3 Reasons Google and Other Fortune 500 Companies Have Great Workplace Cultures

It is no coincidence that many of the most profitable companies in the world also have the happiest, most engaged employees and the most positive workplace cultures. Google, Starbucks, Whole Foods Market and Aflac top the list of the eighteen best Fortune 500 companies to work for in part due to a dedication to making their workplaces great ones.

How did these large corporations create such an amazing workplace culture? What can we learn from them?

George Bradt, Contributor for Forbes, isolated three things that these eighteen companies all seem to do extremely well to make their employees loyal and happy.

They Clearly Demonstrate Their Appreciation for Employees

A quick display of appreciation can go a long way. It doesn’t even have to cost a penny or take more than two minutes of your time. The ways that you can show appreciation for your team are quite diverse.

There is the unconventional. Google gives out 100,000 hours worth of free massages to employees over a one-year period. Then there’s the free. The vice chair of NetApp calls 10-20 employees a day to tell them that they are doing a good job.

Other companies such as Qualcomm hold internal tech conferences to foster a sharing of knowledge and ideas. Administering safety bonuses, personalizing notes, booking special luncheons, recognizing and supporting diversity, offering low-cost insurance for part-time employees and setting up health and wellness centers are other interesting ways that companies say “we appreciate you!”

Takeaway: Showing appreciation for your employees can take a wide variety of forms and fit into any budget. Consistency is the key with appreciation programs.

They Give Employees Access to Leadership and Information

The tie between being a good place to work and consistent employee appreciation is quite logical, but this next theme might not be as obvious. Bradt finds that granting employees open access to senior leadership and company information is the second most common way that companies make their employees happy.

John Richels of Devon Energy said he gives his employees time with senior executives as often as possible. Whole Foods empowers employees in very unique ways. Employees have the option to vote on new hires, take field trips to visit suppliers and even view the salary of every employee in the company!

CarMax CEO Tom Folliard is known for mingling at town hall meetings and steak cookouts. CHWM Hill CEO Lee McIntire takes it to a new level. He posts his personal development plan on the company intranet!

Takeaway: Break down the barriers and allow communication to flow freely in your organization. Your executives should be accessible and open to suggestions from all levels. Transparency can also be important for companies that pride themselves on their integrity.

They Reward Employees for Their Achievements

Rewarding employees for their achievements is something that should always be a priority. At EOG, every employee is given stock. Not only is the stock a nice reward, but it is also a way to give an employee more reason to care about the success of the company. Their stock has risen 500% in the past decade, so it appears to be working.

Starbucks gives benefits and stock options to all employees who work at least twenty hours per week. The company culture emphasizes how it is possible for all employees to move up the ladder.

Other companies give their top performing employees travel incentives, merchandise and gift cards.

Takeaway: Employees who are rewarded and have a stake in the success of the company will typically perform at higher levels.

Is your company doing a particularly good job in any of these three areas? Feel free to share other ways your company has been successful in showing appreciation, granting access and rewarding your employees by commenting below. Also, please feel free to send me an email at khewkin@jnrcorp.com for more suggestions or to sign up for our newsletter.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Kristopher Hewkin


JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo: “google_logo” by keso s is licensed under CC By 2.0

Was Sochi the Birthplace of Incentive Travel?

Although most of us first heard of Sochi when it was announced that Russia had won their bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, it has long held the title of Russia’s largest resort town. However, Sochi may be the holder of another title – the birthplace of incentive travel.

The mild weather and coastal location are just a two of the reasons that Sochi is referred to as the “Russian Riviera” and make it a perfect destination for Russian employees to get a little rest and relaxation. Situated between the warm waters of the Black Sea and the picturesque Caucasus Mountains, this city has waterfalls, botanical gardens and even a year-round circus, but it is its sanatoriums that have caught our eye.

Although sanatoriums have different meanings and uses throughout the world, in Russia and particularly Sochi, these establishments are designed as health retreats.  Built in the early 1900s for Russia’s elite, it was Joseph Stalin who made Sochi a popular and fashionable summer destination. In the mid 20th century, sanatoriums were created for those in high Soviet society. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, sanatoriums had opened their doors to workers and peasants who received vouchers, ‘Putyovkas’, for all-inclusive trips to Sochi as a reward for their hard work.  Was this the birth of incentive travel?

Much like the incentive trips of today, these vouchers for up to 24 days in Sochi, were highly prized and not only viewed as a reward for those who worked hard, but were also implemented to increase productivity. Participants and their families would travel from all over Russia and utilize the sanatorium that aligned with their industry, whether they were metalworkers, miners or party elite.

This tradition of incentivizing employees with travel has continued into modern day with hundreds of thousands of Russians visiting Sochi each year on programs organized by municipalities, factories, employers, government bodies or unions. These trips are usually all-inclusive with all transportation, accommodation, meals, film screenings, activities and health treatments included.

It’s interesting to note that the Society for Incentive Travel Executives (SITE), among the most trusted and well respected organization in the industry, did not even hold its first meeting until 1973. This is over a decade after the sanatoriums of Sochi were first used as reward destinations for employees.

Based on three different empirical studies and a review of research in the field, this system of sanatoriums and health resorts seems to be beneficial, both for the people and for the national economy – much like how incentive travel benefits the employees that participate and the company that runs the programs.

If you have any thoughts on the subject, please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email at sthomas@jnrcorp.com. You can also explore more of the benefits (including 4:1 return on investment) of engaging employees with incentive travel by reading this blog.

By JNR Corp

Written by Stephanie Thomas

8 Steps To Effectively Implement Employee Incentive Programs

“Properly constructed incentive programs can increase performance by as much as 44 percent.”

Source: The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF)

The brief quote above is the most direct answer to the question: “Why do I need to utilize incentive programs for my business?”

Deciding that you are ready to begin offering incentives to your employees, channel members, dealers, and other sales personnel is the easy choice. Implementing a plan that will be effective and demonstrate a high return on investment consistently is the difficult part.

Thankfully, we’re here to help with and pass along some priceless knowledge that the IRF shared with us.

8 Steps to Effectively Implement Employee Incentive Programs” is not the catchiest title, but it just might be the most important thing you read all day.

1. Assess The Situation

When management decides that there is a lack of motivation and substandard performance levels present in the organization, it’s time to conduct a “gap analysis” and see where the difference lies between objectives and actual performance. If the assessment proves that incremental levels of effort and motivation can close the gap between “desired” and “actual,” then an incentive program may be the perfect tool to implement.

2. Select A Program

Quota-based incentive programs and rewards that are based on quantifiable, challenging, yet attainable performance benchmarks are recommended. Awards are administered based on surpassing these goals and are constantly adjusted and perfected.

3. Provide Work Value

Incentives increase performance based on the level of value that individuals assign to their goals, objectives, and successes at work. The key is to build stronger commitments, administer valuable rewards, enable communication, and constant support that make the contributions of a worker meaningful. This is the secret to motivating people.

4. Establish Training and Communication

After incentives that employees value and strive to achieve are in place, it’s time for them to put their skills to work. Enabling the success of your employees in their pursuit of incentive awards can be assisted by offering training and appropriate communication.

5. Support Your Employees

The only way to gain the trust of employees and their buy-in is to ensure that all rewards are given fairly. Disbursing, administering, and distinguishing awards fairly is the first step. The next step is to make certain that all employees trust and understand that you are doing an effective job on this step.

6. Appeal To Emotions

The most impressive performance gains are always produced when your employees are emotionally engaged. Inspired employees who have an emotional stake in the awards and a healthy competitive spirit are so crucial to program success.

7. Measure Results

The IRF stresses the importance of measuring three motivation outcomes at all stages in the program: active choice—the effort to complete the work as specified, commitment persistence to succeed continuously and mental effortthinking clearly.

8. Analyze and Gauge Feedback

Incentive programs are like any other investment and should be constantly evaluated against objectives and cost. Once the analysis is complete, it’s time to start the process over and refine and improve to optimize results.

Many companies do not possess the adequate resources, experience, and knowledge necessary to put an effective program in place as laid out above. Fortunately, we here at JNR have over 30 years of experience repeating this process with a multitude of clients from different industries and of all different sizes, including Fortune 500 entities.   

Give me a call at 800.343.4546 or send me an email at khewkin@jnrcorp.com to discuss setting up a program. Whether you’re looking to manage your program in-house or have us provide some help, I am happy to talk! Our blog at http://blog.jnrcorp.com is also a great resource with weekly postings on similar subjects.

By JNR Corp

Written by Kristopher Hewkin