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You Don’t Have to Be a ‘Best Company to Work For’ to Be a Best Company

There’s constant buzz in the HR community about being named a “best company to work for.” But HR executives should be careful in assuming that meeting those awards’ criteria is all it takes to be a “best company.”

While “best company to work for” awards typically revolve around a combination of benefits and perks, a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates that organizational culture plays an instrumental role in employees’ level of job satisfaction.

Those surveyed listed “respectful treatment of all employees, at all levels” and “trust between employees and senior management” as the two most important aspects of employee satisfaction. “Overall benefits,” which included perks like wellness programs, self-defense courses and foreign language classes, took third. “Compensation/pay” earned fourth place, followed by “job security” and “relationship with immediate supervisor.” Nowhere to be found was a mention of “quirky perks,” like in-office foosball tables and rock climbing walls.

The power of practical perks

Companies that are considered the best to work for typically invest in perks. Not a bad move, considering perks and benefits are slightly more valued by employees than actual pay, according to the SHRM study. When these non-monetary rewards are leveraged strategically, they can be powerful. 

In Fast Company magazine, Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, co-authors of Primed to Perform, write: “In order for perks to improve productivity and overall performance, they have to tap into one or more of workers’ direct motives, not their love of rock climbing … perks can be a powerful force for creativity, collaboration, and other adaptive behaviors if they meet certain criteria: namely, increasing the play, purpose and potential employees feel in their work.”

When perks go wrong

When perks don’t meet these guidelines, they may become detrimental. They can cover up toxic environments, artificially inflate retention and encourage retention among the wrong types of employees. A simple illustration is free food versus game rooms. Free food equates to a small trade-off for the long hours employees are working. A game lounge might signify a stressful workplace where employees feel the need to take constant breaks to stay afloat.

In this case, smart HR execs might say to close the game lounge and fix the environment that creates a need for it in the first place. 

It comes down to culture

In a word, culture truly defines a “best company.”  Whether it’s a suit-and-tie kind of place or it has a groovy hipster vibe doesn’t matter. As long as the culture is built upon respect and belief in management, respect and collaboration among colleagues, and an environment that encourages and rewards initiative.

These characteristics are often intangible, and just as difficult to illustrate on “best company to work for” applications. And they’re a lot less interesting to read about than creative perks.

For HR departments, creating a culture-driven “best company” starts with hiring and retaining the employees that best exemplify a company’s culture. Business Insider’s Aimee Groth noted in her 2013 piece, “Workplace Culture Is More Important Than Anything Else,” that hiring individuals who are competent but have a poor cultural fit is a dire mistake. As an HR executive, it’s your job to find employees who match and share the qualities your company has defined as “best.”

“Best companies” are a combination of “bests” that include: culture, compensation and motivation packages (including strategic perks), invested management, profitability, progressive direction and the willingness to take risks and innovate. If you can strike a balance between the appropriate level of compensation, competency and culture, you’ll become a true “best company”… and may even win an award for it.


About the author
Author picture, Jason Bodin
Jason Bodin
Jason Bodin has been the communications pulse for a number of organizations, including Paycom, where he serves as director of public relations and corporate communications. He helped launch Paycom’s blog, webinar platform and social media channels. He aided in the development of Paycom’s tool to assist organizations in complying with the Affordable Care Act, one of the largest changes in health care the country has seen. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Bodin previously worked for ESPN and Fox Sports. In his free time, he enjoys adventuring with his family, reading and strengthening his business acumen.