7 tips for becoming a Great Place to Work

SAS, long ranked high on the list of enviable employers, just placed No.1 on the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces. Here’s how it did it.

Wouldn’t you like to work at an organization where you could take a break to paddle in the company pool?

Or how about a 300-acre campus with jogging and bike trails?

Welcome to SAS, the North Carolina technology company that topped the 2012 list of the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces from Great Place to Work this week. Rounding out the top five were Google, NetApp, Kimberly-Clark, and Microsoft.

But SAS didn’t climb to the top just because of its benefits. They had to communicate globally—and keep employees happy at home.

“When you look at the [SAS] employee comments, people say things like, ‘If I didn’t have to leave campus, I wouldn’t,'” says Leslie Caccamese, senior strategic marketing manager at Great Place to Work. “They really allow their staff have an integrated life and work life.”

Here are some tips from SAS and Great Place to Work:

Speak globally

If you’ve got 13,000 employees in 400 offices around the globe, how do you reach them? SAS’ corporate messaging team uses its corporate intranet—called the SAS Wide Web—to distribute its messaging to 15 countries from Denmark to South Korea.

English is the worldwide language of the company, but local offices can put their messaging in their languages on country-specific sites.

“So that is a huge strong point for us because those countries, before, their intranets were either dead in the water, they didn’t have any, or they were never updated,” says Karen Lee, SAS’ senior director of internal communications.

Listen globally

At great workplaces, executives are willing to take questions from employees, Caccamese says. Time is provided for unstructured conversation and listening.

An enterprise social network called the Hub helps SAS make company conversations a two-way street worldwide and pulls together a multinational staff through Facebook-like interaction.

Caccamese says “this is where SAS’ incredible use of social media tools and blogs is probably an enormous help. SAS was a pioneer in adopting social tools and they can be a great source for collaboration across geographical borders.”

Let everyone around the globe in on the execs’ thinking

SAS webcasts CEO James Goodnight’s three-times-a-year addresses, and live-streams them through the Hub. “That goes out to all of our employees,” Lee says.

There’s a hashtag that allows employees to post comments and questions as the webcast is running.

Get commitment at the top

If the execs are asking how come they didn’t make the list, tell them it starts with the leadership. They need to see the business value in global communications, such as the advantage in recruitment and more productive employees through social networking that links Mumbai with the London office.

“In order to build a best place to work, you need to have an absolute commitment from the top that this is the right thing to do and it’s going to benefit your business,” says Caccamese. “And it needs to be the lens through which you are looking when you make all your decisions.”

Balance work and life

Lee says employees can break to swim, go jogging, cycle on the bike trails, or sit in a meditation garden. But it doesn’t necessarily take a 300-acre campus or a bonsai grove to make a happy employee. Turns out you get more dedication if they’re not chained to their desks.

“It really keeps your mind fresh, and it gives you that opportunity to be creative while you’re on the bike,” Lee says. “I do some of my best thinking when I’m out on the running trails here or swimming or even out for a bike ride.”

Be transparent

Among the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces winners, a common theme emerges, says Caccamese. They believe that openness with employees has a positive effect on the bottom line.

“There’s an enormous belief from management that sharing information with employees is going to help them perform better and create a stakeholder mentality that will keep the best interest of the business at the front of their mind,” Caccamese says.

Take care of the parents—and the kids

Go figure: If employees aren’t stressing out over latchkey kids, they work better. SAS has an on-site daycare, and at the cafeteria, employees can take dinner home, Lee says. There is also elder care, and recreation and fitness programs for the entire family.

If your organization isn’t deep-pocketed enough to do all this, are there ways to be more flexible to keep staff happy and productive?

“You can spend a lot of money and still not have happy employees,” Lee says. “It’s about treating them like you want to be treated and communicating openly with them and providing that transparency they can trust.”

Do you want more tips on how your company can become a great place to work? Hear from SAS and others at Ragan’s “The Role of Communications in Creating Best Places to Work” conference.

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