Culture, TLNT Radio

What Makes A Company A Great Place To Work? It’s More Than Free Lunches

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The 2012 best places to work list was recently released, and in shocking fashion, Google placed number one on the list.

Of course, if you’ve been paying attention to any of these lists, you know that this is no shock at all. Google, with their perked-0ut workplace, free lunches, and even allocating of time to work on pet projects you want to work on, have all been the rage for years. But is that the only reason they topped that list, or is there something more important going on that almost any company can attain?

Being a great place to work

When I was in HR, I know we tried to get on these lists every year for either industry or location-specific awards. We would use the distinction in recruiting materials, and yes, I even used it on my resume. Being recognized was an important part of our recruiting message: not only do we think we are great, but an outside organization that studies this also thinks we are great.

This week on the podcast, I spoke with Susan Lucas-Conwell, CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, one of the companies that publishes these lists annually. They are responsible for the annual list that you probably know from Fortune magazine as well as several other similar lists.

When it comes to knowing about great places to work, the Great Place to Work Institute has it’s pulse on the issue (they interviewed over 450,000 employees last year about their workplaces). And while companies like Zappos and Google might get much of the attention because of a zany culture or having every perk known to man, there’s more to these lists than that. As Lucas-Conwell points out in our conversation, it is much more integral and basic than that.

Aligning values, culture and people

When it comes down to it, these companies — perks or not — align their values, culture and people exceptionally well and communicate that alignment with tenacity. The people they hire and the people they keep reflect that. People understand and live the mission of the organization every day.

While some of the crazy perks of Google, or the no-layoff policies of other companies on the list, might make news headlines and long features, what doesn’t get discussed much is that these places embrace who they are, understand their upside, and are pushing to be the best. In short, they are a great place to work, not by just their measurement but by the people that have self-selected to be there.

That’s a powerful lesson. Implementing a perk-filled workplace is much easier than changing the people and critical pieces of your culture. The ones who rise to the top of the list are not there by accident.

Listen to the rest of our conversation about what’s important when it comes to building a great place to work.

Lance Haun is an editor at The Starr Conspiracy, a marketing agency focused on the enterprise HCM market. He spent three years as an editor at ERE Media and seven years in the recruiting and HR trenches before joining the agency. You can follow him on Twitter, circle him on Google+, check out his blog or contact him directly at lance@coug.rs.