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How to make a global company a great employer

What moves the needle for employees at the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces? Better pay? More professional development? Unique, personalized perks? Those things may help, but a sense of community is what they care about most.

This is what we found in compiling the 2015 list of the 25 World’s Best Multinational Workplaces and studying more than half a million employee responses to the Great Place to Work Trust Index survey. The workers at the 25 World’s Best cherish features such as a “family” feeling in the company, co-workers’ willingness to cooperate, and the sense that “I am treated as a full member here regardless of my position.” They also want to have a good time together—a “fun” workplace was one of the top drivers of employees’ perception that their culture is great overall.

Not surprisingly, many of the World’s Best know how to throw a party. Consider the way networking technology company Cisco (CSCO) handled the promotion of new CEO Chuck Robbins earlier this year. Instead of a quiet celebration confined to the C-suite, the company held a series of “Cisco Rocks!” events around the world. These began with a concert for 30,000 employees and their guests at Levi’s Stadium, the new state-of-the-art home to the San Francisco 49ers. The event honored former CEO and current chairman John Chambers and included performances from pop stars Christina Aguilera and Keith Urban.

Three Decades of Research

We have been studying great workplace cultures worldwide and producing best workplace lists for more than three decades, and we continue to find that trust, pride and camaraderie are universal foundations to a great workplace. But particular components of those foundations take on greater importance in different regions and at different historical moments. To help today’s global companies understand how best to build or improve a great workplace, we examined which of the Great Place to Work Trust Index survey statements best predicted employees’ response to the overall statement, “Taking everything into account, I would say this is a great place to work.” (There are 58 statements in total.)

The top 15 drivers show that management competence—in the form of a clear vision and smart coordination of talent—is important to employees. So are what could be called “workplace basics” such as job safety and proper work equipment.

But what struck us most is that six of the top 15 drivers indicate a festive, inclusive community is central to what makes the World’s Best great.

Global Trends

This finding is in keeping with a number of social and economic trends affecting the global landscape.

  • The millennial generation’s highly “social” character. A 2013 global study of the millennial generation by consulting firm PwC, the University of Southern California, and the London Business School found that “Millennials place a high priority on workplace culture and desire a work environment that emphasizes teamwork and a sense of community.”
  • The rise of collaboration. The way work is increasingly done by teams of people also helps explain the importance of camaraderie and community among the World’s Best. When people know and enjoy their colleagues, joint projects tend to be done with greater ease and satisfaction.
  • A hunger for personal connection. Workplace bonds may be important at the World’s Best in part because of the atomization of society in many parts of the globe. In other words, a sense of community at work may be of growing value to people as traditional family and community ties fray.

Company communities that are friendly, fair and fun not only fuel employee perceptions that their workplace is great, but foster better business results. Overall, the 2015 World’s Best Workplaces are the latest sign that a high-trust culture is a competitive advantage. Company after company on the list of 25 is at or near the top of their industries, from #1-ranked Google (GOOG) to professional services giant EY to hospitality companies Marriott (MAR), Hyatt (H) and Accor, to retailer H&M. We see these global companies and other best workplaces in countries around the world as the vanguard of a more hopeful economic era defined by great workplaces for all.

The Big Picture

Great workplaces care about individual employees. They provide fair pay, good training opportunities and benefits that often are customized to a particular employee’s wishes. But one of the take-aways from our analysis of the 2015 World’s Best is that companies should not lose sight of the group by focusing too much on the individual. Organizations that only pay attention to individual benefits or rewards—especially those that pit employees against each other— actually may fail to bring out the best in individuals.

Employees at the World’s Best Workplaces have spoken: it takes a community to make a company great.

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Ed Frauenheim is director of global research and content at consulting and research firm Great Place to Work. Ann Nadeau is global managing director of Great Place to Work. To read the full report on what drives great cultures at the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces, click here.