Patrick Woodman: Creating an attractive workplace culture must become a strategic priority

Patrick WoodmanIn December 2017, Glassdoor announced its 50 Best Places to Work 2018 based on a survey of hundreds of thousands of employees. The organisations topping the list range from blue-chip FTSE 100s and global technology behemoths, through to regional logistics small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It is a disparate bunch holding nothing obvious in common. But if these are the organisations that the UK’s employees most want to work for, then what can other employers learn from them? Diving into the comments made by the survey’s respondents reveals reward and remuneration as very much secondary considerations: an organisational culture that nurtures and supports career development is what really makes the difference.

Money certainly matters. People value earning competitive salaries, and perks like performance-related bonuses and private healthcare. However, of equal importance are the work-life benefits such as extended paternity leave, flexible-working arrangements for parents and carers, and banning out-of-work emails.

The theme of quality of working life is closely entwined with workplace culture. Many respondents state they enjoy the ‘family feel’: the satisfying sense of mutual respect, support, and confidence they enjoy from working with a group of like-minded people. Such organisational cultures are also typically progressive in terms of being inclusive, putting measures in place to promote gender and black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) diversity.

Above all, employees for the best organisations to work for appreciate the career support and development opportunities they receive. Unfortunately, too many employers overlook this element. According to the Management 2020 research published by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in July 2014, seven in 10 organisations fail to train first-time managers. This is in spite of evidence showing that highly skilled managers are essential to building a great workplace culture. The CMI’s Middle manager lifeline report, published in September 2016, found that eight in 10 middle managers say they play a crucial role in building trust in their organisation. The best management styles drive job satisfaction levels for their team members up to two-and-a-half times higher, according to the CMI’s Quality of working life study, published in January 2016.

As more and more employers report greater challenges to recruiting and retaining skilled talent, creating an attractive workplace culture must become a strategic priority. Happy and engaged employees are more productive. A good salary and perks have their place; but nothing beats the benefits of giving employees a sense of purpose, a work-life balance and career development opportunities for building a vote-winning organisational culture.

Patrick Woodman is head of research at the Chartered Management Institute