How Healthy Is Your Workplace Culture?

If there’s one conclusion we can draw about workers from JUST Capital’s annual survey — which asks the American public what they care about most when it comes to business practices — it’s that they put the basics first.

People’s biggest priorities include making a living wage (that covers basic expenses like housing and medical care), a solid benefits package, and a safe workplace. But that’s not all they need. Companies that want loyal, productive, and happy workers must offer more.

A leading scholar on talent and human resources and University of Michigan business school professor Dave Ulrich has identified three needs that organizations must fulfill to increase employee well-being: believing, becoming, and belonging.

These concepts sound vague at first, but they’re important, and they can also be (in part) measured through external metrics. Perhaps you’re deciding whether to join a company or trying to figure out what’s missing in your own corporate culture. Either way, it’s worthwhile to get a sense of how your company compares.

Need #1: Believing

“An employee finds personal meaning from the organization because he realizes his personal values derive from and align with the organization’s purpose and values,” Ulrich writes. Employees who believe in their organization find greater meaning in their work.

One way to see if an organization’s values align with your own is to measure its social responsibility. We believe a just company is one that treats all its stakeholders — including workers, customers, suppliers, communities, and shareholders — honestly and fairly. Our Rankings provide many ways to gauge this, including the following:

In a nod to millennials, Ulrich believes that “top new entrants” in the workforce are looking for companies that demonstrate social responsibility. But our research suggests values are important to everyone in the workforce, not just millennials.

Need #2: Becoming

“An employee learns and grows through participation in the organization because it enables her to pursue new talents through opportunities,” Ulrich says. Training and development are the best ways to keep good employees and help them get even better.

When ranking companies for their training and career development opportunities, we review their policies on career development and tuition reimbursement. We also develop a score based on what employees say about their career opportunities on crowdsourced company review platforms.

It’s worth delving deeper by reviewing these policies online (our JUST Jobs Policy Tracker is a great place to start) and reading platforms such as Glassdoor and Vault, where workers post anonymously about their firms.

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Need #3: Belonging

“When employees feel part of a community and connected to each other, they increase sentiment,” Ulrich says. True belonging requires employees to invest time in building relationships, not just to connect online, he adds.

One indication of whether employees feel they belong at a company is whether rank-and-file employees feel respected by senior management. This is measured in our Rankings by the Issue “creates a responsive and transparent workplace culture,” which is sourced partly on results from crowdsourced company review platforms.

But if you’re looking for a company where everyone feels like they belong, look for a company that is fair and inclusive. To that end, our Rankings measure whether companies provide a living wage, a fair wage, pay equity, equal opportunity in the workplace, and work-life balance.

The high-ranking companies in these categories care for their employees’ essential needs while respecting their differences in background and personal situation. Companies that ignore these issues send a message — purposefully or not — that some workers are expendable.

Only you can decide if you “fit” with a company’s culture. It’s a very personal decision that’s highly dependent on the specifics of your role and the people you work with.

If you’re trying to decide whether to join a new company, want to improve your current company’s culture, or are debating whether to leave, there’s no substitute for intensive discussions with bosses and peers. But rankings, reviews, corporate policies, and other data can provide valuable fuel for these values-oriented discussions.

Have questions about our research and rankings?  We want to hear from you!