Building Great Places to Work

June 25. 2013

How to Create a Culture of Purpose

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June 25. 2013

Great workplaces create cultures that have a strong sense of purpose, and as a result, reap the rewards of engaged employees who believe in what they do and find meaning and purpose in their work.

A recent survey conducted by Deloitte shows that organizations which focus on creating a culture of purpose rather than on profits are more likely to be successful. Also, a company's sense of purpose is a key reason that many employees choose to work at their organizations. In short, employees want to work for purposeful organizations.

In addition, Millennials want to know what your organization does in terms of improving society. They want to make a positive difference in the world and seek employers that offer purposeful work. From the perspective of attracting talent, purpose matters, and will only become more important as the next generation moves up and into the workplace.

Purpose is becoming more important in the workplace. How do companies create a sense of purpose? Based on the findings of Deloitte's study as well as our research in the NorthCoast 99 program, here are some effective ways that organizations create a culture of purpose.

Meaningful work. Meaningful work is the number one thing employees look for in a job. Help employees avoid the feeling like something is missing in their work. Opportunities to work on truly meaningful work that directly impacts others, things, or the community in a positive way is the best way to help create a sense of purpose in your organization. Also, try to assign tasks to help employees fulfill their life goals and values, and help them be who they want to be. This involves finding out what really matters to them.

Communication. Creating purpose involves changing employees' state of mind about their tasks through communication, making them feel relevant, and helping them see that their work is valuable and purposeful. Great workplaces help employees see how their work has an impact and purpose....such as improving the environment, saving a life, making others' lives easier, or improving the human condition. As examples, great workplaces...

  • Create a compelling mission and vision; provide examples of how employees impact these
  • Discuss each employee's impact one-on-one with them
  • Use storytelling or invite people affected by employees' work to give testimonials at staff meetings
  • Use internal communications campaigns (meetings, media, videos, social networking, blogs, etc.)
  • Write personal notes to employees explaining how their role contributes to the organization's success and impact

Using these strategies, great workplaces make connections between employees' day to day tasks and their purpose, which help employees see that their work matters and is meaningful to their organization and its end users.

Empowerment. Instilling a stronger sense of purpose in your organization requires empowering employees. Empowerment can include helping them see what they can do to make their job more meaningful, asking them how they can make a bigger impact on your customers, and allowing them to make a difference by providing the tools, resources, and guidance to "own their impact."  

Opportunities. Offering opportunities for involvement in the community helps employees find a sense of purpose in their work. This can be accomplished through the delivery of your organization's products and services, or through community involvement activities, such as...

  • Non-compensated professional services
  • Donations of company products or monetary donations
  • Staff community service activities, functions, and events
  • Matching of charitable donations
  • Fundraising

Development. Progress breeds purpose. Organizations that create a sense of purpose help employees progress and become good at what they do, and help them thrive by offering development and mentorship opportunities, according to Deloitte's study. When employees grow, they often feel more purposeful as they are contributing more to their organizations.


Purpose equals profits, according to Deloitte's study. The real results of creating a culture of purpose, however, can't usually be quantified... fulfilled employees and a bigger impact on your community.  

June 4. 2013

Top Employers Lead in Maternity Leave Practices

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June 4. 2013

Yahoo's new maternity leave policy in addition to the on-going conversation about female advancement in the workplace, have prompted some discussion about workplace maternity leave policies. Research suggests that maternity leave is a possible area of opportunity for employers seeking to attract and retain female talent.

ERC's research shows that many local organizations do not offer paid maternity leave and mostly rely on unpaid FMLA leave, and in some cases short-term disability. Though, our research also finds that top employers, such as the NorthCoast 99 winners, are more likely to offer fully or partially paid maternity leave. Specifically, the 2012 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report shows that few winners offer fully-paid maternity leave, but the majority offer partially paid maternity leave - typically through either paid leave or short-term disability benefits.

Our findings are similar to those found by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The Institute's research shows that top employers (best places to work) lead other employers in providing paid maternity leave. 

According to the Institute’s analysis, only 35% of all workers in the United States have access to paid maternity leave. Among top workplaces and employers of choice, paid maternity leave is more common, and usually is only partially paid (generally up to 6-8 weeks paid). The Institute cites that only a small percentage of these employers provide pay during the fully 12 weeks of FMLA leave. Similarly, in an analysis of the employers of choice it studied, the best workplaces were more likely to offer paid paternity leave of 1-2 weeks.

Additionally, our research shows that NorthCoast 99 winners tend to be supportive with mothers returning to work after their maternity leave - reducing work schedules following leave, providing flexibile work schedules, working with new moms on a case by case basis, and offering a range of supportive benefits - sometimes including child care, back up child care, and others. 

Supporting female talent through paid maternity leave and flexibility/support following their leave is important for organizations to consider as they attempt to attract and retain exceptional female talent.


May 29. 2013

Guide to Mentoring in the Workplace

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May 29. 2013

Mentoring is becoming more commonplace in organizations, with employers using formal and informal mentors to aid in the development of their employees. In fact, 90% of NorthCoast 99 winners use informal mentoring and 59% use formal mentoring to develop top performers. As a result of mentoring's increasing popularity and the many benefits it offers in the workplace, we have developed a short guide that answers your common questions about mentoring in the workplace.

1.       Why offer mentoring?

Mentoring can be an extremely valuable development tool, especially for younger and less experienced employees, who tend to value and benefit more from mentoring. Mentoring provides a safe, mutually beneficial, and developmental one-on-one relationship for employees to openly discuss their challenges and receive advice and guidance from a seasoned professional.

While good mentoring can be a heavy investment of time, it is generally one of the least costly forms of employee development. Additionally, ERC’s research shows that employees who feel that they have a mentor at work are generally more satisfied and engaged. Mentoring can also help bridge generational gaps.

2.       Who is a mentor?

In most workplace mentoring relationships, a mentor is a senior level or top performing employee, ideally at least two levels above the mentee, though sometimes at the same level or at the next level. A mentor can be an internal employee or someone from outside of the organization. Although supervisors can be mentors or provide mentorship, generally a mentee does not report directly to a mentor.

3.       Who should be mentored?

Particularly in the case of formal mentoring relationships and depending on the availability of mentors, your organization may need to reserve mentoring for specific groups of employees such as high potential top performers, those enrolled in your leadership development program, certain levels of management, new-hires, or specific groups that need targeted development in your organization (such as females, young professionals, specific job types, etc.).

4.       What does a mentoring relationship look like?

A mentor usually aids a less experienced employee in their professional and career development. Mentoring relationships can take many forms in the workplace and commonly include:

  • Mentoring new-hires by providing on-boarding advice for a short period of time (i.e. 3-6 months, 1 year, etc.)
  • Mentoring with senior leaders as part of a leadership development program (e.g. 12 months)
  • Mentoring in relationship to a task, project, or stretch assignment
  • Formal mentoring relationships as part of a mentoring program (formally pairing mentors/mentees)
  • Informal mentoring relationships initiated by mentees and/or mentors

5.       How often should mentors meet with mentees?

Mentors meet with their mentee(s) regularly, usually at least quarterly or more often. The most common frequencies in which employees are reported to participate in mentoring are monthly and weekly (with monthly being the most common), according to our 2012 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report.

Although mentoring relationships may only be short-term, as part of an organizational program or initiative, long-term mentoring tends to be more effective.

6.       What role should mentors have?  

Mentors should be valued advisors and support systems who help guide mentees by listening to their concerns and challenges; solving problems; giving advice based on their past experiences; suggesting development opportunities; building knowledge; and providing guidance and tips related to their career, work tasks, and challenges. They can also assist mentees in networking and connecting with other professionals; help guide employees as they work on stretch assignments and strategic projects; assist them in reaching developmental goals; or help them chart a career path.

The most effective mentoring relationships stem from mentors who volunteer to mentor and who seek a relationship with the mentee (versus formal or random matching). Nonetheless, pairing employees with mentors who have compatible styles or personalities can be effective if formal matching needs to occur.

7.       Should mentors and mentees have accountabilities?

Accountabilities are reasonable in formal mentoring relationships. Expecting that mentors will demonstrate specific behaviors and help the mentee attain certain results is certainly acceptable if there is a formal program intact. Examples of accountabilities can include meeting with the mentee at least once a month and helping them attain at least one development goal. Other ways you can hold mentors accountable is by evaluating the mentee’s satisfaction with his or her mentor periodically. Similarly, mentees should have goals they need to meet as part of the program or relationship if it's formal.


Mentoring is an extremely beneficial developmental tool that your organization should use to supplement its training and development strategies, and more and more employers of choice are using it to develop talent. Just be sure to follow these best practices to ensure that your mentoring program and/or mentoring relationships are effective.

May 1. 2013

12 New Ways to Refresh Your On-Boarding Program

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May 1. 2013

Is your organization looking for new and creative ideas to refresh and improve the ways in which it on-boards new-hires. Below are some ideas, based on our research of employers of choice, that you could consider incorporating into your on-boarding approach to make your new-hires’ experience more engaging, interactive, enjoyable, supportive, and welcoming.

  1. Orientation plans/checklists which detail specific orientation and on-boarding tasks, activities, and experiences that new-hires need to complete
  2. Welcome kits or packages that contain information, resources, and aids (checklists, templates, guides, organizational chart, etc.) to support the new-hire
  3. Interactive on-boarding games, activities, and presentations to enliven your traditional orientation program and add some fun components to the process
  4. Meet and greet events, breakfasts, or luncheons that allow new-hires to meet and network with one another and their coworkers (particularly if your organization has several new employees starting work at one time)
  5. Professional information about the new employee (profile, bio, etc.) and a photo of them that is distributed to your staff to familiarize them with the new staff member
  6. Office “maps” with employees’ names and photos
  7. Personal welcome gifts and touches such as gift baskets, flowers, gift cards, cards, notes, and calls
  8. Creative welcome signs/banners and decorations on the new-hire’s desk or in their work area
  9. A “go-to” person such as a mentor, “buddy,” coach, or on-boarding advisor with whom new-hires may ask questions, check-in, and access for help as they acclimate to the organization.
  10. On-boarding systems or online tools that streamline communication with new-hires, paperwork completion, benefits enrollment, and information related to orientation/training.
  11. Targeted new-hire “assimilation” training programs for new managers, emerging leaders, or common types of new jobs (account managers, nurses, social workers, etc.)
  12. Specific training, one-on-one/group meetings, orientation programs, or educational sessions with your CEO on big picture items (i.e. mission, vision, strategy, direction, core values, etc.)

Continuing to improve upon and freshen your on-boarding approach is important in engaging new employees, and many of these tactics have proven effective for employers of choice in strengthening their on-boarding programs, further supporting new-hires, and welcoming new employees into their organizations.


April 1. 2013

White Paper: Flexible Work - Trends & Best Practices

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April 1. 2013

The following white paper, based on analysis of the 2012 NorthCoast 99 winners, as well as national and local employers, explores trends in flexible work practices. Specifically, the white paper summarizes:

  • Overview of trends in flexible work
  • Research evidence: The business benefits of flexible work
  • What top talent wants: The case for flexible work and work/life balance
  • Best practices and examples of effective flexible work
  • Recommendations for implementing flexible work

Download the White Paper


March 18. 2013

Why Preferential Treatment of High Performers is Effective

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March 18. 2013

In the NorthCoast 99 program, we find that top employers typically provide preferential treatment to top performers. In general, our research finds that top performers are consistently given:

  • Higher pay increases
  • Higher bonuses and incentives
  • More training and development opportunities
  • High-profile projects and stretch assignments
  • Leadership development, coaching, and mentorship
  • Increased recognition and rewards
  • More flexibility in work schedule
  • Increased attention from senior leaders

While NorthCoast 99 winners aim to treat all employees with respect and as valued contributors in their respective organizations, their focus often is on giving preferred treatment to individuals who are driving organizational success and results. The basis for this preferential treatment is performance.

A recent study further confirms the positive benefits of this differential treatment. The study, published in the last year in the Journal of Business Ethics, finds that providing differential treatment to high performers for compensation, development, special assignments, coaching, and rewards and recognition may be beneficial. In the study, employees who were treated relatively better by a leader were more likely to experience heightened self esteem, follow workplace norms, and perform tasks that benefited their group.

The key, as the study found, is provide a baseline of respectful, fair, and consistent treatment to all employees, but differentiate rewards and opportunities to your top people. In addition, it's important to communicate what top performance means and how it can be achieved, to provide equal opportunities for all employees to attain this level of performance in the organization. This message will drive higher performance across your organization.

Source: Thau, C.T., Aquino, K., Pillutla, M., & De Cremer, D. (2012). Satisfying Individual Desires or Moral Standards? Preferential Treatment and Group Members' Self-Worth, Affect, and Behavior. Journal of Business Ethics.


March 11. 2013

NorthCoast 99 Application Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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March 11. 2013

The following document contains commonly asked questions and answers about the NorthCoast 99 Application process specifically related to registration, the application's questions, the new-hire and top performer surveys, reports, and more.

Download Applicaton FAQs

If you have additional questions, please contact or 440-684-9700.


March 5. 2013

Responsiveness to Job Applicants Affects Perceptions of Hiring Process

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March 5. 2013

Research is continuing to point to the importance of responding to job applicants and communicating with them at various steps in the recruiting hiring process.  

A new survey conducted by CareerBuilder shows that one in four job seekers reports having a poor experience when applying for a job. Specifically, responsiveness to job applicants is a major gap with three-quarters of job seekers saying they never heard back from the employer with which they applied for a job. Most also cited that their employer never let them know the decision after the interview.

Also, over a third of respondents indicated that their organization's representative did not present a positive experience and slightly fewer felt that the company representative seemed knowledgeable. Additionally, job seekers' negative experiences during the recruiting and hiring process seemed to affect their reactions and behaviors.

ERC's research in the NorthCoast 99 program shows that communication during the recruiting and hiring process is a factor that is core to candidate and new-hire experience. Based on data from hundreds of new-hires on their organizations' hiring, selection, and on-boarding practices in the 2012 NorthCoast 99 application process, numerous variables related to frequent updates and communication during the recruiting process strongly influenced participants' views of the organization and the hiring process. Additionally, new-hires who were more satisfied with their organization's hiring practices had more positive perceptions of their organization and work environment.

The conclusions we can draw from this research is that applicant and candidate experience are significantly important in influencing applicants' perceptions of an organization and their subsequent behaviors.


February 20. 2013

Local Top Workplaces Attract More Job Applicants

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February 20. 2013

Looking to attract a larger pool of applicants for your open positions? Both national and local research shows that organizations which are recognized as local great places to work receive more applicants per open position than employers recognized as great places to work nationally.

On average, NorthCoast 99 winners receive 62 applicants per open position. This compares to an average of 42 applicants per open position reported by the Great Place to Work Institute, based on the best places to work it recognizes. This suggests that NorthCoast 99 winners receive more applicants than best places to work nationally, and the value of local recognition as a top workplace in attracting talent.

Below is the average number of applicants reported by NorthCoast 99 winners across industries.

Average number of applicants by industry among NorthCoast 99 Winners

Health & Human Services 30
Manufacturing 64
Professional Services 76
Technology 47
Other Non-Profit Organizations 57
Other For-Profit Organizations 82

With increasing challenges in attracting skilled talent, gaining recognition as a top workplace has helped a number of organizations recruit top performers. Recognition as a top workplace has many advantages, most notably validating your workplace practices, culture, and environment to potential applicants; providing further marketing opportunities to brand your company as a great place to work; and helping your organization stand out or gain attention when seeking talent in a competitive job market.

For more information on recruiting trends and practices among these top workplaces, download our white paper "The Right Fit: How Top Employers Find the Perfect Candidate." Or, to start the 2013 NorthCoast 99 Application process and become recognized as a top employer in Northeast Ohio, visit

February 6. 2013

White Paper: The Right Fit: How Top Employers Find the Perfect Candidate

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February 6. 2013

The following white paper, based on detailed analysis of the 2012 NorthCoast 99 Winners' recruiting practices, explores common and unique recruiting tools and practices of top employers. Specifically, the white paper summarizes:

  • Preferred recruiting tools of top employers
  • Unique and creative recruiting tools
  • Overlooked talent pools
  • The recruitment message
  • Is your recruiting working? Tips for measuring success

Download the White Paper


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