How to Spot a Company That Truly Values Their Employees

Sep 12, 2013 -

Some companies that talk of valuing their employees are more comfortable spouting out platitudes than actually doing anything concrete to express true value. But smart companies know that “valuing employees” isn’t just a box to be checked off. Employees are the real workhorses of a company; when they’re motivated and engaged, they can make a company significantly more productive than competitor firms with a disengaged workforce.

That’s probably why some of the world’s most profitable companies are coming to value their culture as an intangible asset. Culture is becoming one of the many assets that can’t be measured directly in terms of bottom line, but clearly contributes to a company’s health. Obviously, companies that clearly value their employees are more fun to work for, so how exactly do they work, and how can you spot one on your job hunt?

How companies use employees to add value to their businesses

A seminal three-year study conducted by Rob Goffee of the London Business School and Gareth Jones of IE Business School in Madrid found employees feel most valued when:

1. Individual differences are nurtured

Employees need to feel like they can be the same person at work and at home. They also like working on teams with a diversity of backgrounds and opinions and want to be surrounded by many different passions and opinions, even if doing so causes conflict.

2. Information is not suppressed or spun

Company culture benefits greatly from transparency, no matter how bad the news or in what direction it’s flowing. Transparent companies and teams have open lines of communication. They also value a shared passion that makes any negative news just another part of the process of achieving a common goal.

3. The company adds value to its employees

Few employees will remain at a company that sucks them dry. A great company culture is one in which newbies are mentored, weaknesses coached and strengths and individual achievements recognized. The best companies provide career coaching opportunities, whether formal or informal, in which employees can constantly recalibrate their goals and are encouraged to take on new projects, experiences or courses to help them reach the next level.

4. The organization stands for something meaningful

Few employees are motivated by money alone. Companies thrive when they have a clear mission and can fit their own role into this broader vision, both in terms of their smaller team and on the scale of the company as a whole. Employees should be proud to tell other people where they work.

5. The work itself is intrinsically rewarding

While there may be a few menial tasks to complete, most of an employee’s job should challenge them and evoke passion. They should also feel like they’re working for a common cause.

6. There are no stupid rules

Not to sound too much like an agile evangelist here, but the best companies value results rather than process and rules. If there is true respect between authority figures and team members, rules should be largely irrelevant. There should be no micromanaging, and employees should feel like their leaders trust them to do their jobs. When they do exist, rules should apply equally to everyone.

Overall, great company culture really comes down to good leadership, something that’s too often a rarity. Great company culture translates into profits in numerous ways, as it helps create an environment in which employees feel the freedom to take creative risks, do the best job possible and pursue the kinds of passions that truly embody that business buzzword, “innovation.” In short, employees are loyal to people and the environments they create, not to their employers.

So what key signs should you look for if you’re seeking a company where employee happiness comes first?

They don’t have a vacation policy

There’s a reason Hubspot has grown faster, had far more success and attracts more top young talent than many of its marketing and media counterparts: they’re really fun to work for. In fact, Hubspot trusts their employees so much to get their job done well, they offer unlimited vacation time. Their policy clearly recognizes there’s more to life than work and employees do a better job when they’re refreshed, relaxed and—gasp!—actually happy.

They publicize their core values

Google is so passionate about its values, they post them online for everyone to see. This helps guide the company in everything it does so employees and managers alike can consistently check back in to remind themselves of the “why” and the “how” behind their everyday routine.

They allow you to test out their company before coming on board

Zappos, perhaps better known than any contemporary company for its great culture, is so passionate about finding happy employees that it allows new hires a test drive before officially signing on. Policies like these are a great sign on a job hunt. They demonstrate that a company knows how important employee satisfaction is to their bottom line... and they’ll do whatever they can to help you thrive.

Their mission statement is clear

No one wants to feel like they’re just pushing a pencil across a desk until it’s time to retire. Having a clear and exciting mission statement helps employees understand they’re really invested in something bigger than themselves. Here’s a tip: If a company not only lacks a mission statement but also seems to be obsessed with acquisitions and mergers and cost-cutting measures, it’s probably just interested in maximizing its own profits and won’t be the most inspiring place to work.

They give their employees ownership

No matter what the role, you’ll feel the happiest in your job when you feel like your employer trusts you to do it well and learn. This is best gauged on interview day as you talk to your potential managers, and all the more so if you’re allowed the opportunity to talk with your future colleagues. But if you can find an official company policy, like Google’s "20 percent time," which allows time for employees to work on their own projects each week, that’s a great indication your passions will be nurtured and you’ll have space to breathe.

There’s a low turnover rate

Sure, most employees don’t stay at one company for the duration of their career, but if a company can’t at least retain talent for several years, run as far away as you can.

They pay you well

Yes, those dollar bills do play a role in creating a healthy company culture, but they’re not the end all be all. Be wary of a company that offers you a large salary but is lacking in any of the above elements. It also can be a bad sign if they have inadequate benefits (such as a poor maternity leave policy or no 401K options), as this might indicate they place their own profits over the health and well-being of their workers.

More and more companies are realizing that developing a healthy company culture in which employees are valued isn’t just the moral thing to do; it’s also great for that bottom line(Click to Tweet!) If you’re seeking a new job, this is definitely to your benefit. Make sure to learn the signs of a company that truly values its employees before you get too far in your hunt. Then, enjoy the ride!

Adria Saracino is the head of outreach and a content strategist at Distilled, where she consults on PR and content marketing initiatives. You can follow her on Twitter @adriasaracino.