Last Word: Building Greatness Takes Time – and a Lot of Hard Work

Of all the conferences I attend throughout the year, few speak to the powerfully positive impact work can have on us than Great Place to Work.

Although most people associate Great Place to Work with the annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list that Fortune magazine publishes from each year, they also put on an annual conference where they get a number of the companies they honor to talk about just what it is that makes them such great places.

I was impressed with the speakers the first time I attend back in 2014 in New Orleans, and I’m getting the same vibe this week in San Diego where Great Place is putting on this year’s event.

Michael Bush, the CEO of Great Place to work, spelled it out in his remarks that kicked off the event. His organization, he said, is “dedicated to creating a better society by helping companies transform their workplaces for all.”

What makes great companies tick?

That larger philosophy to help better our workplaces is evident in the speakers they have speaking at the event. Some of the Day 1 speakers included:

  • Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy, who talked about how he has worked to build to GoDaddy culture and evolve the company because, “every employee needs to feel like they have a ticket to ride.” And he added that, “hiring for culture is just as important as hiring for talent.”
  • Edith Cooper, Global Head of Human Capital Management at Goldman Sachs, who talked about the incredible focus Goldman Sachs has on building and growing their workforce. She said, “The secret sauce is (our) apprenticeship culture (and how) leaders use opportunities to connect with people.”
  • Dr. James Downing, President and CEO, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who talked about how he helps to lead and constantly transform an organization that “is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.”

Dr. Downing’s presentation was particularly poignant given that St. Jude’s mission, as set out by it’s founder, entertainer Danny Thomas:

To advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.”

A conference with a big difference

As CEO, Dr. Downing stressed how part of his focus is to “foster an environment for people to do their best work,” and that’s particularly important given that everything the hospital does is centered around helping sick children and giving them hope — as well as great medicine.

This makes St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital a place where employees really embrace the fact that they are making a difference in the lives of a great many children. As Dr. Downing pointed out:

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St. Jude’s employees feel a deep sense of connection to the work and care given at the individual team and organizational levels, driving a supportive environment they look forward to coming to each day.”

That’s what makes the Great Place to Work event so different. It’s a conference that celebrates the best things companies do to truly celebrate what so many organizations say what rarely do, and is to make sure that people are their most important resource.

That’s what the event is all about: hearing leaders from great companies tell just what it is that makes them so great.

Building greatness takes time

And what jumps out at you when you hear people like St Jude’s Dr. James Downing talk is that it isn’t one thing that makes these companies great, but a lot of small things that build on each other over a period of time.

Building greatness isn’t easy and it isn’t something you can do quickly. It takes time, effort and most of all, dedication to greatness and service to get it right.

Sound like a conference for you? It only is if you and your organization are truly driven to be great. That’s what Great Place to Work is all about.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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