12 characteristics of a great place to work

Environment is an important part of a great place to work

Recently a friend passed me an article that listed characteristics that make a great place to work. Instead of reading it I decided to make my own list. I’ve done this in the past, such as with this post: The 12 keys to being excellent at anything. It’s a fun exercise.

But before you jump into the list…

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My thoughts on the 12 characteristics of a great place to work:

  1. A clear vision and identity. Employees want to know where the company is pointed, what the company believes in and what everyone is working toward.
  2. Honest leadership.
  3. Provides “flexible” growth for employees. As an employee of a company, you should have the ability to change career paths if you’ve proven you’re a dependable, hard-working and passionate person.
  4. A culture of collaboration. Collaboration creates better work, better results and better culture.
  5. As little politics as possible. While politics are always going to happen in a work environment, great companies have very little of it and work hard to stomp it out when it creeps up.
  6. Promotes meritocracy. Simply put, if you show that you are going to do great work, your career will grow accordingly.
  7. Open communication. Great places to work are open about how the company is performing.
  8. Craves honest feedback from its employees.
  9. A fun atmosphere. I’ve always felt that if people are going to spend most of their waking week at the office, it should be a fun environment. When people are having fun, they work together better and they produce better work.
  10. Filled with passionate people. Companies that only look at resumes and experience when hiring are far less successful (IMHO) than ones that hire people that are passionate about their work and the industry. I’ll hire passion over experience any day.
  11. Approachable leadership. The more people feel open to talking to their leadership, the more problems will get solved and the more job satisfaction people will have. It’s one of the reasons I prefer not to have an office.
  12. A great environment. A fun, open, energetic and creative environment can make a big difference in the overall atmosphere of a company.

Ok, what did I miss or where do you disagree?


  1. Dave Williams on September 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Desire to be the best, to win and where non performers are fired fast. Opportunity for growth and to move to new markets. Finally, an environment of innovation and where promotion and comp is based on performance and not seniority or tenure.

  2. Jeff Hilimire on September 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    An environment of innovation, I shouldn’t have missed that one! Thanks DW.

  3. Nicola Smith on September 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Promotes new and imaginative thinking and problem solving.  Encourages play and invention outside of  client work and brings in people of varied disciplines to offer different perspectives on how to advance the business and address challenges.

  4. Jeff Hilimire on September 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks Nic, agree that encouraging play and invention outside of client work is a huge indicator of a great place to work.

  5. Jeff Hilimire on September 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks Nic, agree that encouraging play and invention outside of client work is a huge indicator of a great place to work.

  6. Dan Price on October 8, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Man. I wish my agency had offices like that! I want to go to there…

  7. Katherine Moore on October 18, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Great list! The only thing I would add is a sense of value. If employees don’t feel appreciated, their work experience and the level of their work, in both quality and creativity, decrease. I know some of these points (namely 3, 6, and 8) come together to make that point, but it’s worth stating outright. 

  8. Jeff Hilimire on November 5, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    KM, that’s a great addition to this list. I agree, sense of value in your work and having autonomy to do your best are critical and should have been a specific item on this list.


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  11. Debra Daun on October 15, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    In my opinion an important one is the ability to be flexible when an employee has an emergency in their lives, such as hospitalization of themselves or a loved one. Also, the ability to work with those who have caregiving responsibilities is a valuable asset, as many now have that responsibility.

  12. Jeff Hilimire on October 16, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Debra. I think you’re spot on and that’s a good thing to ask if you’re seriously considering a new place of employment. Getting a chance to interview existing employees and asking them for examples of how the company supports their employees in those situations is such critical information!

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