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ATD Blog

Three Things You Must Get Right to Be a Good Employer


Thu Apr 12 2012


The phrase good employer evokes images of generous, nice companies. While such attributes are part of the equation, being a good employer is more complex — and more difficult to achieve. There are many moving parts, tradeoffs, and judgments that companies must make with respect to employees.

The effort is well worth it.  There is compelling, hard-nosed evidence that “good employers” are far more profitable than those who either can’t or won’t devote the time, effort, and focus required to get the “people side of the business” right.


Over the past two decades of research and client consulting, we at McBassi & Company have used the insights from behavioral economics to help our clients find and sustain “the sweet spot” – the intersection of enlightened and profitable management of people.  From this work we have developed a framework consisting of three main elements: a value-creating organization committed to employees, sound data analysis, and an inspiring purpose. (What follows is an excerpt of Chapter 7 of our book, Good Company: Business Success in the Worthiness Era.)

A Value-Creating Organization Committed to Employees

  • Great places to work also have to be places that create value for customers and owners. Only those organizations are capable of a long-term commitment to employees, which creates a virtuous cycle that brings out the best in employees — who in turn create value.

  • Beyond commitment, the necessary elements fall into three primary categories: leadership, the work environment, and learning.

  1. Leadership boils down to what leaders say and what they do — their communication and their behavior.

  2. The work environment consists of multiple components, including hiring practices, job design, work processes, conditions, accountability, and compensation practices.

  3. Learning includes both formal and informal means for fostering employee skill development and knowledge sharing.

Creating Business Intelligence for Being a Worthy Employer

  • The trademark of a worthy employer is the ability to masterfully manage the tension between employees as costs and employees as assets.

  • The accounting system currently treats employees as costs. This creates constant balance sheet incentives to reduce expenditures in this area, without regard for employees’ value creation.

  • Collecting, compiling, and analyzing data can create actionable business intelligence that helps employers better measure and manage employees, as both costs and assets.

Inspiring Purpose

  • Goodness as an employer also requires an inspiring purpose, by which we mean two things.

  1. The “for whom” question. Whom is the company designed to benefit? Companies ought to expand their purpose to include employees, not just shareholders, as stakeholders.

  2. The “for what” question. What is the company trying to achieve? A cause that fires up the imagination, stirs the spirit, or otherwise taps our better nature creates an environment where people work hard and feel alive on the job.

Good employers, then, are at once caring, exacting, and stirring.


Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring each of these key “good employer” elements in more detail.

Laurie Bassi is CEO of McBassi and Co. Reach her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @goodcompanybook

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