Real-world workplaces need to closely resemble awards world

Are "best places to work" really that few and far between?

Real-world workplaces need to closely resemble awards world

In the last 16 hours or so, I have been exposed to the extreme of employee satisfaction. I was part of the team judging PRWeek’s Best Places to Work entries [more on this in our December issue] where promotions are regular, kudos frequent, and massages and barbecues await around almost every corner.

On the flip side, later over dinner with a friend I heard, "I never leave the office feeling I got what I needed to do done," which can be demoralizing and stressful. On the train to work one commuter jokingly wanted to hire someone to kill his manipulative boss. Another bemoaned getting "the look" for being four minutes late.

Did I just happen to be seated near disgruntled people or in real work-world reality are "best places to work" few and far between?

Should companies think of staffers more as customers when creating programs that reward and incentivize?

Businesses need programs that find what resonates with the hearts and minds of different demographic groups in various life stages with varying views ranging from "I live to work" to "I work to live." For a company with hundreds or thousands of employees is that even possible?

Can companies evolve to a more individualized slate of perks to resemble a kind of prix-fixe menu were staffers pick a perk from three categories? A twenty-something may choose the company canoeing trip. A forty-something father may choose the Angie’s List gift certificate. Should every employee just pick their own perk?

At the very least, it is time to take a step back and recalibrate what constitutes a perk today by getting real feedback. For example, after a lengthy work day, does socializing still appeal? What do workers value more – the chance to head to the bar or to the elevator at the end of the day? And, is there consistent accounting across organizations to ensure that recognition and reinforcement are consistent and not just saved for the office Christmas party?

Do HR teams have the resources to address this side of company culture? That same question applies to line managers faced with so much work that arranging proud time is not on their radar.

It’s key to recognize companies that strive to be best places to work, especially in a sector like PR that understands the value of employee brand ambassadors and brand reputation, but vigilance is needed to ensure that real world looks more like awards world. 

Bernadette Casey is executive editor of PRWeek. She can be contacted at

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