Best Employer Award – the research

Did you know that Microsoft and Schoenen Torfs are the Best Employers in Belgium this year? Probably! Do you know what research this annual election is based on? Maybe not! That is why this article gives you a sneak peak at the scientific research behind the scenes. A large-scale study, conducted by Vlerick Business School, identifies employers that transform their workplaces into great places to work. They do this by starting off with a basic definition: ‘Trust the people you work for, have pride in what you do and enjoy the people you work with’. Sounds like a great place to work to you?

This article looks at the criteria included in the study and the scientific rigour with which the competing companies are evaluated. The research behind the annual award provides insights into employee satisfaction with their workplace and how employers can continually improve their efforts towards becoming ‘the best’.

Vlerick and the GPtW Institute Partnership

The Great Place to Work® Institute was founded in the USA in 1991 by best-selling author Robert Levering and Professor of Organisational Development, Dr. Amy Lyman. The Institute was created to translate Robert Levering’s research findings into a simple methodology that could be used to assess workplace policies and practices. The Institute developed the Trust Model© to summarise the methodology, and the Trust Index©, an employee survey, became the cornerstone of the research and consulting services that the Institute began to provide. Companies of all kinds quickly recognised that ‘becoming a great place to work’ provided a concrete path to improving their working environment and, in turn, their public image and financial performance. The Institute and the great place to work movement went global: there are now Institute branches in over 40 countries around the world. Each year, they survey over 1.5 million employees and work with thousands of companies to transform their workplace cultures. In Belgium, Vlerick’s People & Organisation Competence Centre has partnered with the Great Place to Work® Institute Europe to conduct the annual study. The Competence Centre’s ‘Great Place to Work Team’ – Prof Dirk Buyens, Kristien Van Bruystegem and Maaike van Ameijde – is intensively involved in the study and in applying the findings to help companies improve their workplaces. The results of the study form the foundation for the Best Employer Award.

Great Place to Work® Model©

Within the Great Place to Work® Model©, relationships are key. On the one hand, employees have a relationship with their job and with other colleagues, on the other hand the relationship with the employees’ management is essential. It’s the trust between management and employees that really counts. The Great Place to Work® Model© looks at five different dimensions; namely credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie. For the list publication, the majority of the information comes from two sources, the Trust Index© and the Culture Audit©. Both are required if companies wish to be considered for the Best Employers in Belgium. The Trust Index© is a survey tool which includes 59 questions related to the five dimension of the Great Place to Work® Model©. The Culture Audit© is a detailed overview of a company’s value system, management practices and policies. Unique to this approach is that the evaluation of the employees prevails. 2/3rd of the final score of the organisation is determined by the score achieved on the Trust Index©.

Helping Companies Improve their Work Climate

Vlerick Business School uses the results of the surveys to help companies improve their workplaces. In addition, organisations get two reports on the internal results – employees’ perceptions and experiences regarding their workplace – and they also gain external insights in the form of valuable benchmarks regarding other organisations from similar sectors, size, etc., and regarding the Best Employers both nationally and internationally.

Continuous Improvement

The Vlerick team uses the Great Place to Work findings as a starting point for organisational transformation. They perform an in-depth analysis of the results and then follow up with companies to identify strengths and areas for improvement and to develop an action plan. Prof Dirk Buyens, Head of the People & Organisation Competence Centre, confirms the value of the study: "We note with great pleasure the positive evolution in the points that employees are giving to their employer, especially when we compare the 2011 results with last year – 2010 was not at all easy for a lot of companies. We find that organisations are now picking up the thread again and investing in the development and well-being of their people. The figurative bar has again been set somewhat higher with regard to ‘good employership’ and a qualitative HR policy. A sustainable HR policy really does yield its fruits – it pays to invest in people."

& Rankings

Equis Association of MBAs AACSB Financial Times Economist Intelligence Unit