Editors Notes: What makes a great workplace?

Communication, gratitude and healthy dynamics are just a few aspects of a top workplace.

Katy Smith
Columbus CEO
Top Workplaces 2022

What are you returning to? 

Return-to-office is in full swing for many of us, including our team here at Columbus CEO. It’s been refreshing and energizing to see my colleagues in-person, many of them for the first time since March 2020, when we lived in another world.  

I am convinced there is something physical, scientific, molecular, in what passes between people when they are in one another’s physical presence, and when we gather in groups. Interacting IRL builds trust, confidence, empathy, creativity.  

Honestly, I never quite realized what we had till it was gone.  

We have devoted a large portion of this issue to great teams. Our annual Top Workplaces program is based on a trusted process led by our partners at Philadelphia-based Energage, who surveyed 17,002 employees at companies across the region. In this issue, we honor the 73 Top Workplaces for 2022 across large, medium and small company categories. 

What makes great teams? Here are my ruminations. 

A culture that enjoys being together.

Make it a priority to gather. Devote work hours to this endeavor so people don’t feel pressured to trade crucial family time to build relationships at work. Employers should be generous in supporting this social networking — pay for the pizza, the luncheon, the drinks. Install the good coffee station in the office. Playing host to your employees is not a “perk.” It’s a cost of doing business that offers a big return on investment in increased employee retention, collaboration and overall good feelings in an organization. 

A culture that communicates openly and honestly.

Choose leaders with the courage to be themselves at all times. To be vulnerable. To apologize quickly when they mess up. Setting this example builds an environment of psychological safety across the organization, letting team members bring their full selves to work every day.  

A culture of gratitude.

These suggestions may seem like an episode of “Being a Good Boss 101,” but many workplaces sadly fail here. Celebrate people’s achievements. Call out successes publicly and regularly. And demonstrate that employees are people first. Say “Happy Birthday” and “Happy Work Anniversary.” Send a handwritten holiday card. Name an “Employee of the Month” just to recognize good work and acts of kindness—and don’t let a month go by without making an award. 

These things might seem small, but they can go a long way toward reaching business goals. Being named to the Top Workplaces list is imminently within reach.  

ksmith@dispatch.com

@katywatersmith