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What makes a great place to work?

Can workplaces be transformed and build a better society?

Kamloops branch participates in "Get Pink'd 2014" to raise funds for breast cancer research
Kamloops branch participates in “Get Pink’d 2014” to raise funds for breast cancer research

Thirty-three years ago, two business journalists endeavored to write a book on the 100 best companies to work for in America. They were skeptical that they’d even find 100 to qualify, but this idea led to their publishing two books, kicked off 25 years of research, and sparked the creation of Great Places to Work (GPTW) Institute.

Urban Systems has participated in a GPTW survey annually to gain insights into what is important to Urban Systems employees. The Trust Index survey is the world’s largest annual workplace survey, with millions of employees participating from around the world each year.

The goal of the global research and consulting firm is to use these insights to help transform workplaces and build a better society.

While there is no single right way to become a great place to work, explains Jen Wetherow, director of GPTW Canada, five commonalities found across all great workplaces are credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. These formulate the basis of a high-trust workplace culture.

While high-trust workplaces are not immune to external market forces, like the 2008 market crash, they are correlated with strong financial performance and have recovered faster than their peers, she adds.

“Trust is a prerequisite for engagement,” Jen notes. “Trust is not the same thing as engagement.”

When engagement models are measured, they typically stem from a management perspective — a one-way relationship where the employer strives to make the employee more engaged and perform at a higher level. The Trust Index, used by GPTW, examines employee relationships, as opposed to employee behaviours. It looks at relationships between employees and the company at large, their colleagues and the work they do. The model also focuses on building levels of trust, pride and camaraderie across an organization through a cyclical, two-way model.

“At Urban Systems, the sky’s the limit. It is entirely what you make of it. No one is going to pave the way for you or give you strict instruction. If you work with Urban Systems, you do it because you are self-motivated and possess an entrepreneurial spirit,” writes a participant of the 2013 survey.

Over the last eight years, Urban Systems has made the cut as a great place to work. Its overall ‘trust’ rating has scored consistently over the past several years and sits a few grades above both the average company and the average engineering firm. On April 17, the 2014 scores will be released.

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