For Love, not Money? What makes a great employer?

teaching ESL

Guy’s For Love not Money piece of today, got me thinking about what makes a great employer, what drives us to want to work for a great employer?

Over the course of the weekend, in between tennis and enjoying the warmth that has finally engulfed this land, in my true workaholic nature, I took some time to browse some of those lists. You know, “50 best companies to work for”, “100 all time best employers”, “Best for job satisfaction”. You get the picture. The Telegraph had a good list, 10 Employers would most like to work for.

The list was relatively unsurprising in its results and went like this:

1. Google

2. Microsoft


4. Sony



7. GE


9. Procter & Gamble

10. Apple

Now despite the obvious factor that there are no British companies on this list, there are a few obvious things that stand out.

With the possible although debatable exception of Procter & Gamble all of these companies are very obviously technology leaders. What also stands out is that in our personal lives, most of these brands probably touch us in our everyday lives more than others as well. We use Google everyday. IBM, Siemens build cash machines that we use daily, most of us own something Sony, BMW is perhaps the most aspirational car brand, Intel is inside the electronic devices most of us use, Apple is perhaps the BMW of the electronics world. Most of us will use some kind of P&G product in our everyday lives even if we are saved the perils of Pringle addiction.

All are aspirational and we associate each of these brands with characteristics. Success, empowerment, making life better. To a certain extent it could be argued that they all reflect things that we may like to see in ourselves. Perhaps there is something that is human in these brands and the way they go about their business?

In his article, Guy spoke of empowerment. Empowerment rather than centralised control. I rather suspect that this empowerment is the reason why these brands have become what they are in the minds of the UK’s workforce. People can make something of themselves, they can gain recognition. Everyday, they can head out into the high street, see their products and say “I had an important part to play in that”.

You see when you empower people, their talents, their abilities are allowed to come through. People feel a sense of ownership, develop a pride in what they do. The work is no longer about churning out product, it is about changing people’s lives as one well known brand likes to put it.

You see if we humanise our products through empowerment, then the consumer, the user of our products and services can connect. They develop an understanding that the product was designed to help us, to assist us in our everyday lives.

But I suspect there is more to this than empowerment alone. If we go too far along the empowerment track, I suspect we are in dange of derailing, of losing focus and going bust. A perfect balance between empowerment and leadership and control is therefore likely a characteristic that can be seen in all of these well run organisations.

This is what has made these companies flagships, the aspirational companies that they are. BMW are clever with their branding but they also build great cars, cars that are great to drive. Cars are not great to drive by accident. They are great to drive because people have built them that way. What would you prefer? A car that wasn’t great to drive?

Now I think the reality is that there are many more companies who for the right individuals offer just the same levels of potential for empowerment, for product ownership, for allowing you to add your own personal touch to customer service under strong leadership. It’s just that they are not so good at communicating that they give these benefits and so they don’t necessarily attract the right people. They are probably missing a trick in getting the best of the UK workforce working with them.

And as for the lack of British companies? Well, whilst this is disappointing to say the least, I suspect there are some pretty good companies out there wearing the Made in Britain badge. McClaren, Dyson, British Aerospace, Glaxo and perhaps the most brand savvy of all, Virgin. They just need to do more to capture the mindshare of the UK workforce before all our talent runs to the US, Japan and Germany.

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