Identifying Great Places to Work: A Systems Framework

Mary E. Henderson

Abstract


Everyday life in the United States of America is infused with contact with organizations and a majority of adult citizens spend a large percentage of their working lives associated with them. With this much time invested, the working environment can have a significant influence on an individual’s well-being. Therefore, it is important that organizations provide fulfilling work environments for their employees. An analysis of Fortune magazine’s 100 Great Places to Work For listing provided clues that working environments are more satisfactory if the organization encouraged closeness, camaraderie, and trust among its employees. Closeness, camaraderie, and trust are attributes of effective groups, yet great places to work were identified largely through an aggregate of individual responses. This paper concentrated on the group dynamics inherent in organizations and their effect on how an organization was perceived as a great place to work by its employees. Using living systems theory combined with a systems approach to understanding organizations, nine characteristics common to both groups and organizations were identified. It was shown that the common attributes are expressed in a limited range in groups while organizations can tolerate a much wider expression of the factors. A framework was developed combining the  nine characteristics common to both groups and organizations to provide insights into group dynamics present in organizations. Organizations that encourage group processes appeared to be considered superior places to work. Unlocking the secrets to aligning the interest of corporations and employees has primarily focused on individual responses. This study concentrated on organizations themselves as units of analyses and showed that group characteristics within organizations have a strong influence on how the organization is perceived by its employees.


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