Inc. asked 139,251 employees from 2,000 companies around the country to rate their workplaces, and published the list of the top winners this week. Omaha’s Quantum Workplace conducted the survey, which included topics like trust, management effectiveness, perks, and confidence in the future. Inc. gathered, analyzed, and audited the data. One interesting finding: This year, 74.2% of employees surveyed said they’re engaged by their work, which is up from last year’s 72.1%. Compare that to the survey cited by HBR (in the item below) in which overall, only 16% of people say they’re engaged and the rest are “just going to work.” So, whatever these companies on the Inc. list are doing, it’s working. Engagement is the Holy Grail in this tight labor market. Another interesting thing to note about this list: It includes small and even “micro” companies with fewer than 24 employees. It just goes to show that you don’t need deep pockets to be a great place to work with highly engaged employees. Inc.
What, exactly, is engagement? At a gut level we know that it has something to do with how involved people are in their work and how enthusiastic they are about it. By defining engagement more precisely as a set of attitudes, we have been able to measure it — and understand its impact on performance. From research beginning at the Gallup Organization in the 1980s and 1990s, and continued since then by many others, we know that certain employee attitudes can help predict productive employee behaviors, and that companies and managers and individuals can take action to improve or change those attitudes. But when we look at aggregated levels of engagement across time and across countries, it quickly becomes clear that whatever organizations have been doing to improve these outcomes — from efforts around company culture to rigorous performance management — isn’t working. To find the most-effective levers for creating engagement, we set about analyzing a number of variables for their power to explain why a particular employee might be fully engaged. And as it turned out, the most powerful factor was simply whether respondents reported doing most of their work on a team. Those who did were more than twice as likely to be fully engaged as those who said they did most of their work alone. The local, ground-level experience of work — the people they worked with and their interactions with them — trumped everything else. HBR
The organizers of last year’s walkout of Google employees are calling on the company to investigate its human resources department, after some employees say they’ve faced retaliation from management for making complaints and organizing the walkout. In a blog post from the official walkout account, the employees released a series of demands. On the list: meeting previous demands made during the November walkout, having Alphabet CEO Larry Page address those demands, reversing alleged retaliation against organizers, and opening an investigation into what they call the company’s abysmal handling of employee complaints. “Google seems to have lost its mooring, and trust between workers and the company is deeply broken,” the post reads. “As the company progresses from crisis to crisis, it is clear Google management is failing, along with HR.” The post demands that an investigation be conducted by a third party and that the results be released publicly. The Verge
Oftentimes, said Thomas Kochan, a professor of work and organization studies at MIT Sloan, companies find that external pressure from shareholders to tighten up their operations, often at labor’s expense, can send them down the path of creating a poor work environment. Relying too heavily on metrics and keeping too much distance from your workforce can compound the problem. “[The organization] might have been relatively stable. People might have felt good about working at a place, but the change then sets off a spiral where the trust is broken,” Kochan said. “There are often cuts in benefits, and it just feeds on itself.” That scenario played out at The Home Depot in the early 2000s, when CEO Robert Nardelli’s preference for centralized management and tight operations saw profits soar, but customer service and employee morale tanked. A top-down approach no longer works with a modern workforce, Kochan said. You need to be in constant communication with your employees to ensure the decisions you’re making from on high are translating appropriately to all parts of the business. MIT Management Sloan School
It was back in 2015 that Obama administration alum David Plouffe, freshly decamped to Silicon Valley, first suggested that the gig economy was “the future of work.” On-demand platforms like Uber will continue to grow, Plouffe declared, because they’ve found a new means to offer workers something they desperately need: an easy way to make a quick buck in a tough economy. While Uber wasn’t providing healthcare or overtime pay to its drivers — deemed “partners” by the company — it offered them flexibility. “The future of work” soon became the phrase that launched countless conference panels. Even though gig workers comprise no more than one percent of the U.S. workforce, according to the latest estimates, Silicon Valley has attempted to propagate the myth that we have entered a brave new world where the old rules no longer apply — those rules being basic labor protections and collective bargaining rights. But the defining feature of the gig economy has never been workers accepting jobs through an app on their phone: It’s that they work with no benefits, no job security, and no unions. And it’s this model of the future, in which workers are more fully fungible, that is being promoted not only by tech acolytes, but also by traditional employers. A March report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) details how hotel chains Marriott and Hilton, as well as the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council and the Cato Institute, have thrown their weight behind “a far-reaching, multi-million-dollar influence campaign” to rewrite worker classification standards at every level of government. Salon