Apr 11, 2016 | Leadership, People

(Join me live on April 27 in San Diego where I will be co-hosting The Re:Imagine Leadership Summit with Dr. Tony Baron.)    

For 25 years, Great Place to Work®  has studied the link between organizational culture and business performance.  Last week, throngs of people from around the world poured into San Diego to attend the 2016 Great Place To Work® annual conference. Keynotes and breakouts were given by leaders who shared the secret to how they achieved a spot on coveted lists like Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for

Companies that make the list have nearly half the voluntary turnover of their peers, and perform nearly 2x better than the market average.  So what’s their secret?  In a word, trust.

Here are three distinct examples shared about how to create a high-trust organizational culture:



1. Define Your Company’s Purpose and Connect People To It.  Keynote speaker Robb Webb, EVP of CHRO at Hyatt Hotels, confided that employees used to have to memorize scripts when dealing with guests.  Instead of getting a human conversation, guests were put through a rigid set of questions and answers at check-in.  That Q&A was designed to collect data and generate a higher profit:guest ratio, rather than improve the guest experience.


In a Hyatt World“Today,” Webb said, “we tell employees to throw away the maps (or the scripts) and use a compass to find true north (our purpose).” Hyatt’s purpose is simple – We care for people so they can be their best.  To achieve that purpose, Webb asks colleagues to follow 3 simple rules:

1) Be in the moment
2) Be yourself
3) Meet the guest where the guest is in the moment.

Simple. Human. Effective.  That’s the secret to how Hyatt has achieved several GPTW list rankings, including #47 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016.


2. Get Your Values Off the Walls.  In 2002, Atlassian co-founders launched an enterprise software company with no sales force.  From Australia.  Their strategy was to make great software, price it right, and make it available to download from the internet.  Their hope was that people would build great things with their software and tell their friends, and so on.  Along with Atlassian’s unconventional business model, is an unconventional set of core values that shape its culture and its products.

Atlassian Temporary TattoosBreakout leader Jeff Diana, Atlassian’s Chief People Officer, shared the company’s core values (including ones like “Open Company, No Bullshit,” “Build with heart and balance,” and “Play, as a Team”).  Diana described how the values serve as the foundation that directly impacts employee performance from Day 1.  “48 hours before each new employee begins the job,” Diana said, “they get a welcome box delivered to their home.”  Among the items in the box are temporary tattoos for each of the company’s core values.  “We encourage new employees to show up to work wearing their favorite value tattoo,” said Diana, “It’s a great conversation starter about what our values mean and how we use them every day to make business decisions.”

Among its many GPTW listings, Atlassian most recently ranked #6 in Best Workplaces in Technology 2016.


3. Give Employees a Voice.  In 1999, San Diego-based Scripps Health was losing $15 million a year, and employee and physician confidence had hit bottom. That was the scene when Scripps tapped new President & CEO Chris Van Gorder to restore Scripps’ fiscal and cultural health. Van Gorder responded with a transparent, co-management style, configured an award-winning executive team, streamlined business operations and focused on workplace culture to lead a landmark turnaround.

Scripps Health Site Visit“An integral part of the turnaround strategy,” Van Gorder told guests at a Scripps Health site visit, “was to enlist the staff directly in the planning of the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute – the largest provider of cardiovascular medicine, research and training on the West Coast.”  “We had a voice in designing every detail from the size of the elevators to the configuration of the patient rooms,” said Chief Nurse and Operations Executive Cindy Steckel.  The staff tested their designs in rooms marked “Day In the Life” to assess patient safety, staff circulation, and infection control.

Listening to the voice of the employees is just one of many ways that Van Gorder helped Scripps achieve multi-year GPTW spots, including #42 on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2016.

If you look over these three examples carefully, you’ll notice that these organizations have found ways to treat employees like adults.  They give them inspiration, motivation, and the tools necessary to get the job done – then get out of their way and trust them to deliver results.


Question: Would your employees say that they are treated like trusted adults?  

Leadership Summit in San Diego

Join me and Dr. Tony Baron on April 27th in San Diego for The Re:Imagine Leadership Summit
Discover how to create a culture that can respond swiftly, communicate freely, encourage experimentation, and organize as a network of people motivated by a shared purpose to meet the demands of the 21st century business environment. To learn more or register, go to:



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