Defining a Great Place to Work

March 1, 2003


Defining a Great Place to Work

Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen;
pour myself a cup of ambition,
and yawn, and stretch, and try to come to life.
Jump in the shower, and the blood starts pumping;
out on the street, the traffic starts jumping,
with folks like me on the job from nine to five.
-"9 to 5," © Dolly Parton

What is it about a company that makes it a great place to work? Is it your co-workers? The work itself? The location? The compensation? What role does an employer play in turning a "job" into more than just that thing you do every day?

The answer, we know, is complicated-there is not one single attribute that distinguishes a great employer from one that's not so desirable to work for. But some factors can and do make a difference-and we'd like to know just what architects and designers think about the employment strategies of the firms they work for. So we've decided to tackle the subject and all its related issues head-on in our June 2003 issue. We have launched an industry-wide call to action-asking all A & D firms to participate in our "Best Firms to Work For" survey.

Be advised however: the survey is not for the faint of heart. The first part, to be completed by a human resource employee or senior manager, includes questions relating to a wide range of objective criteria: business structure and activities, employee demographics, salary/compensation and benefits programs. The second part is more subjective in nature and requires firm personnel-the number will depend upon the size of the firm-to tell us about their own personal experiences with the firm, its leadership, its culture, its treatment of employees and its role within the industry and the community. Questions we'll be asking include:

  • Describe your workplace: What is a typical day like? What are the normal working hours? Do most people work individually or in teams?
  • What adjectives best describe your firm's culture?
  • How would you describe the leadership skills of senior management?
  • Please explain your firm's "integrity" factor: Does it deal with its employees in a credible and trustworthy manner? Are all employees treated fairly and impartially? Does management express tangible support for employees' concerns?
  • How does your firm respond to concerns regarding
    balancing work life/personal life issues?
  • How do you feel your firm is making a difference?
  • How does management keep staff connected to its mission and vision?
  • What do you like best about working for this firm?
  • What are the drawbacks of working for this firm? 

If you're ready to take the challenge, the first thing you need to do is write a brief description of the reasons why you believe your firm is a great place to work and e-mail it to: ksosnowchik @lcclark. In turn, we will send you a comprehensive survey and complete guidelines for participating in our First Annual Best Firms to Work For issue. But don't delay: the deadline for requesting an application is March 26, 2003.

Our objective is to highlight the best practices of employers in the A & D field, thus providing examples for others to follow. Especially in these tough economic times when employers are keeping a tight rein on budgets for salaries and fringe benefits, we're hoping the results of this survey will highlight some of the more creative strategies being implemented that reward and motivate employees to do their very best work-and encourage them to have fun while doing so.

"You've achieved success in your field when you don't know whether what you're doing is work or play," said actor Warren Beatty.

Who can argue with that? And who wouldn't want to work for a firm that feels the same way?

Katie Sosnowchik
Editorial Director

Next, pick up the newspaper and read the headlines that tell about the heartbreaking events happening in the world today-events that cry out for solutions in order to halt the madness.

Finally, ask yourself: What can I do?

"I am only one, but still I am one," said Helen Keller. "I cannot do everything, but still I can do something."

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