Palle Ellemann Consulting

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May 2010, article published in The Work Style Magazine by Palle Ellemann and Robert Levering (co-founder of Great Place to Work® Institute)

The biggest global economic recession since the 1930s has produced dozens of new management books talking about “the new rules of the game” and the new world order of business. In this environment, it is perhaps instructive to look at what can be learned from the recently announced lists of the Best Workplaces in 17 countries in Europe, as well the list of the 100 Best Workplaces in Europe.

Actually we see no signs of a new world order from these lists. In fact, many of the same companies we saw last year and the year before continue on the lists. In the top 10 of the two lists only one company out of 20 is new on the European lists. The results in the Trust Index® (the employee survey) are even better compared to last year and the 100 Best Workplaces in Europe have – again this year – on average managed to grow the business with double digits (15%).

One of the main reasons for why the Best Workplaces continue being so successful in creating great workplaces and great businesses is exactly consistency. Consistency and reliability are some of the main drivers for trust and this is more true than ever before. When we analyze the data from almost 300,000 European surveys this year, we see that the two statements related to employees’ perception of managers reliability are the two statements with the strongest correlation to the employees’ perception of a great place to work. In other words, that managers “walk the talk” is the single most important issue for employees these days.

This is not surprising taking the insecurity of the market into consideration. People have been looking at their managers and leaders to see if the good intentions in the value systems written on the website and the strategy plans presented at the town hall meetings would hold true when times get tough. The good news for leaders is that a crisis situation is a golden opportunity to show leadership in action, because if you as a leader “pass the test” under such stress and pressure from stock market and other stakeholders, then the employee response tends to be positive. This seems to be the reason why the scores of the Best continue to improve during these times – their leaders have been tested and proven to follow through on what they say.

So the news is not that everything has changed and the Best Workplaces in Europe have earned their recognition, because they have been the first-movers to make changes. On the contrary, the Best Workplaces are good at doing exactly what they said yesterday and the day before.