“Don’t give your customers what they want. Give them what they need, even though they may not know it yet.” – Jaime Casap, Google
This was just one of the tidbits of encouragement from the 100 Best Arizona Companiescelebratory networking and education event held by BestCompaniesAZ at the auditorium of the U of A College of Medicine on November 13.
Denise Gredler, CEO of BestCompaniesAZ, noted that in the ten years since the founding of BestCompaniesAZ, workplace culture has progressed from “fluffy HR initiative” to an essential business strategy. Five leaders of award-winning companies shared how their cultures have given them the competitive edge.
Jaine Casap, education evangelist for Google, just named #2 on the list of World’s Best Multinational Workplaces, enlightened and entertained the crowd with the principles Google has followed in becoming, well, Google. In addition, we heard from CEO Adam Goodman of Goodmans Interior Structures, CEO Chris McMurry of McMurry, VP Human Resources Stacey Mallen of Ulthera, and CEO Dr. Edgar Staren of Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Even though the companies varied tremendously in industry and size, we heard common themes:
- Promoting and rewarding innovation throughout a company at all levels. Google encourages all staff to use 20% of their time to work on creative projects outside their daily job. McMurry offers an online tool to record innovations and track progress. In the fast-paced environment at Ulthera, Stacy Mallen believes that a high level of employee engagement is an advantage to innovation.
- Hire only top talent. Chris McMurry said, “if you aren’t completely blown away by candidates, don’t hire them. Yes, it will mean you have to interview 25 people and wait months to fill a position, but it’s worth it.” Jaime outlined Google’s team-based, thorough approach to hiring; “If you want your company to be innovative, you have to hire creative people.” BestCompaniesAZ Managing Partner Lee Vikre said, “I’ve never heard so much emphasis on hiring at an event like this. You must hire great people to build a great company.”
- Frequent, transparent communication. CTCA holds brief “alignment” meetings at the beginning of each shift in order to review mission, values, promise, and stakeholder bond. McMurry creates a daily news feed for the company’s active internal social media site. Transparency at top companies means that information is openly shared internally, even at the risk of premature leaks to the public. The risk of secrecy is greater than the risk of leaks.
- A strong focus on values. Goodmans continually emphasizes that their mission involves changing the community. Not surprisingly, philanthropy is also a common theme in values-based organizations.
BestCompaniesAZ COO Chris Bartholomew noted, “there is a tremendous demand today from organizations to develop their workplace cultures and employer brands.” If your company has a strong culture and employer brand, good for you – you’re ahead of the game. Is your company one of the ones that needs culture/employer brand development but doesn’t know it yet? Maybe you can be the one to start that innovation.