What Weird Strategies Are Used by the Best 100?


Each year, since 1998, Fortune Magazine has published its 100 Best Companies to Work for in the USA. As I said in the last two Passion Points, there are great lessons to be learnt from them. This is the third Passion Point exploring the lessons to be learnt from this year’s listing.

What weird, unusual, clever insightful strategies do these 100 Best Companies use to create the culture that makes them out-perform the rest?

  • At Google, employees get free, gourmet-quality food all day long (but not good for your diet…)
  • At Google, you get free gyms, and free massages
  • SAS Institute surveys employees annually on the state of their relationships
  • Onsite child care at SAS Institute
  • Most of the top 100 let people work whenever they want
  • If an employee dies, his or her spouse receives half the employee’s salary for a decade.
  • Marriott Hotels: “Take care of the associates, the associates will take care of the guests, and the guests will come back again and again.”
  • At Marriott HQ there’s a gym, dry cleaner, gift store, day care, preferred parking for hybrids, and an array of wellness initiatives.
  • Marriott is an opportunity to grow a career, because the company prefers to promote from within
  • Marriott has a culture of mentorship. People help each other.
  • Marriott’s hiring mandate: ‘hire friendly, train technical’. (Note: research clearly shows that the best companies hire primarily on attitude, NOT skills: because skills are easy to teach, attitude is really difficult to change!)
  • Marriott has 76 internal business councils, to share learning knowledge and maintenance of culture issues
  • Twitter assembles all staff twice a month to update employees and answer impromptu questions
  • Twitter aims to do good in its neighbourhood, and last year gave $367,000 to local non profit organisations
  • Acuity: offers unlimited education reimbursement to its employees
  • Acuity offers compressed workweeks
  • Acuity employees decide who receives $1 million in charity each year
  • Acuity takes  employee suggestions seriously and contributions are rewarded individually
  • Gore Tex has no rigid hierarchy but is a latticework of strong interconnected talents woven together like a tapestry. It’s been on the culture trail since founding in 1958 and been on the Best 100 since 1998.
  • Gore Tex fights to ensure its values, that also drive culture
  • Gore Tex uses peer assessments to determine compensation
  • Promoting work/life integration rather than work/life balance, particularly by using technology
  • Training spending is increasing because business conditions are changing ever more rapidly
  • Each of the 100 Best companies has leaders who genuinely listen to their employees and craft distinctive policies and programs that suit today’s workforce.
  • “The true measure of a company is how they treat their lowest-paid employees.” Scott Scherr, CEO of Ultimate Software.
  • Boston Consulting  allows employees to take a social-impact leave of absence for 3-12 months
  • Bring a referral as a potential employee reward at Salesforce.com
  • College scholarships for children of employees at Camden Property Trust
  • Observance of The Rule: “there are no arseholes here!” Robert W Baird, Investment adviser
  • Bring employees together from around the world for one week of video game competitions amongst themselves
  • Commitment to develop a culture of innovation at Salesforce.com
  • 3 weeks of training per year per employee at Kalamazoo
  • Training that also includes professional growth, not just job training
  • CEO has passion for safety and job security at Nustar Energy
  • Open book management at Hilcorp
  • Dogs can be brought to work
  • Extensive help given to employees to develop career goals at Baptist Health
  • One week for induction at Twitter
  • Employees can nominate any colleague for an immediate $50 reward for going above and beyond at. Kimley-Horn & Associates
  • Can create individual work plans to suit life demands and can ‘borrow’ 40 hours’ time off in advance at Netapp
  • Devon Energy staff provide one-on-one tutoring to kids in local schools
  • Teksystems relies on workers to recruit new talent.
  • Southern Ohio Medical Centre does not hire smokers.
  • Factset Research Systems provides standing workstations to save backache.
  • Goldman Sachs engages prominent thinkers to share ideas with employees.
  • Staff discounts on purchases are 50% higher if staff member enrolled in a healthy lifestyles program. Whole Foods Market
  • Houston Methodist’s  CEO answers questions from all new hires at any level within 30 minutes.
  • “Employees at every level are empowered to do whatever it takes to care for the guest. We ask them to be themselves at work and trust their instincts. This freedom fosters an environment of creativity, happy employees, and loyal guests. “ Mike Deering CEO Kimpton Hotels
  • Opportunity to job-shadow peers to aid career development and overall collaboration at  Scripps Health
  • Former employees still get rewarded for referrals of new hires that get hired. KPMG
  • Company matches donations of employees to charities
  • Stock option schemes abound
  • Short term financial assistance of up to $3000 and is not expected to be repaid. Mayo Clinic
  • On site child care: “I know my kids are being more just watched but loved, educated and enriched.” Hyland
  • Focus on talent retention in many companies.
  • Concierge service for employees at Wellstar Health Systems
  • Time off policy: “You shouldn’t take time off only when you are sick; you should take time off to manage and maintain your health.” Hilti
  • Free trip of a lifetime for every five years of service at Arthrex.
  • Philanthropy is a motivational driver of culture at Deloitte
  • A culture of fairness and transparency is constantly reinforced at Protiviti.


Your next step is to contemplate which of the above weird or risky or unusual strategies would make an amazing difference to the culture in your workplace?

Of course, many of these cost money to implement, but many of them do not! And what is the cost to your workplace of losing someone you don’t want to lose?

The answer is, on average, 240% of that person’s salary!

Spending money to ensure you retain your talent is one of the best investments a company can make.

For your convenience, I am including below the first two Passion Points that explored the Best 100 Companies.


Each year, since 1998, Fortune Magazine publishes its 100 Best Companies to Work for in the USA. As I said in my previous Passion Point, there are great lessons to be learnt from them, and I have been using these lessons in my speeches and workshops and executive coaching. This is the second Passion Point exploring the lessons to be learnt from this year’s listing.

There are Four Proven Factors that have been distilled from the evidence that will make your company one of the best:

  • There is a clear Mission, or what I call Purpose: “It feels great to work for a company that is trying to solve the next unmet medical need.” Roche Diagnostics
  • Great Colleagues: the best people want to go to where the best people are
  • Trust. If team members are trusted, most people prove to be trustworthy. Being trusted is incredibly empowering.
  • Caring. Every company says it values employees. The Best 100 don’t say it: they show it in many ways.

How then can your organisation harness the power of these Four Factors? Here are some key strategies that the Best embrace, as reported in Fortune:

  • Foster strong and rewarding relationships  among employees
  • Relationships are the essence that makes culture and character
  • In times of great change, it is more important than ever, and harder than ever, to do this.
  •  ‘Culture’ is what people do when they are not being told what to do
  • Great companies have cultures that are relationship-based
  • Free lunches help to build relationships
  • Human capital is growing more valuable in every business; such people are more thinkers and creators.
  • “Intangible assets, mostly derived from human capital, have rocketed from 17% of the S&P 500’s market value in 1975 to 84% in 2015.”
  • “Knowledge is becoming commoditized. The most valuable people today are increasingly “relationship workers”.

In the next Passion Point, I will share a number of very practical action steps to implement the above strategies that the Best Companies use. Remember, the benefits of being one of the Best are extensive, and were examined in the April 2015 Passion Point.



These are two of my all-time favourite and inspiring quotes. I refer to them in every workshop I have facilitated since 1993.

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”

Patanjali, circa 2nd Century BCE

“I believe that the role of business is to make the world a better place for everyone. First, by creating self-esteem through jobs, choices, opportunities, and challenges. And then by focusing our creative minds on innovating for the greater good.”

Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi


Start to change the culture in your organisation by contemplating the Four Factors and the two quotes.


Charles Kovess CSP


Charles Kovess CSP is a lawyer, successful businessman, professional speaker and passion provocateur.

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