How Can Your Company Be One of the "Best to Work For"?

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Fortune’s annual Best Companies to Work For list is a coveted aspiration for organizations that care about the employee experience. And every year this list offers an instructive exercise to understand exactly what makes employees excited to work at their companies. What’s the common denominator of organizations that are engaging employees and positioning themselves to attract the best talent?

The list is created based upon extensive research, including feedback from more than 230,000 employees. Fortune partners with Great Place to Work and relies on a Trust Index survey with anonymous feedback from employees, as well as a Culture Audit management questionnaire from each company, all of which is carefully measured to be statistically accurate.

No surprise, Google tops the list for the 8th time in 11 years, and for the sixth year running. What’s not to love? Luxe perks like free gourmet food, haircuts, and laundry services are low-hanging fruit. But Google is also rigorous with its company morale; for example, the company reduced attrition for working moms by 50% when it boosted parental-leave policies after finding that mothers were leaving at higher rates.

And then there’s the culture. “Town halls held by black Googlers and allies, support for transgender workers, and unconscious-bias workshops (­already attended by more than 70% of staff) help foster what employees say is a ‘safe and inclusive’ workplace at this hive of high performers,” as noted by Fortune.

But take a look at these companies and you’ll realize that while they have different missions and characteristics, they all have an irresistible culture.

And that’s something that is closer within reach of most companies than they realize.

Fortune’s 50 companies made the “best” list because of a wide range of qualities. But if you look closely, you’ll see that many of the fawned-over attributes that underlie their beloved cultures are qualities that can be created through well-run giving and volunteer programs.

The best corporate volunteer programs empower employees by letting them help drive the direction of the program, and certainly they let employees have ownership in the causes they personally choose to engage in. Employees are recognized for their contributions and offered perks like matching gifts, paid time off to volunteer and Dollars for Doers that validate their company’s belief in the important role their employees play in corporate philanthropy. Smart companies invest in their volunteer programs with an online platform like Causecast, which offers a social, mobile and interactive experience that makes volunteering easy, fun and meaningful. While some volunteer programs offer employees opportunities to travel for their causes, all programs can be powerfully leveraged for team-building, leadership and skills training, and employee development.

And, of course, we think that savvy volunteer program managers demonstrate high intentions by investing in Causecast’s online platform, thereby cultivating a social, mobile and interactive experience that makes volunteering easy, fun and impactful.

Irresistible cultures are rooted in a foundation of generosity towards employees and the world at large, and those qualities are always found in the best social impact programs. Well-rounded volunteer programs help employees feel a sense of greater purpose with their work, and that contributes to a culture of giving back that makes employees proud of their companies. Above all, these programs send a message to employees that there’s more to their work than their job.

Check out our selected takeaways on the rest of Fortune’s “Best Places to Work” list and see where you might be able to replicate these employee highlights through your own CSR program:

  1. Wegman’s Food Market - Employees say “there’s a lot of love and caring” at this 100-year-old family-owned grocery chain, where workers ...“feel like family.”

  1. Boston Consulting Group - “...Hard work is balanced by an emphasis on self-care (think sabbaticals, fitness centers, and telecommuting)—taking the edge off the usually “daunting” industry.”

  1. Baird - “Two-thirds of employees are currently shareholders. The feeling, says one, is that “everyone is playing the same game and we are all equal contributors.”

  1. Edward Jones - This investment giant...makes loyalists out of its staff: Full-timers get more than 100 hours of training per year, and more than a third of hires are internal. “Everyone is willing to help someone else be successful,” one staffer says.

  1. Genentech - The biotech giant has a “casual intensity” vibe, says one staffer. “We are a very fun company, but at the end of the day we all know our part in the mission”—making drugs for life-threatening illnesses.

  1. Ultimate Software: “The love for one another is felt throughout this organization,” one employee says. Thanks to “wonderful benefits, supportive management, and an amazing work environment,” the HR software maker’s employees feel “so lucky” to work there.

  1. Salesforce - CEO Marc Benioff is the “soul of the company” and “truly leads by example” in “making the world a better place,” employees say, praising his full-throated embrace of diversity in a tumultuous political climate. Staffers gush about the “Ohana” culture (“family” in Hawaiian) that embraces equality, service, and innovation. Besides donating subscriptions for its technology to nonprofits and educators, it grants employees seven days off to volunteer each year and has given away more than $137 million.

  1. Acuity - Employees feel “a sense of purpose and responsibility” at this Midwestern casualty insurer. It installed a permanent 65-foot Ferris “Charity Wheel” inside its headquarters for local fundraising events, and staffers can vote to direct its charitable giving.

  1. Quicken Loans - A Causecast client, where employees note that its mission of providing home loans gives staff a “great feeling.”

  1. Kimley-Horn - Young employees at this design consultancy say the opportunities for growth and support for newbies are “awesome” and senior staff don’t feel like “bosses” but “peers and friends”—the chairman of the board takes interns out to lunch.

  1. KPMG - Employees of this global professional services firm tout the “constantly challenging environment” in which staff is “empowered to continue learning.” Workers spend upwards of 50 hours in training per year on average, and 14,700 have official mentors. “There could not be a better place to launch a career,” says one staffer.

  1. Intuit - The job is a “blessing,” says one employee, and Intuit’s leaders live company values “daily.” At tax season, CEO Brad Smith rolls up his sleeves and answers customer calls alongside staffers.

  1. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants - The pet-friendly hotel chain’s employees love the support for diversity, flexible work schedules, lack of hierarchy, and promote-from-within culture.

  1. SAS - The data analytics firm pulls out the stops to make employees stress less: It offers childcare, dry cleaning, haircuts, and a pharmacy—all on-site. “They simply want to make life easy and carefree for us,” says one employee, “because that’s the key to innovation.”

  1. Burns & McDonnell - The 100%-employee-owned engineering, architecture, and construction firm is praised for its tight-knit, collaborative teams, where “selfish behavior gets you nowhere.” ...“Every employee has a purpose,” one employee says.

  1. Capital One - Employees at the financial services firm are excited about the “­innovative” ­direction the company is heading in...Staffers feel “no pressure to fit into a cookie-cutter ‘banker’ mold,” one says. “Diversity of thought and person is encouraged.”

  1. Workday - This company’s sense of civic mission goes further and helps make it easy to “find your calling” here. When “Workmates” volunteer for 25 hours, the company grants $500 to the cause in their name.

  1. Stryker - The company is stacked with “amazingly talented” high achievers, co­workers say….“It takes someone who is willing to go above and beyond with a smile on their face” to make the products that “change patients’ lives.”

  1. CHG Healthcare Services - CHG wants its own workers to be “happy, healthy, and satisfied.” To that end it offers incentives for health assessments, a free on-site health clinic staff can visit without using personal time off, and even pet insurance.

  1. Publix Super Markets - This grocery chain with a “family” feel gives staff a “great opportunity to retire worry-free” through a stock ownership plan (part-timers participate too). Hefty holiday bonuses don’t hurt either. The result: Employees stick around.

  1. Camden Property Trust  - Employees feel the love at the Houston-based real estate investment trust, where hugging is a tradition and “everyone welcomes you and your ideas with open arms.”

  1. PwC - The firm’s employees love its “impeccable reputation” and “countless opportunities for growth, travel, and leadership” experiences.

  1. David Weekley Homes - The Texas homebuilder conducts interviews with job candidates’ families so they can ask the company questions about what it’s like to work there. Founder David Weekley himself is still the chairman of the company, which prides itself on a welcoming, team-centric culture, which staffers say offers “a strong sense of inclusion.”

  1. Cooley - Employees praise this Silicon Valley law firm for its “team first” mentality and “laid-back” culture, where no one bats an eye if you wear jeans to work. “You could walk into a conference room and not be able to tell the staff from the most senior partner,” says one employee. “Everyone is encouraged to be themselves.”

  1. Hilton - The nearly 100-year-old global hotel chain earns accolades for “endless opportunities” for advancement, and recently started paying for employees’ GEDs. “Hilton believes in me,” says one staffer. “You get the feeling that you really matter.”

  1. Veterans United Home Loans - The nation’s largest dedicated VA lender has a team of “genuine, passionate, and loving people” and a “community minded” culture. More than 90% of staff give away at least 1% of their paychecks. And there’s a concierge desk that employees can call for tasks like sending appreciation gifts to coworkers or requesting a standing desk.

  1. REI - “Unified by a common passion,” employees say this co-op prioritizes the planet over profits—70% of which go back to members, staff, and community causes. People here gush that the outdoorsy outfitter truly “practices what it preaches.” Black Friday is a paid holiday, and every employee gets two extra paid days off per year to go outside and “get inspired.”

  1. EY - The firm gets rave reviews from employees for its “phenomenal” flexibility that allows staffers to “work when and where they want” so that they have the freedom to enjoy life’s little things (such as attending children’s recitals) and the big ones (taking 16 weeks off for parental leave).

  1. Nugget Market - Hugs, smiles, and high fives “set the tone” at this family-owned ­grocery chain. “We’re like the Disneyland of grocery stores,” says one staffer...Here managers feel like “just another friend at work” who “happen to assign what you do.”

  1. Texas Health Resources - Employees say the company mantra—­“Individuals caring for individuals together”—is a promise that staff “can actually live by.” The religiously affiliated health care organization ­operates hundreds of hospitals and other medical facilities, and staffers praise management for being honest, ethical, “humble,” and “genuine.”

  1. Hyatt - Hyatt still feels like a “home away from home” for employees. Staffers say “amazing” benefits ...help promote an environment of “fairness, love, and respect” and a feeling of “family” at the company.

  1. Marriott International - Employees say that “you’re only limited by yourself” at this multi­national hospitality company, where “unlimited opportunities to grow” have helped keep nearly 13,000 Marriott staffers at the company for more than 20 years. It has homed in on diversity too: 58% of frontline and middle managers are women, and 36% are minorities.

  1. Pinnacle Financial Partners - The financial services firm also landed a spot on Fortune’s  Best Workplaces to Retire From list (all employees get restricted stock and annual cash incentives), as well as its Best Workplaces for Millennials list (say hello to 35 paid days off). About 99% of staff say they’re proud to tell others they work here, and 99% praise leaders’ honesty.

  1. USAA - The venerable financial institution combines meaningful work with serious benefits….employees say they’re proud of the “pure” and “rich” mission that makes it feel like a “noble cause to work here.”

  1. St. Jude’s Research Hospital - It’s hard to find a more meaningful mission than the one at this research hospital, which aims to help children with catastrophic diseases and works to develop treatments. Employees call it “a life-changing organization” that they “couldn’t be more proud to be a part of,” with “genuine” leadership and an “uplifting” atmosphere.

  1. NuStar Energy - This pipeline and terminal operator is lauded by employees for generous benefits, perks like free gym memberships, and an average of 24 hours per year in paid volunteer time. Employees feel a sense of “community pride and compassion,” says one.

  1. ARI - Training employees is a strong suit at this transportation ­management company. ARI sponsored 126 degrees last year—­reimbursing $1.4 million in tuition. There are ample opportunities for growth and promotion, giving employees the sense that anyone “can become the next Chris Conroy,” the company’s CEO.

  1. Nvidia - Employees laud the ­“accessible” and “visionary” management at this IT company, where big dreams for artificial intelligence are backed by what workers say are strong ethics and integrity.

  1. World Wide Technology - Employees say the company’s core values, like passion and integrity, are “considered in every part of the business.” And they love the perks as well, like on-site medical care, treadmill desk stations, and the ­occasional free massage.

  1. Hilcorp - The oil and gas producer’s employees say they enjoy independence alongside team spirit and com­petitive compensation...Everyone is encouraged to “work like you own the company,” where “decision-making is pushed to the frontlines.”

  1. VMWare - Staffers praise the “amazing community presence” at this maker of cloud and virtu­alization software—that includes 40 hours of paid volunteer time and service learning treks to assist nonprofits. Plus, starting last year, all new birth and adoptive parents (including dads) became eligible for 90 days of paid leave.

  1. Credit Acceptance - According to its employees, “everyone is valued” at this Detroit-based auto lender, where more than 70% of staff take advantage of flexible scheduling at least once during the year, and opportunities to grow are “just awesome.

  1. TDIndustries - Management gets high marks: “They treat you like a human being, not a tool.” And after five years, employees get to have their faces in­cluded among the ­nearly 1,000 staff portraits of “lifers” adorning the headquarters lobby.

  1. Scripps Health - Chief executive Chris Van Gorder is thought of as a “passionate patient and community ­advocate,” who one employee says is ­“setting the bar high for integrity, respect, and mutual accountability.”

  1. Atlantic Health System - Employees rave that “people from all walks of life” find themselves with a “unique chance for growth” at this New Jersey–based hospital system.

  1. Navy Federal Credit Union - “We make a difference in the lives of millions of special people,” effuses one worker at this credit union for members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. Employees say they’re proud to “serve those who serve our country” and that values like ­“respect,” “fairness,” and “equality” permeate this workplace.

  1. The Cheesecake Factory - Leadership’s support for its people is “second to none” at the restaurant chain, where staff praise “warmhearted” management for “their amazing flexibility” and “keeping everyone positively motivated.” The company stresses employee development, and all external management hires start at a junior level to better learn the culture.

  1. The Container Store - The specialty retailer’s mantra that “One great person equals three good people” creates a culture that “brings out the best” in employees, who feel that “everyone matters” here. Staffers say they’re “valued and respected,” and they enjoy higher hourly wages than the industry average.

  1. Mars - Employees live by the company’s “Five Principles”: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom. Staffers say the values are a “guiding light,” influencing even “how we act in our personal lives, making us the best ­version of ourselves.”

What are the qualities that makes your company a great workplace? Share your secrets!

Ryan Scott