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Walking the talk of winning a “100 Best Companies to Work For” award

Seattle Magazine 100 Best Companies to Work ForLast week I talked about the “Best Company” awards dinner — where the real highlight for us was a surprise acknowledgement of our intern as one of the University of Washington’s winning Varsity Crew Team. This week, I’m writing about the secret to our success in winning the award — and what we do to walk our talk about being a best company to work for.

Tecplot is honored to again receive a Seattle Business Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” award. (This year, in the midsized company category, we ranked 13th — even better than last year, when we were ranked 14th).

We could not have won this coveted award without Tecplot employees, because each year the judges’ conclusions come from data that business’ employees submit anonymously.

Our highest scores this year were in Leadership and Communication (which is to say, those are the areas that Tecplot employees feel we excel at). According to Seattle Business Magazine (the award’s sponsor), this is what the judges were looking for in these areas:

  • Leadership. Inspire employees to do well. Encourage team spirit. Respect employees and their opinions. Promote diversity. Encourage employees to take leadership. Build strong relationships based on trust.
  • Communication. Share good and bad news about the business. Make management accessible to employees and encourage feedback.

Of course we’re honored that our employees rated us highly in the Leadership category. But ranking so high in Communication was especially rewarding for two reasons. One is that, of all the 100 winning companies, only four scored well in Communications. And, second, authentic and transparent communication has been a focus of Tecplot’s executive team. Clearly we are onto something. The changes that we’ve set in motion have been seen, heard, and felt by our employees — enough so that they wrote about them to the contest judges.

Yes, we have a bike office, so people who bike to work have a safe place to store them…and showers for both men and women. But those kinds of perks are only the beginning.

But the hard part comes next: acting on what we hear.

Nack Athens

On one level, the secret to rating highly in Communication is pretty simple: We put systems in place so we can listen to our employees.When we started setting this up, we knew that if we were going to ask questions and listen to responses, we’d better do something with them. But that didn’t mean pouring out slips of paper from a suggestion box and doing everything right away. We knew we had to avoid “flavor of the month” changes; we wanted the changes to be more significant than that.

So we sifted through the employee ideas more slowly. It turns out, doing that doesn’t have to be a big deal. We had casual conversations in the hallway or lunchroom and got informal feedback. Then we implemented the best ideas.

You don’t have to make sweeping transformations. Most of our improvements are small tweaks. But people see they’re happening. One small shift at a time, employees start seeing changes implemented that they or other employees had suggested. They see that this important to us; that we hear their requests for changes…and that we implement them.

That’s why winning this award means so much to us this year. Rating that high in Communication validates what we’ve been wanting to do: create better communication in our company’s community. Knowing that our employees saw these small changes as being significant enough to write about — that feels pretty darned good.

Just goes to show: small changes can make a huge difference. Just ask our employees.