Is It Worth It to Become a “Best Place to Work?”

November 19, 2021
November 19, 2021 Jamie Notter

There are many versions of the “best place to work” awards, and they are usually connected with a local publication, like a business journal or newspaper. They are almost always survey-based—that is, you pay someone to administer some kind of employee engagement survey, and if you score high enough, you get a ranking as a “best place to work.” If you don’t score high enough, of course, the consultant you paid to run the survey will have recommendations for improving things that will enable a better score next year.

The biggest upside of winning the award is for recruiting employees. Knowing you won a best place to work award will give applicants some confidence that it’s a good place to go, so that could increase your demand as an employer and improve the level of talent you can attract. It will also make some of your senior level people happy, particularly HR. Winning this award is a pat on the back for them.

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There are some downsides, however. First, once you win the award, the pressure is on to win again next year. The pat on the back you got for winning once feels like a slap in the face when you fall off the list. That means you have to pay to run the survey every year, and ultimately employees will feel pressure to provide high scores no matter what, and the whole processes loses value. Once it becomes about answering the survey “correctly,” the award loses its luster.

Second, if you’re like most workplaces, you will always have a percentage of employees who do NOT think it is a great place, even if you score high enough to be on the list. The constant effort on being a great place only makes these people less engaged, and even ignored. They may want to raise issues that need to be fixed, but they don’t want to risk lowering the score. While it wasn’t your intention, becoming a great place to work can create a group of discontented employees that can actually start to lower morale.

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My advice is simple: focus on creating an amazing culture, and when that is solidly in place, go ahead and do the survey. You’ll probably win, but there won’t be the pressure to keep your scores up, because you have already put a culture in place that generates those scores. You don’t want to make the list because you scored well on the survey; you want to make the list because you’re awesome. And if you don’t want to be on the list, that’s fine too. I find that amazing cultures become known fairly quickly without being named a “best place to work.”


Photo by Ariel

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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