What Does It Take to Have a Great Workplace?

What is it that makes a business a great place to work? Every year, Fortune Magazine examines the “100 Best Companies to Work for” and whether you work in a big business or a small one, their list is enlightening. A great employer is a great employer is a great employer.

FedEx is a great example of this. Although FedEx had to suspend its merit salary increases and its 50 percent matching of 401(k) plans in 2009, only a year later, in 2010, those benefits were reinstated. At a time when many employers have used the recession to keep cuts permanent, FedEx showed why it’s a great place to work. No wonder FedEx is No. 91 in the whole country.

In a small business, the boss is the one thing that really makes for a great place to work. If the owner or manager treats people with respect, and is kind, fun and smart, it is a safe bet that that is a pretty good place to work since the personality of the management often equals the culture of a small business.

Here is a big business correlation: Cisco’s CEO John Chambers meets with new hires at their headquarters to welcome them to the company. He also conducts monthly breakfast meetings where employees get a chance to grill him. If you run or manage a small business, then take a page out of Cisco’s book and open the lines of communication. It’s one reason Cisco came in at No. 16.

Another thing that makes a business great to work at, again, whether the business is big or small, is that there are good benefits. For instance, at the law firm Perkins Coie, there is a 5 percent year-end bonus and a 7.3 percent contribution to retirement accounts.

Maybe you’re thinking you can’t afford that in your small business. Sure, that may be true. But it is also true that it is the culture of recognition that is important. At Perkins Coie for instance, employees are also given something as simple as gift certificates for a job well done. That kind of employee recognition has a lot to do with the fact that Perkins Coie is No. 75.

I always say that small business can learn a lot from big businesses. If we adapt what they do to our unique circumstances, we get the benefit of their intellectual capital without having to pay for it ourselves.

So take a look at what why some of these big businesses are great employers and cherry-pick some good ideas.

Your staff will love you for it.

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