Written by China Gorman, CEO, Great Place To Work

The start of a new year is an ideal time to reflect upon recent accomplishments and look to the future with optimism. But this year is starting on a particularly high note.

On Thursday Jan 16, our organization reveals the 2014 100 Best Companies to Work For list, in conjunction with our media partner, Fortune Magazine.

And next week, I’ll be discussing the results with the TalentCulture community on #TChat Radio and Twitter.

While there are certainly more “best workplace” lists now than when we started nearly 20 years ago, this list remains the gold standard — largely due to the rigor of our evaluation process. Based on extensive employee surveys and detailed investigation into corporate cultural practices, our data provides a unique look inside stellar organizations, and reveals what sets them apart.

Learning From The Best

Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For

Learn more about the list

This year’s list features some exciting stories. Several companies are included for first time — and their identities may surprise you. Also, some veterans on the list are experiencing extraordinary growth, and we’ll talk about characteristics that support those changes. We’ll also look at employment perks that are gaining popularity.

All of this provides a framework for companies who aim to develop more productive, profitable cultures that attract and retain top talent. For those who want a head start, here’s a preview of several best-practice takeaways that can inspire other employers:

Employee Development and Leadership Engagement

In 2014, top organizations are focusing on several high-profile business challenges. For example, last year, some studies exposed disturbingly low employee engagement rates. Best companies are figuring how to engage top performers by helping them map their career paths and develop desired knowledge and skills. They do this through professional development classes, executive coaching and training for managers who need to understand how they can spot potential talent and support employee growth.

At the best small and medium companies, there is a strong sense of inclusion and camaraderie — keys for trust-based cultures. CEOs and senior-level executives make an effort to know employees personally, and they often participate in onboarding, training, recognition and company celebrations. Moreover, leaders seek regular input and feedback from employees about the workplace environment and related decisions. Because their opinions and ideas matter, employees tend to feel deeply invested in their employer and its success.

Enhancing Company Culture

Another pattern among top companies — organizational culture is not just a priority, but a strategic imperative. Employers understand that a strong culture attracts the right kind employees. We see this with both large and small companies, from Google (last year’s top pick among large companies) to much smaller Badger Mining Corp.

When employee and employer values and visions align, we see companies succeeding in retention, profitability and innovation. Best practices in achieving a cultural fit include interview questions that assess a candidate’s alignment with company values, multiple interview rounds, and simulated work experiences to get a sense of candidates’ abilities and interpersonal style before they’re hired.

Also on the culture front, top employers are serious about creating a fun, celebratory environment that’s meaningful to employees. A variety of engaging practices and events are often integrated into daily work life, punctuated by big celebrations once or twice a year. From simple “Random Acts of Fun” to all-hands offsite trips to Maui, the best companies constantly push themselves to find new ways to foster lighthearted bonding and workplace joy.

Generational Factors

Another emerging trend — employers are positioning themselves for long-term leadership success by integrating demographic changes into their talent strategy. Succession planning is essential, as boomers retire and younger employees rise through the ranks. Tying into company culture and engagement, employers are looking at ways to involve younger employees and keep them committed and loyal. We see this manifested in new cultural norms and development practices, and in recruiting efforts that emphasize cultural fit.

This is just a taste of what employers everywhere can learn from the 100 Best Places to Work. I hope you’ll join me as I share more details, and discuss this with the TalentCulture community next week at #TChat Events!

China-HR_low res(About the Author: China Gorman is CEO of Great Place to Work, a global human resources consulting, research and training firm, specializing in organizational trust. An experienced leader and sought-after thought leader in the human resources domain, China has served as COO of the Society of Human Resource Management, CEO of CMG Group, and President of DBM North America and Lee Hecht Harrison.)

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted with permission from an article written for Recruiter.com, and republished by the Great Place to Work blog.)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Pixabay

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