Company Culture

Tips on Becoming a "Best Place to Work"

Jennifer Barnes
July 25, 2018
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Being acknowledged as a Best Place to Work is an esteemed distinction for any company, and getting there is more straightforward than you’d think. I’ve been fortunate enough to witness our company be named a Best Place to Work by multiple publications. In this article, I'll share a few steps you can take to achieve similar results.

It starts with cultivating the right vision, workplace atmosphere, and team. A vision shows a team where they can go. Positive company culture fosters the values that guide actions. The right team executes successfully.

When employees feel engaged and motivated, they’re more likely to go above and beyond for customers. When your customers consistently have good experiences with your company, it leads to long-term satisfaction and referrals. Put simply, emphasizing people over profits leads to success, and that goes for your employees as well as your customers.

Using this approach, Pro Back Office was ranked at #892 in 2017 on the Inc. 5000 ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in America. During the same year, we were ranked #40 by the San Diego Business Journal in the category of fastest-growing companies. The same publication ranked Pro Back Office a Best Place to Work, an accolade seconded by the San Diego Union Tribune.

Not bad for a company founded in 2011.

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Here's what you can do to become a Best Place to Work:

Lead by example

What constitutes effective leadership in the workplace?

Great leaders create a compelling vision, then inspire their team to follow them. Successful leaders are able to empower the right people, developing skills and building a strong community filled with purpose.

There are many benefits of leading by example, and it’s important to encourage others to do the same. This means rolling up your sleeves when necessary and taking responsibility but also delegating when necessary and promoting a balanced culture. Becoming a good role model shows your team that you intend to do the job right, and that they should, too.

For further reading, I recommend Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf and also Give and Take by Adam Grant. Both books explore how building strong relationships is a great long-term strategy.

Communicate effectively

Communication involves much more than conveying your ideas and objectives to employees. Yes, communication helps ensure that our goals are understood and shared, but it’s vital to reflect on employee feedback to make progress. Did you know that 64% of workers think that leadership makes decisions without listening to them?

Improve work processes around your organization and increase engagement by listening to employees. Facilitate open communication by having the right tools in place to receive feedback, from technology to open team forums. Keep your team’s trust by following through on what you communicate and acting on feedback.

Be sure to gather relevant information, and listen before acting. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I make sure to get all sides of a situation. Rather than emailing a message like “Why did you do that?” or “Didn’t I tell you to do XYZ?”, now I say “Help me to understand the situation” or “Please clarify this in a little more detail”.



Don’t let growth make you sloppy

It's difficult to establish and maintain the right company culture when you’re growing and bringing on new employees at a rapid pace. In the case of Pro Back Office, we brought on board 28 new employees in 2017, along with 125 additional clients and new offices in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Orange County.

To create your desired culture, it’s crucial to optimize the hiring and onboarding process. It’s important to find out early on what kind of person a potential new hire might be. Even though you may be growing quickly, take the time to make the right decisions. Jumping quickly into hiring people without the necessary due diligence and testing is a recipe for disaster.

In Good to Great, a widely-celebrated manual on successful business transitions, author Jim Collins emphasizes the importance of these hiring decisions:

A company should limit its growth based on its ability to attract enough of the right people.
-Jim Collins

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator test is one good way to assess personality before hiring, and with 80% of all Fortune 500 companies using it, you’ll be in good company. Consider skill assessments, aptitude tests, and a DISC or other behavioral type of assessment. Making an upfront investment in recruiting and hiring will help ensure you keep retention high and hire people who make your culture great. 

Offer benefits that focus on a work/life balance

A flexible schedule is one of the components of workplace satisfaction that is nearly universal in its appeal to workers. According to research conducted at the Georgetown University Law Center, approximately 80% of workers said they would be very glad to work flexible hours if given the opportunity. Of workers who already telecommute, nearly half said they were more productive working at home than at the office full-time.

Flexible scheduling is an important part of the Pro Back Office culture, with 65% of our team working 24-32 hours a week. We also encourage team members to enjoy a Volunteer Time Off policy that pays them up to eight hours a year for the time they spend volunteering time to a non-profit.

The leadership team treats employees with respect and always has employees’ best interest in mind. The flexibility allows for great work-life balance.
-Kevin Driscoll, Accounting Manager, Pro Back Office

Recognize your team

In The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook, Bob Nelson and Dean Spitzer chronicle the importance of recognition in the workplace and how it can motivate employees to go above and beyond the call of duty. Their research, based on American workers, discovered that 84% of all managers were convinced that recognizing employees in the workplace contributed to improved performance as a consequence.

Systems such as one offered by Bonusly, where employees can be recognized and awarded points for doing great work, help tremendously to show appreciation for exceptional performance and create an atmosphere of engagement and job satisfaction.

The Pro Back Office staff has become very engaged with Bonusly and frequent recognition. It’s improved teamwork, communication and motivation. Since much of our team is onsite at our various clients’ offices, they don’t have as much opportunity to spend time together regularly, like a normal office does. A recognition program where people can interact and be rewarded even when they aren’t physically in front of one another regularly helps employee engagement.

Each employee is given 150 Bonusly points per month that they can give out to coworkers for good deeds or for going the extra mile. Management can give out points to people on their team for going above and beyond or for any reason they feel is worthy. Employees are also recognized on their work anniversary, for attending a staff meeting, for bringing in a new client, for kind words or testimonials by their clients, and for other reasons we deem appropriate.

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Nominate your company as a Best Place to Work

There are a number of organizations and lists where you can get your company recognized on as a Best Place to Work, and most of them require some minimum threshold of responses from employees in order to be ranked. Often these are focused on a geographic area or specific industry.

Most major cities have their own Best Places list, and it's usually not hard to find out who's doing it in your area. Make sure that you communicate to your team why the award means so much to you, and ask for ways that you can improve. Be clear about what they can expect in the survey, and assure them that it’s completely anonymous and not required!



Gather employee testimonials

Getting ranked on local or national Best Places lists is one sure way to find out whether you've created the ideal work atmosphere at your company while enjoying PR that could win you new customers. Getting real examples from your team on why they love working for you is also an amazing recruiting tool.

Companies like Glassdoor are a great avenue to get feedback from your employees and it’s a surefire way that your future team will feel confident that you are a best in class employer.

Here is an example of one Pro Back Office review, submitted by an appreciative employee:

Pro Back Office has created a work environment that is extremely welcoming, professional and enjoyable. From the company outings to the flexible work schedules, Pro Back Office has proven why it was rated one of the top places to work in San Diego.

Consider also using an annual employee engagement survey to monitor progress.

We’re happy to be known as a local Best Place to Work, but we also know it’s no time to sit on our laurels. Evolving our company as it grows, as technology changes, and as we expand our offerings requires constant attention. Our people are our greatest strength, and I hope you’re inspired to accomplish similar results!

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