Top 5 Nuggets from the Great Place to Work Conference


Last month, some of the GO BIG team members attended the annual “Great Place to Work” Conference (GPTW) that was held in San Diego. The entire event was inspiring and highlighted best practices and philosophies from some of the top companies and organizations from around the world. How were their leaders creating a great workplace that continued to innovate, collaborate, transform and maintain a high-trust culture?

The team attended various sessions throughout the three days, and were impressed by the passion and knowledge shared. There were diverse types of organizations represented  from various industries; yet, the commonality that each focused on was the employee experience–and by doing so, they were a great place to work. Here are some of the Top 5 practices we learned about:

Quick videos to share information: At the company SAS, they regularly produce 30 second to 2 minute videos that touch upon complex issues in order for their employees to understand what is happening at the company.

Retention interviews as a form of feedback: OnBase by Hyland conducts 1:1 interviews with top performers and encourages them to share their team’s strengths and opportunities. Leaders are then asked to commit to low hanging fruit and long term initiatives. OnBase’s philosophy is that if continual feedback is acted upon, this will help retain top staff.   

SPARK as a means for challenging times: CEO Sharon Price John, of the Build-A- Bear Workshop company came into a challenging time when profits were down. She stated that change never ends; you’re in the process forever. However, she shared the acronym of “SPARK” to explain how she rallied and inspired all employees during that time:

  • See it: clearly describe the future if things were to remain the same; what will happen if we don’t change?
  • Plan it: describe an inspiring vision as alternative; “we can be more”
  • Action it: link it back to profitability and success
  • Repeat it: repeat the mission and own it. “We’re doing this because we can be more”
  • Keep the faith: you must believe; remind others that future is bright.

Create simple rules of engagement to connect staff to one another: Atlassin  commits to 3 rules for every company event:

  1. Create a memory that lasts a lifetime
  2. Get people out of comfort zone
  3. Connect people with others they do not know.

Strive to be a dynamic team: Cisco has spent time studying their high performing teams. One example of what they do is host weekly team meetings that are based on the future of their work. Additionally, they use check-in questions such as “How does the best of you show up in the work that you’re doing?” and “Here’s what I need from my leader.” The trust that develops among the group allows for them to be a dynamic vs. a traditional team.

While Student Affairs is certainly not a corporation, there are some practices like the top 5 above that we can learn from and try to incorporate in our environment. Some of us are already doing similar efforts to make a great place to work for each other–what’s one thing that you can commit to today?



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