Be a great place to work, see great business outcomes

How employee engagement surveying can empower HR to help create better workplaces with better business outcomes.
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· 5 min read

Office Space, Dilbert, and a solid portion of Charles Bukowski’s body of work capture the essence of the crappy workplace. But employee engagement surveying can help HR leaders better understand employees like Peter Gibbons, Dilbert, and Hank Chinaski and build a workplace culture that helps them reach their potential.

Great Place to Work (GPTW), an employee engagement and surveying company, works with companies to boost employee trust. Using employee surveys and a proprietary “Trust Index,” GPTW scores companies on the quality of their employee experience to determine whether they are a great place to work. Those that score above 65% are certified as such. It also recognizes companies that create top employee experiences on its annual lists of top workplaces.

When engaged employees are more likely to be high performers, a GPTW certification could say a lot more than just how happy employees are—it could also point to better business outcomes.

The macro. GPTW’s CEO Michael Bush suggested that the link between trust and profitability is an important factor not always examined by a company’s top brass.

“It’s good to know the level of trust that you have in your company,” Bush said. “Because without trust, engagement [is] low, engagement linked to performance deteriorates.”

GPTW has compared stock performance of Russell 3000 companies certified as great places to work with that of the index on a whole and found those with the certification consistently outperform the index. In 2020, for example, as corporate America navigated the onset of the pandemic, the certified companies performed 16.5% better than the index.

This market analysis mirrors the 2011 research of Alex Edmans, a professor at London School of Economics, which found employee satisfaction led to “significantly more positive earnings.”

For Brightview Senior Living’s SVP of operations, Andrea Griesmar, the proposition is apparent.

The Baltimore-based senior living company with 46 locations in eight states has been named by Fortune, working with GPTW, as the best workplace in aging services for large senior housing since 2019.

“Our organization is built…on a very simple premise that says we are a great place to work and a great place to live,” Griesmar said. “If you’re focused first on the financials or focused exclusively on residents, you lose the foundation on which the resident satisfaction and financial profitability are built.”

Griesmar explained that resident experience is built on the relationships between those who live and work at Brightview. Stronger engagement is key to residents’ living experience.

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The micro. The Wills Group, which operates convenience stores, gas stations, and car washes in the mid-Atlantic region, is no stranger to surveying employees. For years the company has surveyed its workforce using LinkedIn-owned Glint.

In 2021, the Wills Group ran its first GPTW survey; 82% of employees reported it to be a great place to work.

Michael Oliver, the Wills Group’s EVP of talent and people, compared the group’s score to Pennsylvania-based convenience store and gas station chain Sheetz, where 90% employees say it is a great place to work.

“We’ve got somebody we’re kind of chasing, I guess,” Oliver said. “We’ve set a goal to hit 90%... we want to get to the next level.”

But Oliver said engagement surveying also helps the organization understand the connection between engagement and store performance, and there is a “direct match between engagement, customer service, and then actual store performance.”

“For frontline associates especially, if they are highly engaged…that carries through to the customer and guest experience at the stores,” he said. “It does translate over to better business performance results, sales, and profitability.”

The takeaway. “The work of creating a great place to work doesn't fall to human resources,” said Griesmar, who oversees Brightview’s HR. “You have to be a great place to work at the very foundational level in your organization…that cannot be solely influenced by human resources.”

GPTW’s Sarah Lewis-Kulin, VP of global recognition, has found that senior leaders must set an example, and how employee’s experience the work day makes an impact.

“Trust is based on having credible leaders who are really competent at their jobs, that communicate clearly and well, who treat their employees with respect, and who ensure that the workplace is consistently fair and equitable for all,” she said. “Those are really the key attributes that were in common across all companies that create great workplaces.”

She added that pay, benefits, and worker policies are important parts of the formula for becoming a great place, but managers must deliver on those policies equitably.

“HR could work really well to update your parental leave policy, but if you have managers being unsupportive…they might as well not put that in place,” she said.—AD

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Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.