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What are the ‘World’s Best Workplaces’ doing right?

19 Dec 2019

At the end of 2019 we look back on the ‘World’s Best Workplaces’. What initiatives should we take inspiration from? And how is Ireland doing?

The companies that made it on to this year’s list of the ‘World’s Best Workplaces’ were diverse in nature, from financial institutions to pharmaceutical companies. But something they all had in common was a great culture and, consequently, happy employees.

So, what have they been getting right?

The World’s Best Workplaces 2019

Securing a place high on the ranking represents myriad things. Firstly, to be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must be named in at least five national Best Workplace lists globally. Across the 58 countries analysed, the organisation must also employ 5,000 or more people around the world with at least 40pc of its workforce based outside its home country.

Research and analytics company Great Places to Work’s methodology noted that additional credit is given to companies that successfully create “an excellent workplace culture in their worldwide locations”.  It surveyed more than 3m people about their working life and found that a sense of community is crucial in the US and Canada, fairness is favoured in Europe and, in Asia, sustainability in work and life is key.

At the designated world’s best workplaces, nine in 10 workers are reportedly experiencing a positive mutual relationship with their employer – one in which they enjoy company life and, in return, provide the organisation with loyalty and productivity. That’s far above the global average, which currently stands at just five in 10.

With that in mind, it’s a fair assumption that companies featured in the top 25 spots on 2019’s list have managed to cultivate a rich, supportive environment. But what does that look like?

Giving back is good for business

Fortune reported on some of the qualities that brought companies to the top of the list. Cisco Systems, for example, came in at first place. Fortune acknowledged how the technology giant “more than any other company in the world today, shows how a high-trust culture is better all around”.

That’s largely thanks to its CEO Chuck Robbins, according to Fortune, as he drove “a surge of social responsibility” including a $50m five-year donation to Destination: Home, a non-profit group devoted to ending homelessness in the San José region.

Now, the company’s philanthropic work includes voluntarily teaching data networking to people in prison in Italy, helping people dealing with the aftermath of flooding in India, and supporting people who have lived through sex trafficking in California.

As for the fourth company on the list – DHL Express – giving back to society is also a priority. The DHL’s Got Heart programme recognises staff for charity work completed outside of their jobs. Awards for the programme’s winners include a sum of $27,000 to donate to a charity of their choice, continuing the process of giving back to those living in harsh conditions.

Diversity, inclusion and development

But DHL’s position on the list comes down to more than voluntary work and charity. In Latin America, the company puts the health and wellbeing of employees at the centre of its values. As detailed in a blog post published by Great Places to Work, the company’s Fit for Work programme drives initiatives for improving the mental and physical health of its staff through such perks as in-house gyms, healthy food and yoga classes.

The post notes that: “Employees can also take advantage of remote work and extra days off to get licenses. Talks on managing emotions, fears, finances, and other personal issues are also helping employees at work and home. It’s this focus on employees as people that sets DHL apart.”

Also paramount to a good workplace culture are diversity and inclusion. Other companies high on the 2019 ranking were Hilton and Salesforce, both of which were commended by Great Places to Work for their actions towards generating a more diverse and inclusive environment.

Hilton’s focus on evaluating leaders based on their efforts to achieve more diversity and Salesforce’s emphasis on gender equality and unconscious bias training are some of the aspects that put these companies at second and third place, respectively.

Other commended elements of employee treatment included opportunities for professional training and development, scope to take on challenging and interesting projects, and providing well-rounded references for people as they progress in their careers. All of these are embraced by EY, which climbed the global list of workplaces to number seven.

The future of workplace culture

Culture is clearly a critical ingredient to sustainable, motivated and comfortable employees. And the key elements of that, from diversity to flexible working options, are set to keep evolving in 2020 and beyond.  Whether impacted by new technology or ideas such as the ‘pyjama principle’, working life is unarguably due a rethink.

In Ireland, some companies are already leading the way. Pramerica’s Pride business resource group advocates for the organisation’s LGBTQ employees, while Mastercard’s annual Intercultural Day strives to ensure all staff members feel “empowered to contribute”, as the company’s vice-president of HR Ann-Marie Clyne told us.

The open and diverse culture at PwC helped data analytics consultant Juhi Shrivastava to feel comfortable voicing her ideas. And for Lukas Borsboom at Dropbox, his move to Ireland was made that bit easier by his employer and the positivity of his colleagues.

These are just some of the organisations paving the way for better working life in Ireland as we move into the next decade. That list will hopefully keep growing, and taking a leaf out of the playbook of some of the World’s Best Workplaces 2019 could be a big step towards achieving that.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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