Fortune recently released the new list of 100 Best Companies to Work For, and this year they have revamped their 20-year old methodology to capture how workplace culture has evolved. The new metrics emphasize the importance of a company being a “Great Place to Work for All.” This new “For All” standard focuses on how companies “maximize human potential…to create a positive experience for all employees.”
Recently, APCO Insight’s own research brought us to the same conclusion. While Fortune was restructuring its methodology around an inclusive framework of employee fulfillment, we were conducting research among 1,000 hyper-aware and influential consumers that pay close attention to corporate behavior to better understand expectations for corporate citizenship in a world where, as Fortune puts it, “government leaders have squandered their moral authority and public trust in corporate America is low.” And though we started in different places, we ended with the same conclusion as Fortune – “Leaders need to show that their companies are good global citizens,” a value our research indicated is best demonstrated through their action towards their employees.
From these hyper-aware and influential consumers watching corporate behavior and for Fortune’s Great Places to Work survey, we learned that employees are the centerpiece to any true expression of commitment to global citizenship. When asked in our survey what the most important thing a company can do when it comes to being “good to society,” hyper-aware and influential consumers say good treatment of employees is number one. This wins out over the perhaps more immediately obvious choices of philanthropic giving or raising awareness on a social issue.
Further, in our survey 94% agree that a company that goes above and beyond in the way it treats its employees probably goes above and beyond in other aspects of business as well. In other words, the way companies treat their employees is viewed as symbolic of how the company is run, a litmus test for external stakeholders to determine a business’ quality. No surprise then that Fortune’s top 100 best places to work are also some of the best performing companies when it comes to business measures.
Though hyper-aware and influential consumers differ on which important issues a company should take on, the way companies take a stand matters. Not only should the action be big enough to truly resonate, internal actions are also viewed very favorably. Our data suggests it’s important to include internal actions as a critical starting point when addressing large-scale social issues. Internal policy changes or internal action demonstrate the company’s commitment to their values and to their employees’ lives and must be a piece of any company’s corporate advocacy strategy if they hope to be viewed as authentic.
Turns out the real secret to success is no secret at all – a great company begins with its employees, creating a positive environment for the people that drive the company forward. Corporate actors that do this are recognized 1) internally by their workers who will stay to build their careers; 2) externally by hyper-aware consumers acting with their voices and wallets; and 3) influential outlets like Fortune. It’s a win-win-win.