Five Proven Ways to Build a Top Workplace Culture

Top Workplaces, the program that recognizes companies with exceptional work cultures, has been in our region for five years now. Over that time, hundreds of companies applied for it and dozens received it. But only 12 earned it every single year. So we wondered what special practices or attitudes might be shared by these high achievers. Here are five that stood out to us:

  1. Genuinely valuing employees At Frontier Abstract & Research, President Brian O’Sullivan said, “It’s about being appreciative. We want people to be comfortable and enjoy the ride.” That neatly sums up the fact that better work environments can only start with a clear recognition of the contributions that employees make. Many of the other companies expressed similar sentiments.
  1. Deliberately shaping culture An exceptional work environment never happens by accident, and these companies all took an active role in shaping theirs. At Mirror Show Management (MSM), Tammy Wilkes, VP of Human Resources, said that the establishment of “core values” was what made their unique work culture possible. Kind of like creating a road map with clear cultural boundaries to guide you to your destination.
  1. Finding new ways to reward Another trend that stood out was the innovative ways that many of these companies are finding to honor outstanding performance or service. Optimax Systems has a Beach Club that gives employees access to CEO Rick Pympton’s Florida condominium. At Sage Rutty, anniversary gifts are geared toward each person’s special interests—for example, a scuba diving adventure in Key West.
  1. Building collaboration Thinking carefully about how employees interact with each other is another common theme. When Frontier moved to a new location in 2015, they built an office with an open floor plan specifically designed to encourage mingling. Not only does this foster better teamwork; it also helps make the work environment more enjoyable and socially rewarding.
  1. Sharing profits Finally, many of these companies return profits directly to their employees, but they do it in different ways. Optimax pays back 25 percent of the firm’s profits each month. MSM, which is an ESOP company, issues shares of stock, making each employee a co-owner of the business. After all, the more that rewards are tied to effort, the more employees will invest themselves in the company.

Of course, there’s no one recipe for building a great work culture, but it seems that many of these companies do use common ingredients. And that’s good to know because, in the quest to attract and retain outstanding employees, it’s more important than ever to understand what works.

For more details about how the Rochester region 5-time Top Workplaces companies did it, click here