Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Life In A High-Performing Company – An Insider View

The following is a guest post by Mark Royal from The Hay Group.

What is it like to work for a high performing company? Hay Group’s High Performing Companies Norm provides an insider view. Our High Performing Companies Norm is based on survey data gathered from employees working in approximately 40 companies that are financial performance leaders.

Indeed, these organizations roughly double industry averages on five-year ROA, ROI and ROE. From a total rewards standpoint, high performing companies offer their employees a lot. But they also ask for a good bit in return.

The Good News

1. You’ll feel like the company puts people first
While organizations often proclaim that their people are their most important asset, many of them may not act like they really believe it. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Strategies, business models, products, and services can all be copied by competitors. Talented staff, by contrast, represent a more sustainable source of differentiation.

High performing companies demonstrate the value they place on their people by being open and honest in communications (65 percent favorable, +10 over our general industry norm) and showing concern for employees’ health and safety (80 percent, +5). They are also given high marks for taking employee interests into account when making decisions (66 percent, +11) and informing employees of reasons behind decisions that affect them (61 percent, +11).

2. You’ll be on a long leash
As highly desirable employers, high performing companies tend to recruit more than their fair share of the best and the brightest talent. And they leverage their talent both by getting out of the way – giving people broad latitude to employ their skills and abilities in going about their work – and by tapping into their creative ideas.

Employees in high performing companies express greater confidence that decisions are made at the appropriate level (65 percent, +7). They also report that leaders do a better job of soliciting their ideas and opinions (63 percent, +10), encouraging them to offer suggestions for improvement (75 percent, +6), and creating a climate that allows for constructive criticism (59 percent, +5).

3. You’ll be part of a team
Effective working relationships within and across teams are important for more than operating efficiency. Strong collaborative support from co-workers is vital for helping employees deliver high levels of service to customers, and an open exchange of information is a key differentiator of organizations that are innovation leaders.

What’s more, in an environment where employees are more tenuously attached to organizations, connections to co-workers are often the ties that bind and motivate.

Employees in high performing companies provide more favorable ratings of communication between departments (49 percent, +7) and the extent to which sharing of ideas and resources across the company is encouraged (64 percent, +7). And they are more confident that their colleagues can be counted on to give their best efforts in doing their jobs (85 percent, +13).

4. Your development will be a priority
Faced with a challenging economy, some organizations may be tempted to shift their focus away from activities related to fostering employee advancement and career development. But those that do are making a mistake.

As the social contract surrounding the employment relationship has been rewritten, employees have become increasingly aware that they are responsible for managing their own careers. If employees are not expanding their capabilities, they know that they risk compromising their employability — within their current organizations or elsewhere. As a result, perceptions of growth and development opportunities are one of the most consistent predictors of employee engagement.

Employees in high performing companies offer more favorable views of their ability to improve their skills in their jobs (74 percent, +10). As a result, they are more confident about their ability to achieve their career objectives by continuing to work for the company (61 percent, +8).

The greater success of high performance companies in instilling confidence among employees about future career prospects within the organization is particularly noteworthy at a time when more than two-fifths (44 percent) of the global workforce is intending to change employers within five years, with more than one in five employees (21 percent) intending to leave in less than two years.

The Rest of the Story

While working in a high performing company offers employees sizeable rewards, these work environments are not without their challenges.

1. You’ll be working hard
Longer work days, erratic schedules, the demands of coordinating with colleagues in multiple time zones, and the growing prevalence of two-career families all have combined to create serious work-life balance concerns. And organizations are increasingly viewing responding to these challenges as fundamental not only to maintaining compelling work environments but also to sustaining employee performance over time.

Indeed, in a recent survey Hay Group conducted of executives in Fortune’s Most Admired Companies, 49% of respondents cited addressing work-life balance issues as a “top priority” or “very important” human capital issue for their organizations over the next two years.

Given their demanding cultures, it is perhaps not surprising that employees in high performing companies are less favorable regarding their ability to achieve a good balance between work and their personal lives (73 percent, -11). However, they are considerably more positive regarding the work-life balance support these companies provide (64 percent, +7).

2. You likely won’t feel overpaid
Our research with Fortune’s Most Admired Companies has also shown that they generally pay less for mid-level talent than their peers (about 5% less in base pay for managerial and professional jobs). Because they are better at grooming people internally, they tend to have less need to recruit expensive outside talent for jobs.

And when they do need to hire externally, they often find prospects willing to accept offers that are lower than they might find elsewhere for a chance to join a leading company and the future possibilities it holds.

At function-head level and above, however, Most Admired companies pay 10 percent more on average – and when bonuses are taken into account senior managers earn upward of 20 percent more than their counterparts. And they tend to do a better job of aligning rewards with contributions at all levels.

For instance, they typically provide outstanding performers with base-salary increases that are at least double that of the average performer. Indeed, employees in high performing companies are more likely to indicate that their organizations display strong performance cultures and that there is a clear link between performance and pay (54 percent, +9).


People are the foundation of the sustained success of high performing companies. A.G. Lafley, former Chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble once remarked:

“The people we hire, and the focus we put on their development as leaders, are critical to P&G’s ability to innovate and compete. Nothing I do will have a more enduring impact on P&G’s long-term success than helping to develop other leaders.”

And getting the most from talented employees requires creating work environments that both motivate them and position them to succeed. We’ve seen that high performing companies do a better job of empowering, supporting, and developing employees. In these and other areas, high performing companies walk the talk when it comes to putting people first.

Mark Royal is a Senior Principal within Hay Group Insight, Hay Group’s employee research division and is co-author of the book, The Enemy of Engagement: Put an End to Workplace Frustration – and Get the Most from Your Employees.

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2 Comments » | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | December 11, 2012 by |

  1. On December 15th, 2012 at 2:17 PM Darcy Eikenberg, ACC said:

    Glad to see a balanced, truthful analysis of not only the great things about working in high performing organizations, but also what the truth is about the benefits. Too many people seem to be pressing their noses against the windows of these companies, drooling over the cultural and developmental programs and practices, but down deep don't want to invest (or risk?) the time and energy or accept more moderate pay and high accountability to work in those environments. There's always a trade-off, and knowing what's most important to you in your career will always help decide whether you're up for life inside a company like this. Thanks for the post!

  2. On December 17th, 2012 at 10:10 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    My pleasure, Darcy. Glad you enjoyed it and it's nice to see you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Mark's research.

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