ENGAGE 2023: How to make a workplace great for everyone

Keeping employees happy is one thing, but keeping shareholders happy is another.

Or, perhaps, they are actually the same.

“I’m a business person, just like you,” Michael C. Bush, chief executive of Great Place to Work, told those gathered Monday for AICPA & CIMA ENGAGE 2023 in Las Vegas. “This culture that we’re talking about, this high-trust culture, is a good thing and it feels good to be in it. And it pays. It pays an extraordinary amount.”

Bush kicked off ENGAGE for 3,500 in-person and 750 online attendees by sharing what it takes to build the annual event Fortune The list of the 100 best companies to work for was published two months ago. He also shared the impact that employees’ feelings about their employer can have on a company’s bottom line.

Research by FTSE Russell indicates that over the past 25 years, a portfolio of equities including the top 100 companies would outperform a portfolio of eligible companies outside the top 100 by more than three times.

Bush’s address set the tone for the week as ENGAGE attendees dedicate themselves to making their world of work a better place.

Based on Bush and extensive research conducted by his company, what makes it a great place to work? And what makes great leaders in those workplaces?

“All the people want the same things. In Bogota, Colombia; Toronto, Canada; Buenos Aires, Argentina; they want the exact same thing,” Bush said. “Everybody wants trust. Everybody wants to work for a person they feel respects them.”

Along with trust and respect, Bush also mentioned credibility and fairness. If a company creates a culture based on trust and respect, a culture worthy of credibility, it often comes down to fairness.

“Justice is the most important thing,” Bush said. “With much.”

Bush explained that, according to the 60-question survey of employees that is at the heart of defining a great place to work, the inequities felt by employees can destroy even the best cultures.

“What people don’t like is a leader who treats some people one way and some people another,” Bush said.

Bush’s advice for leaders looking to improve company culture? Through humility and curiosity, build a strong sense of belonging and do it with diversity, equity, and inclusion in mind.

“We need many different perspectives to solve these complex problems,” Bush said. “When you’re in a room, who’s in the room? You need a lot of different perspectives around that table.”

Not every company can make the annual Top 100 list, but every company can make a difference in the daily lives of employees, customers, and shareholders at the same time.

“In this workplace, I am able to achieve much more than I could on my own. I am part of something that makes a difference in the work we do and will make a difference in the lives of our clients based on the work we do,” he said. Bush: “This way of working is great for people because it’s respectful, etc. And it’s great for business.”

— To comment on this article or suggest an idea for another article, please contact Bryan Strickland at [email protected].