What today’s top companies are doing right

We’ve been hearing lots of talk about ‘agile’ and ‘innovative’ companies over the last few years. These are the companies that seem to be the game-changers in terms of product development and organisational structure. However, there are also many companies out there that are using all the right buzz words but aren’t backing it up with results.

The terminology itself is not that important. What matters is what companies do every day to benefit their clients, employees and other stakeholders.

Ian Williamson is a globally recognized expert on human resource management and is the Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Business School at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand. Professor Williamson was recently a keynote speaker at the World of Business Ideas Forum in Sydney where he was asked to share his thoughts on the attributes of todays’ high-performing organisations.

Professor Williamson emphasised that that ‘command and control’ structures are almost a thing of the past. Decentralisation, democratic decision-making, and having the right people on board are now the key factors that affect how well organisations perform overall. All these factors are based on trust.

Robert Levering, Co-founder of Great Place to Work, says:

“From studying the world’s best workplaces, we have learned that trust is the key differentiator. This applies to all organisations regardless of national culture, industry, size or age. By raising the level of trust in the workplace, companies everywhere can improve their business results since cooperation and innovation depend on trust.”

Who are the top companies in Australia to work for?

So, who are the companies that are leading the way in Australia today?

Employer branding and reviews platform, JobAdvisor, creates an annual list of the ‘coolest’ companies to work for in 4 categories – Tech, Finance, SMB, and Diversity. They look for organisations that deliver outstanding products, customer service, employee benefits, a unique and diverse culture, and are ‘killing’ their market.

The 2016 winners were:

·      Coolest in Tech – Canva
·      Coolest in Finance – WorldFirst
·      Coolest SMB – Splend
·      Coolest for Diversity - Evanto

LinkedIn also provide a list of top places to work in its list (for organisations with over 500 employees), Top Companies – 2017 – Where Australia Wants to Work Now.

The standout here was PriceWaterhouse Coopers Australia, who were noted for their generous perks and vibrant workplace culture. Dana McCauley from news.com.au noted that, until recently, PWC had a very conservative corporate culture but they have turned that approach right around with the aim of attracting and retaining great talent.

It’s no secret that the organisations that are leading their industries are the ones that are putting people first – their customers and their employees.

What are top companies doing for their customers?

We’ve all come across businesses that seem to view their customers as annoying distractions preventing them from getting their ‘real’ work done. Chances are that those businesses are not likely to be around much longer.

It doesn’t matter if the ‘customer’ is a corporate client, a patient or another form of end-user. They (we) are the ones that consume the final product or service so every decision needs to be framed by the question, “How will this benefit my customer?”

·      Do we fully understand our customers’ past, present and future needs?
·      Do our products address unmet needs?
·      Do we offer great value?
·      Have we consulted potential consumers during the design process and listened to their feedback?
·      Do we regularly review and update our products?
·      Do we provide outstanding customer service with streamlined infrastructure?
·      Can our customers interact with us via multiple platforms?
·      Do we deliver on our promise?

“Getting closer to customers is not just a matter of installing a better CRM system or of finding a more effective way to measure and increase customer satisfaction levels. Tools and technology are important. But they’re not enough. That’s because getting close to customers is not so much a problem the IT or marketing department needs to solve as a journey that the whole organization needs to make.”

Gulati, R & Oldroyd, J, The Quest for Customer Focus, (Harvard Business Review, April 2005)

What are top companies doing for their employees and contractors?

Being people-focused doesn’t stop at customers, though. The people who make the business tick also need to be well-looked after in order for an organisation to be successful in the long-term.

Focusing on individuals

One of the biggest changes in business over the last decade is the recognition that employees are real people with individual needs and a life away from the office. The companies driving this change are those that allow flexible working options. These include:

·      Flexible hours.
·      The option to work in different locations.
·      An office layout that allows individuals and teams to work at their best.
·      Having the systems in place to manage these options efficiently and effectively.

Mark Dixon, CEO and Co-Founder of Regus shared how his organisation has embraced a flexible working structure in his article ‘How businesses can adapt to the flexible working trend’.

Employee benefits are another priority for top businesses. Richard Branson’s Virgin empire allow employees to have unlimited leave – trusting them to manage their own time and work commitments.

Great companies hire people for their mindset and experience regardless of their age, gender or cultural background. They encourage individuals to use their initiative instead of micromanaging them or making them fearful of sharing ideas.

Focusing on teams

Today’s successful businesses also focus heavily on the power of the team. Organisations don’t have to be 100% agile to be great. Teams come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, the design-based teams are agile while other areas, such as finance and HR, might have a more traditional structure. As long as their resources and systems are complimentary and their core values are aligned, a mixed structure can still work well.

What is important is that teams can come together to experiment, reflect and respond to change easily. Teams also need to have members with a rich cross-section of skills and experience so they can share ideas and learn from each other. Above all, they need to have the power to make appropriate decisions without interference.

What to look for in a potential employer

If you are looking for work with a high-performing company, it’s essential to do your homework first and consider these factors.

·      Look at their recent and long-term performance. Have they adapted well to change?

·      Do they rely on a healthy economy or can they flourish in shaky economic periods by following their own sound strategies?

·      Do they have a great corporate culture? How well do they look after their people?

·      What do others say about them and what do they say about themselves on LinkedIn and other platforms?

Warning signs

Some job opportunities may look great on the surface but when you dig a little deeper, things could look a little murky. You want to know if companies are really doing what they say they are doing.

Are they using the language but not walking the talk? Does their company culture match their brand?

Are they avoiding change altogether?

The organisations to watch out for are those that are constantly evolving. They are the ones that will still be around in 10, 20 or even 50 years. Are you ready to join them on their journey?

To help you keep up with the changes in work culture and gain practical advice on your career development, be sure to visit The Mentor List website. Every week you can read inspiring articles and hear interviews with some of the world’s top business minds to help you reach your full potential.