Are you one of the best CEOs in the United States? Glassdoor will be able to tell you. They’ve announced the winners of its annual Employees’ Choice Awards for the Highest Rated CEOs in 2015. On the list of top-rated leaders who oversee at least 1,000 employees, there are companies you might have guessed, like Google and Apple. But being a household name isn’t enough to make a workforce approve of their senior leadership.
So what are the leadership qualities that put a CEO on this list? Let’s take a look at what the employees themselves have to say about the top five highest-rated leaders.
1. Larry Page, Google : 97% Approval
Making yourself accessible: "The company is amazingly open," one employee writes, describing the "TGIF" weekly forum that Page hosts. "It's truly fair game to ask anything, no matter how controversial, and frequently the executives will be responsive." Even an enormously successful company like Google can make the time for leadership to keep employees in the know. The investment of time is relatively minor, but the impact on employee morale is huge.
Having a meaningful mission: “You'll work on cutting edge projects / solve important issues that impact your community and the world." As this employee points out, the success and prestige of Google aren’t what makes workers happy. Page’s vision gives employees the ability to do work that matters to them.
2. Mark G. Parker, Nike : 97% Approval
Creating connections: Even a company with thousands of employees can provide meaningful interactions between leaders and the rest of the workforce. “Exposure to upper management,” is what one employee cites as a high point of working there. “[E]veryone is willing to take time to network and meet you.” While Parker himself surely doesn’t speak individually to every member of his workforce, it’s vital that he creates a culture where employees feel welcome to connect with senior leaders. What’s more, encouraging the formation of these connections helps strengthen the workforce by fostering professional development.
Inspiring: Great leaders light a spark in their employees, both directly and by putting together a team of inspiring people. One Nike employee says, “The people are incredibly inspiring, creative, and innovative. It is a company full of leaders with hard-working, passionate, dedicated employees who want to help better the world through sport.” Strong leaders can’t just look at themselves and their own passions; they have to think about how they will inspire everyone else’s too.
3. Charles C. Butt, H E B : 96% Approval
Fostering development: The opportunity for professional growth is commonly cited by employees as one of the most important factors in their job. So it’s no surprise that a successful CEO must make this a priority. According to an H E B employee, “[T]hey love to promote from within and have great tools to help teach you the skills you need to succeed.” By investing in developing their existing employees, H E B motivates them to stick around.
Having a human touch: When your company has thousands of employees, it’s extra-important to treat them as people, not cogs in the machine. H E B succeeds at that, according to this employee: “The top priority of the company is to give not only the customers a great shopping experience but to make the employees feel like they are part of a family rather than just a worker.” That kind of genuine connection will drive employees to dig deeper and push farther in order to support one another.
4. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook : 95% Approval
Being transparent: “It might be easy to roll your eyes when people from Facebook say how open their culture is,” an employee says, “but it's true; it's more open than any other place I've worked at.” The reason this is so vital to leadership is that transparency isn’t just some fluffy notion to keep employees happy — leaders who embrace it get better results. “I think the idea is that if everyone is on the same page or at least, differing views are heard, the company will be stronger, and solutions may be offered from a place you didn't expect,” the same employee writes.
Making an impact: There’s no denying Facebook’s ubiquitous presence in our lives. As one worker puts it, “Anything you do affects up to a billion people!” And Zuckerberg’s vast reach makes working for him more rewarding for his workforce. One employee shared their story, “Just during training (boot camp) weeks, I had tasks to change [a] very important part of Facebook's core code, and the second day after I [checked in] my code, it got shipped to almost 1 billion people. As a software engineer I cannot recall a moment I felt better [about] my job.”
5. Scott Scherr, Ultimate Software : 95% Approval
Providing recognition: No matter how good the job or successful the company, an employee who isn’t recognized for their efforts won’t be happy on the job. One employee writes, “We feel appreciated at work” — and most importantly — “which comes from the top down.” Though he doesn’t see each individual’s contributions, it’s up to Scherr to create the culture that fosters employee recognition. The same employee describes how the process works, “Scott, our CEO, is an amazing leader who actually cares about everyone in his organization. That trickles down to his leaders, who give us commendation for a job well done.”
Being generous: While many of the qualities listed above are lofty ideals, we can’t forget that a job is about making a living. Even the most engaged employee will struggle if they can’t provide for themselves and their families. Several reviews of Scherr mention his whole-package compensation, from competitive salaries to employer-paid insurance premiums to perks like on-site massage services and dry cleaning. These extensive benefits combine to make employees feel that the company, in their words, “really does put its people first.”
The CEOs on this list, as well as the rest of Glassdoor’s award winners, are certainly a variety of personalities working in a variety of industries. But they share a common thread of genuine and respectful treatment of their employees. And that’s something that’s achievable by companies of any size.