Burnout and unhappiness at work is higher now than it was at the height of COVID, a new study backed by Slack and Boston Consulting Group recently found. Upwards of 40% of knowledge workers and those with desk jobs report being burnt out, according to the report.
The natural response is for these employees to start a new job search. But there is an inherent problem: Just about every company out there, regardless of size, is quick to plaster “Great Place To Work” or “Best Office Culture” superlatives across their website and career pages.
While those phrases sound great, how can you actually tell what they mean? And what can companies do to actually prove to job recruits that they are indeed a great place to work?
Here were her main takeaways from talking with us:
LOOK BEYOND THE WALLS
“People talk about the culture [of an organization] like fish in water. The water is the culture all around you. There are artifacts that give you clues,” Stokes said. “When you’re in a physical place, look beyond what is hanging on the walls. Look at how the rooms are set up and how people work together.”
Many people might only be looking at remote-first roles today, which can make assessing company culture a bit more difficult. But for in-person or hybrid roles, the ‘looking beyond the walls’ concept can give you a good idea of whether or not the company has built a collaborative environment. The attention (or lack of it) to the physical space provides evidence about the culture; when there is intentional design for collaboration that demonstrates support and expectation for a collaborative culture.
But also take a look around at the leadership team to get a sense of what Stokes calls “work-life integration.”
She intentionally doesn’t call it ‘work-life balance,’ since employees are “constantly flexing and integrating” work into their daily lives in different ways. To best understand how work integrates into life at a company, Stokes said it is important to see how the leadership team values their health and their wellbeing in order to gain critical insight into the way the company expects employees to operate.
A ‘Best Place to Work’ will have plenty of opportunities for personal and professional development, said Stokes.
During the interview process, Stokes said it is important to ask about classic leadership development opportunities as well as “extracurricular opportunities” that will allow you to flex your leadership abilities.
But it is also important to ask how exactly a company actually talks about those leadership opportunities.
“It is crucial to look at how an organization thinks about internal communication. Are they doing smaller meetings or town halls? Are they sending out newsletters or video messages to keep employees informed? And importantly, are organizations still being transparent about DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging),” Stokes added. “I think the best organizations continue to be attentive to communication as a way to engage. It’s not just one-way communication.”
I said my company was “great.” Now what?
Over her career at CNEXT, Stokes has worked with leadership teams and some of the most high-profile companies like Nike, Pinterest, The Coca-Cola Company, Raytheon Technologies, Post Holdings, Corning, the Boston Consulting Group and others.
While working with organizations’ leaders, Stokes said companies that prioritize employee “flexibility and autonomy” are often able to retain and recruit top talent.
So how can a company prove that they focus on flexibility and autonomy?
“That can be done by pushing decision making down to the lowest and most appropriate level so that you don’t have micromanagement and you don’t have things constantly being escalated up to senior leadership,” she added.