These are the 4 key elements to fostering a great place to work

It was September 2020 when Synchrony made the decision to create a hybrid work environment. New job applications shot up almost 30% overnight. Attrition is now about half of what it is across the financial services industry.


And unlike some in the financial sector, Synchrony is sticking with the hybrid model. 

Brian Doubles, president and CEO of Synchrony, says the company ultimately trusts that its team will deliver for customers at the same level as when they were at the office full-time. And there are benefits as it pertains to retention and career development. Previously, internal candidates based in cities like Charlotte or Atlanta might not apply for roles that were designated for the company’s headquarters in Connecticut. But that’s changed with the flexibility of hybrid work. 

“I think people are now seeing the opportunity for career growth in ways that they haven’t in the past, which is great from a retention standpoint,” said Doubles, when speaking at Fortune’s “What It Takes to Become Great,” a virtual discussion on Monday led by Fortune CEO Alan Murray. 

Murray pointed out that some in the industry, notably the CEOs at JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, are calling for workers to return to the office five days a week. Doubles agrees that in-person work is important, saying “there has to be some element of in-person connectivity.” That’s especially important for new employees who want to build their network and learn from their peers. But ultimately, Synchrony lets individuals and teams determine what’s best in terms of the mix of in-person and remote work. 

Flexible work is one of four key elements at the heart of Great Place to Work’s analysis, alongside well-being, purpose, and equity and inclusion. 

“We believe that your employees’ health and well-being, both physically and mentally, is so critical to your company,” said Jim Kavanaugh, cofounder and CEO of World Wide Technology. “If you can figure that out and get it right and really help your employees in this journey, it is going to make you more productive.” 

One way employers can help their employees is through benefits. World Wide Technology hasn’t raised the pricing of its health benefits for two decades, an investment that rewards the company through the workforce’s greater commitment to the organization and better productivity. 

“It is not just investing in the benefit side,” said Kavanaugh. “This is a leadership and a culture initiative that we need to collectively lean into.” 

As it pertains to purpose, Progressive Insurance recently made a change to how it communicates its values. For years, it was driven by “True to our name. Progressive.” But today, the mantra is: “We exist to help people move forward and live fully.” 

Tricia Griffith, Progressive Insurance president and CEO, said consumers want to be connected to companies they are proud of, and employees want to have an impact and feel that their work is meaningful.

To that end, Progressive’s community engagement efforts are tied back to the business. Progressive is in the business of insurance for consumers’ belongings, including their automobiles and homes, and thus it is intuitive that Progressive would give away cars to veterans or work to help end homelessness as part of their purpose-driven community efforts. 

“Our employees love getting involved with their communities, and that’s when they will come together, even if they are working from home full-time,” said Griffith.

Progressive Insurance, Synchrony, and World Wide Technology are all among Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2023, a list that has been published for 26 years in partnership with Great Place to Work.

And while much has been made about the generational split in terms of the future of work and hybrid or remote roles, “the data doesn’t support that we have a new form of human being with new DNA,” said Michael Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work. “Anything that Gen Z wants, everybody wants.” 

What people want, Bush explained, is to work for an employer who respects them, is honest and equitable, enjoys the people they work with, and works collaboratively with a team to achieve goals they couldn’t accomplish on their own. Bush also advocated for corporate leaders to resist thinking that as a society, we can go back to 2019 as if life didn’t change. The world has changed, he said, and leaders must go forward in a new way.

The executives were also asked about the challenges and opportunities presented by artificial intelligence, which has led some workers to fret about whether their jobs will be replaced by the emerging tech

“I think it will clearly have an impact on how work gets done in the future,” said Doubles. He believes A.I. will augment the work his team is already doing, but the technology isn’t at a point where it would eliminate jobs. “The workforce is anxious. This is when I think it is really important to communicate and be transparent with your teams,” said Doubles. 

Griffith says A.I. will allow employees to focus on more complex work. “Because you become more efficient with A.I., you’ll grow your revenue and grow it higher than your employee base. For me, it is about growth for the company,” said Griffith. 

Kavanaugh says ultimately, it is in the best interest of organizations and individuals to think about how to lean into the change and innovation that A.I. may bring. Ignoring A.I. won’t help.

“It is an absolute must that you think about how to operate in the most efficient way and how do you scale your business,” said Kavanaugh.

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