Authenticity. Engagement. Culture.

Marketing and management buzzwords? Yes. But they’re also table stakes. Cost of admission. Necessary but insufficient.

To recruit and retain the best people, your organization needs these things. But what do they look like in practice? How do you inventory your company’s situation and improve from there?

Recently, Gareth Jones and Rob Goffee tried to tackle this. Through their research 6 themes emerged to help define the best company to work for.

The Authentic Organization

Prior this project, Jones and Goffee took a run at leadership, reviewing the most influential leadership theories, interviewing thousands of leaders, and finding 4 key themes.

The result? Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?

Here? Why Should Anyone Work Here?

With a similar approach, they dive into organizations.

What does an authentic organization look like? An organization you’d like to work for?

What does a contemporary organization look like? The best company to work for?

In seeking answers to these questions, they studied out what people are seeking in organizations.

They arrived at 6 themes.


The Best Company To Work For – 6 Themes

To build a company people want to join and serve, work toward these 6 themes.

1. Difference Beyond Diversity. A place where people can be themselves, express the ways they’re different, and show how they see things differently.

2. Radical Honesty. In the face of FOIA requests, social media, and open information, the age of corporate secrets is over. Reputational capital is both more valuable and fragile than we expect. Tell people the truth before someone else does. Share what’s going on in a proactive rather than reactive way. Set the agenda rather than responding to it.

3. Extra Value. Add value to people. Don’t exploit them. Most work experiences feel more exploitative than developmental. Work to magnify people’s strengths, thereby adding value.

4. Authenticity. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Don’t breed cynicism by rewriting your mission statement every year. And make it about something beyond shareholder value. Become a place people can be proud of. (Click here for more on developing a purpose beyond profit)

5. Meaning. Day-to-day work should have real significance. People want a meaningful job in an organization that itself has meaning. (Click here for more on developing meaning beyond margin)

6. Rules. People want simple, agreed-upon rules rather than a “fog of bureaucracy.” And these same, sensible rules should apply equally to all team members.


The Best Company and The Golden Rule

The ultimate wisdom in The Golden Rule – I see it often and I see it in this research.

These 6 themes reflect what people are seeking – in the broadest sense and in a company to work for.

Obviously, it’s not just money. Absent from the list are “Higher Salary” or “Greater Commission Split.” Beyond “good enough” pay, people seek meaning and substance.

Diversity. Honesty. Value. Authenticity. Meaning. Justice.

From these 6 themes, the best company to work for – the one recruiting, engaging, and retaining people most effectively – is one comprised of decent human beings operating from a position of service, reciprocity, and even altruism.

One in which people treat others as they’d prefer to be treated.

Expressed in every major world religion and culture, honoring The Golden Rule helps us build and sustain the best things.

Including the best company to work for.


Directly Related

Harvard Business Review IdeaCast:
Interview with Gareth Jones about “Why Should Anyone Work Here?”

Harvard Business Review Store:
“Why Should Anyone Work Here?” Book

SVG Firm Real.In House:
2 Minute Take on The Golden Rule in the Context of Work


DAM, Denver Art Museum, art museum, best company, best company to work for

Photo note: Both photos are mine.

Somehow, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (at top) and the Denver Art Museum (immediately above) turned out to be my stand-ins for the best company to work for.