I’ve read dozens of articles, books, and interviewed many fellow HR leaders to get an understanding of what it really takes to make a company great. All have their own ideas and all phrase their answers in many different ways, but it all boils down to this;

A Great Company achieves excellence in three areas:

  1. People
  2. Product
  3. Purpose

1. Great Companies Have Great People

Sounds simple, but this is probably the hardest part. This is the area that is constantly in motion and change, and this needs attention on a daily basis. So how do Great Companies accomplish excellence with their people?

  1. Give employees the opportunity to learn and grow professionally. 

In great companies, managers look for ways to match their employees’ skills and passions with the organization’s needs. They do this by interacting frequently with their direct reports. They notice what the employee is good at doing. They find out what their employees are interested in learning or accomplishing, and they help advance careers by promoting their strengths.  

2. Create policies to ensure employees are working with people they respect.

Great Companies don’t hire people who are dishonest, mean, or lazy. Great Companies hire for cultural fit. Skills can be taught, but fitting into the company culture can’t. Great Companies methodically hire people with the right skill sets and also the right values and ethics. Studies have shown that when employees like and respect those they work with, they’ll not only work harder and get more enjoyment from their efforts, but they’ll stay with the company longer.

3. Create a Culture of Trust.

Employees in Great Companies trust the people they work for and they are confident that they will be treated with fairness, respect, and honesty. Trust is a powerful retention tool and Great Companies honor that fact. Although the employees may not always agree with the decisions their leaders make, they do trust that the decisions will be ethical, legal, and ultimately best for them and the success of the company.

4. Provide employees opportunities for growth.

Great Companies allow their employees to make mistakes, figure things out, to get good at things, and solve problems without breaking their spirit and drive.  Great Companies reward and celebrate successes while encouraging their employees to stretch their skills and their capabilities. Great Companies know that challenging work is a motivating tool.  

2. Great Companies Have A Great Product

In Great Companies, all on board are united and working together on one team to produce an excellent product, provide a valuable service, or create something that all of them mutually consider of great value. Employees all share a strong belief, passion and faith in the product. Employees strive for perfection in whatever role they hold because they value the product.

Great Companies have employees who take pride in what is produced, created, serviced or designed. Both employees and customers know that the mission of the company is enriched by their contribution to the Product.

3. Great Companies Have Purpose

And last, but not least, Great Companies share two commons purposes.

First: They all have a clearly defined purpose, a reason for being, that everyone understands and considers important. If asked, every employee could tell you the role he or she plays in achieving that purpose. For example one Great Company, Hasbro Inc. has a purpose that every employee works daily in their individual roles to support: They “Make the World Smile, One Child at a Time”. They don’t just make toys, they serve a greater purpose.

Second: All Great Companies have another purpose: To create a working environment that supports their valuable employees and rewards excellence, honesty, mutual respect, and fairness. Great Companies support a culture where people work hard to get results and where they are appreciated for their efforts because that too is the purpose of doing business. 

The books, the articles, and the feedback from HR leaders on the topic of “What Makes a Great Company” basically all end up with the same answer. Depending on the author, the order of importance may vary, the factors contributing to the three areas may vary, and the focus on details of each area may vary. But the bottom line is: A Great Company must achieve excellence with its People, its Product, and its Purpose.

It’s not easy to create this significant and powerful thing. It requires real focus and consistent effort on the part of the company’s leadership, and buy-in from every employee to create the structures, processes and systems, and to inspire and hold people accountable every day to the high standards that the company has set. To quote an HR colleague: “A Great Company is a place where employees can do great things, while having a great time with others who they like and respect, and all the while know that their work is serving a purpose and confirming their reason to stay each day”.

Eileen Graham

Eileen Graham
Eileen has practiced HR for over 30 years and has served in both large companies and boutique companies, including Disney, Hasbro, and Umpqua Bank. She currently serves on the board of directors for the EDD/EAC as well as the NCHRA. A Bay Area native, Eileen enjoys visiting Lake Tahoe, reading, and spending time with her family.Leave Comments