Learn From the Best – Lessons of America’s Best Workplaces

In this blog, we talk a lot about how to make your workplace exceptional. At this point, you know that developing a high-trust, high-integrity company culture is huge in attracting the best talent and reducing voluntary turnover.

This month, I wanted to approach the topic from a slightly different lens. It’s one thing to talk about these values in the abstract, but I think it might be even more valuable to look at companies that are consistently ranked as the best workplaces in the country.

Your business may not be as large as some of these, but no matter your size, you can still apply the principles these leaders have used to great effect.

Zillow — Empowering Employees

Lloyd Frink and Rich Barton started the online real estate company Zillow in 2005. Today, the company has over $3 billion in assets.

Frink and Barton both have previous experience in the tech world, and they knew from the start that many companies in that sector have a tendency to grind down their employees. With Zillow, they wanted an entirely different culture.

Beginning in 2016, they created the role of head of people and culture, hiring Dan Spaulding to lead the way. 

“Trust has to be at the center of everything we do, but it also comes back to treating people like adults, giving them choice, and living with the outcomes of treating people like adults.”

Dan Spaulding, Head of People and Culture- Zillow

Zillow’s six core values —

  1. Act With Integrity
  2. Move Fast; Think Big
  3. Own It
  4. Zillow Group Is a Team Sport
  5. Turn On the Lights
  6. Winning Is Fun

— all reflect on the pride the company takes in empowering its employees. If you’re not letting your employees act like talented adults, you’ll never get the best work from them.

Quicken Loans — Creative and Inclusive

Quicken Loans has been on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work list for 14 consecutive years. That doesn’t happen by accident. In the Great Place to Work institute’s ratings, they’ve scored above 90 percent in every category.

CEO Bill Emerson attributes their success to “hiring great people” and “setting them loose to create and innovate.”

Quicken also puts a real emphasis on diversity and never misses an opportunity to hype up their homebase of Detroit.

“We are really on a mission to change the way people look at Detroit and to really focus on creating opportunities throughout the city of Detroit for our team members.”

La Shandra Sartor, VP of Business Consulting

Another important factor in Quicken’s company culture is the value employees get from their work. Getting people into homes is important work, and Quicken is also a company with many philanthropic initiatives.

Emerson regards these qualities as paramount in creating a standout culture. “It is that passion for doing the right thing and caring about others,” he notes, “that lays the groundwork for our success.”

Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. — Putting Employees First

The turnover for full-time employees at the beloved grocery store chain Wegmans is a staggeringly low 4 percent, nearly seven times less than the average retail establishment. Wegmans is a family company, and they treat their employees as such, with robust scholarship, employee development, and wellness programs.

They also offer an above-average 17 days of paid time off after one year of employment. Large retail chains are not generally known for treating employees so well, making Wegmans stand out in their sector. Their belief is that by putting employees first, customers will have a great experience in turn. There’s no denying that the philosophy is working.

The three companies above all work in very different industries and are spread across the country.

What they have in common, however, is their desire to define who they are and to create a high-value work environment from the top of the executive ladder all the way down to the employee starting their first day.

If you’re not thinking about how to do the same, you’ll never create a winning culture.

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About the Author Michael Staskiewicz

Michael Staskiewicz, CCIM is the Managing Broker/ Senior Vice President of The Garibaldi Group and Founder of EffectiveWorkplace.com. Michael helps innovative, purpose-driven CEOs clarify the strategic plan for a world-class work environment, so they can attract the best talent and reduce voluntary turnover.

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Leave a Comment:

Bridget Tichar says December 14, 2017

This is a great article and reminds me of the book, “Delivering Happiness,” by Zappos founder, Tony Hsieh. This leads me to question why the concepts of: trust, opportunities, and adequate days off are NEW concepts that lead to success? Hsieh would include creativity and open communication as other qualities to foster success, but isn’t this all obvious? And if it is obvious, why isn’t every company doing it to attract the best employees?

    Michael Staskiewicz says December 15, 2017

    You think it would be obvious, right Bridget? Many companies still operate within the structure of work that was molded from the Industrial Revolution. ie. produce more widgets at the lowest cost. People are the greatest assets and the best companies show they value their team with really innovative workplace programs.

thomas desimone says December 14, 2017

Zillow in Seattle and Quicken in Detroit are giving opportunity in what I believe are growing cities. Places where employees would be more likely to settle in and stay at a job longer. I wonder if Zillow was in NYC with so much more competition and level of intensity that New York has to offer, would the turnover rate be as successful.
As for Wegmans, in my opinion large chain grocery stores are the future, giving so many people so many different jobs, and areas to grow, add amazing time off each year and employees will quickly discover they’ve got it really good. I wouldn’t mind working for any one of these companies.

Mary Rose says December 15, 2017

When talking with employers, retention and professional development always emerge as their top concerns for sustainability and company growth. The work space really does matter on the individual and his/her ability to be productive. Michael Staskiewicz understands the human dynamics of “the people” at work and how the environment supports creativity, efficiency, and productivity. I highly recommend Michael as a resource if you are looking to enhance your work environment for optimal employee success that will support your mission, values, and bottom line.

Dennis says January 4, 2018

Great article that shows the importance of focusing on your employees and helping them to grow and develop. This type of environment will lead to employee retention as well as a stronger work ethic. As Michael states these companies are all in different industries along with different areas of the country; they succeed because they focus on developing a high value work environment with all employees from top to bottom. Every employee has a role and is important to the organization.

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