Best places to work make employees feel special

Neil Westergaard

Phil Castle, The Business Times

How do businesses — not to mention individual managers — motivate employees and promote productivity?

 “You make them feel special,” says Neil Westergaard, editor of a newspaper that annually compiles a list of the best places to work.

Westergaard, editor of the Denver Business Journal, was one of two keynote speakers at a Grand Junction conference focusing on career transitions. He shared his observations about what makes for a great place to work.

For 10 years, the Denver Business Journal has compiled an annual list of the best places to work based on the results of employee surveys.

Winners are selected among small, medium and large companies on the basis of 40 attributes known to drive employee engagement, Westergaard says. “It’s a pretty righteous process.”

Survey results consistently confirm wages and benefits don’t top the list of what employees most want from their employers, he says. Neither do such once-fashionable perquisites as pool tables and nap rooms.

Rather, employers want to feel valued, trust supervisors and executives and understand how their work fits into a broader company mission, he says.

The best places to work share a number of common attributes, Westergaard says, among them transparency, honesty, recognition and managers who understand and care about employees. The best places to work  promote not only engagement, but also connectedness.

On an individual level, productive work constitutes an essential component of a happy and satisfied life as well as identity, he says. It’s evident in the first question a person usually asks when they meet someone: What do you do?

Westergaard says the best boss he ever worked for was the late Gil Spencer, former editor of the Denver Post. Before he became editor of the Post himself, Westergaard says he asked Spencer about his management style and how he motivated employees. The answer, Westergaard says: You make people feel special.