Building a Great Place to Work

What are you really working for? CIO.com columnist Rob Enderle discusses how successful companies build rewarding workplaces, engender employee loyalty and create great products. Spoiler alert: sky-high CEO bonuses aren't part of the recipe.

By Rob Enderle
Sat, March 10, 2012

CIO — Having worked for large and small companies, I have seen massive layoffs and reorganizations, and watched painfully as entitlements were stripped in order to feather executive bonuses. In the end, there are companies that value employees and those that don't, and, given a choice, my recommendation based on a lifetime of experience is to find a path to work for the former.

Living for the 5 p.m. bell, the weekend or retirement has not made sense to me after I watched a close friend suddenly die one year short of retirement, which almost assuredly wouldn't have happened had he made different choices about his life and work. Yes, he made a ton of money, which his heirs will now spend, but I've shifted from the belief that "he who dies with the most toys wins" to "the person how had the most fun in life wins."

My recent visit to Plantronics only reaffirmed that conviction. Here is a company that has transitioned itself from an environment characterized by a typical employee grind to a successful and fun place to work. This is a place where accomplishment is more important than compensation, and employees, when given a choice, often opt to come to work rather than work at home, even when it's inconvenient. In a way it is also a contrast to Google, which I wrote about earlier this year, because Plantronics is embracing this concept while Google, another great place to work, appears to be abandoning it.

Let's talk about some of that.

Great Place to Work

There is some irony in writing this. What I saw at Plantronics was what I'd hoped to build myself someday. But, as it often works out, I ended up taking a different path.

Still, I did work for the one company that actually established a "Great Place to Work" department. This was an idea of some of the young executives who believed that if you built a talented group whose entire focus was the care and feeding of employees you could do amazing things.

Perhaps the most inspired insight was the realization that if they collected all the money spent for company parties they could build a company recreation center, and ROLM Corporation had one that rivaled any in the world with racquetball, basketball and tennis courts, a state-of-the-art weight room, aerobics classes and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. They put on monthly beer busts where employees and executives socialized together and folks like me who thought that work and fun shouldn't be separate jumped at the opportunity.

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