random sample with a minimum of 5,000 invited. While essay responses provide important context for rankings, only survey data can garner a list placement.
To be considered for the list, companies must be Great Place to Work–Certified, have at least 1,000 U.S. employees, and cannot be a government agency. Great Place to Work requires statistically significant survey results; reviews anomalies in responses, news, and financial performance; and investigates any employee reports of company noncompliance with strict surveying rules to validate the integrity of the results and findings. Data is also normalized to compare companies fairly across sizes and industries.
To find out more about how to become Great Place to Work–Certified and apply to this or other Best Workplaces lists, visit greatplacetowork.com.
Michael C. Bush is the CEO of Great Place to Work and the coauthor of A Great Place to Work For All.
See the full list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2022.