Three companies that pursue the mission of a Top Workplace
Every year, The Washington Post seeks to honor the Washington D.C. area’s top workplaces. In partnership with the employee engagement firm Energage, LLC, the paper surveys employees across hundreds of firms, companies, nonprofits, and associations to discover the best workplaces and learn what makes them unique.
Turns out, top workplaces are as distinctive and diverse as the people who compose them. Entrepreneurs and business owners hoping for a one-size-fits-all formula to replicate will be left wanting. But when you sit down to talk with these organizations, patterns do emerge. Last time, we spoke with three companies that revealed top workplaces don’t just serve their communities. They are a reflection of what makes those communities special.
To learn more, we spoke with another three Top Workplace honorees: CTIA, a trade association representing the wireless communication industry; Centauri, an engineering and software company that works in national security; and Deltek, a leader in enterprise software and information solutions. Each is idiosyncratic in its industry and business practices. Yet, all three demonstrate that a top workplace’s mission and values are more than just gilding for outreach and recruitment materials. When these become the core drivers of decisions and culture, they provide employees camaraderie and a shared sense of purpose.
Top workplaces align values and drive
CTIA moves fast. It has to. The trade association advocates and promotes the wireless communications industry, and that industry moves at the speed of light. It also has to adjust to meet unforeseen realities, such as the exponential dependency we’ve placed on it during the COVID-19 pandemic. To be a successful steward, CTIA must keep pace.
To succeed, the association has spliced its industry’s DNA into its mission. “We don’t rest on our laurels,” Nick Ludlum, CTIA’s Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer, told us in an interview. “We push to be the best and to do the best work that we can in everything that we do. In that sense, we are a very demanding place. We push ourselves individually and collectively to do work that other trade associations don’t and to go to places they won’t.”
That mindset has instilled in CTIA and its people with a drive to be innovative, determined, forward-thinking, and maintain a passion for wireless technology. Those aren’t just top-down talking points set by leadership, either. Those values have populated a workplace of individuals who share that drive and work together to meet their goals.
It’s a critical trait for any top workplace. Today’s workers desire careers and workplaces that align with their values—especially Millennials, currently the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. In a Pew Research Center survey, more people said they desired a job that benefits society than one that pays highly. Another survey found that professionals would be willing to sacrifice pay to find work that aligns with their values and passions.
“A workplace is defined by the people who work there. It’s not the building, it’s not the desks or the doors. It’s the people,” Ludlum said. “If we can find the people who embody our values, and I think we’ve done that, then we’ll continue to be a great place to work and a great servant to our industry.”
Values cultivate a sense of pride
Because of this, top workplaces generate positive loop gains. These workplaces and their leaders endow a set of values into their missions, actions, and decisions. That attracts the attention of top performers who share those values and wish to work for an organization that expresses and practices them. That, in turn, strengthens the organization’s resolve and attracts even more top candidates.
This cycle became evident during our conversation with Sandy Albers, Centauri’s Vice President of Human Resources. Centauri supports national security missions as diverse as space, cybersecurity, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). Because national security and citizen safety is on the line, the company requires its people to be highly educated and technically skilled. But they must also be in tune with the company’s mission and values.
“It’s really about the mission. That drives us, that attracts people to us, and it’s singular in nature,” Albers said. “As an organization, we need people who are a good fit. Their technical skills have to be there, and with that, the core values that we need in order to drive those things together. That’s where the connection is made for us.”
Once that connection is made, Centauri can build upon its successes and stay a top workplace among the fierce competition. Its people take pride in working for a company that can succeed at such demanding assignments. That sense of pride, meaning, responsibility isn’t just inwardly focused. It attracts the attention of clients and candidates alike, and Centauri passes it on to all who connect with it, from clients to summer interns.
“We serve an important mission to keep our country safe,” Albers said. “We’re proud of that mission. Every one of our employees takes pride in what we do.”
And values are key to empowering diversity
Abiding values and a guiding mission pay dividends in another way: diversity and inclusion. The merits of diversity are well-documented. It fosters innovation, creativity, and empathy. But crafting such an environment remains difficult for many workplaces. Many slip carelessly into the social niches of their management, while others may fear that multiplicity will spread disunion. Rather than reap the benefits of true diversity, they instead pay lip service to an idea in vogue.
Our third honoree shows us that top workplaces aren’t playing catch up here. According to Ed Hutner, Deltek’s SVP and Chief Human Resource Officer, among its values, Deltek is committed to diversity and inclusion. By using its mission and values to create unity, Deltek has onboarded thousands of employees from unique backgrounds around the world. Because everyone shares those values, a potentially disparate group of individuals becomes a cohesive team.
“When there’s alignment around the purpose of why we are here and what we’re doing, when everybody is rowing in the same direction and understands that these values make us stronger and better, that allows us to succeed,” Hutner said.
Because of this, Deltek will take a chance on people with gaps in their technical know-how. Skills can be learned, information memorized. In fact, learning and development are among Deltek’s core values, and the company has several training programs to ensure its people always have the opportunity. But when it comes to future employees, if they treasure Deltek’s values before coming through the door, they can find their place and purpose among like-minded colleagues. That’s true no matter their background.
“People who embody those core values and are top performers want to come to work for a place like Deltek. I think people know when they come here, they are going to be treated well, they are going to have an opportunity to succeed,” Hutner said. And when that happens? “Their job becomes more than just a paycheck. It becomes a career.”
In that phrase, Hutner nicely sums up an important difference between a run-of-the-mill company and a top workplace. While the former offers a paycheck, the latter offers a career. While one gives you something to do with your day, the other provides a place where you can express your values daily.
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