Workplace culture a benefits differentiator

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When looking to attract and retain employees – and when benefit programs are mostly comprised of standard health plans and standard 401(k) programs – employers should consider workplace culture as a key differentiator.

“Culture is our competitive advantage,” said David Lissy, CEO of Bright Horizons, a provider of employer-sponsored child care and back up care, which has more than 20,000 employees worldwide. Lissy and Dan Henry, Bright Horizons’ chief human resources officer were keynote speakers during the recent Great Places to Work annual conference. Following their address, Henry sat down with EBN to answer these rapid-fire questions.


The thing that most excites me about my job is … I love the positive impact I can have on people – real people, real lives. I enjoy helping others perform and their best and in a consistent and predictable way.

Also see: Twitter CEO: Don’t confuse perks with culture

The biggest challenge facing companies today is … Moving people from potential to performance is a challenge in my mind. Lots of organizations talk about human capital being their most important asset but many fail to unlock the performance of that asset in the way they do other financial assets. That’s a huge challenge. And the organizations that get that right will succeed.

Workplace culture is a benefit because … it’s a differentiator. It’s what you do, not what you say. And to the extent that workplace culture actually guides quality decisions then you know as an organization you’re making higher quality decisions at every moment of truth, at every opportunity to advance the brand and the mission of the organization. You’re making higher quality, better-informed decisions rooted in the culture of the organization – if you believe it’s what you do, not what you say.

What distinguishes great places to work from not-so-great places to work is … authenticity. Great places to work are authentic workplaces that aren’t always perfect but are striving to be consistent to their values, mission and vision. Not-so-great places to work are often in reset mode – they’re often reinventing themselves, they’re often going through a sort of cultural reset because they haven’t found a stabilizing set of core values that actually are well-founded, well-thought out, wholly owned that allow the organization to be nimble and responsive to environmental conditions around the core. They keep trying to evolve the core and find an anchor. And those organizations struggle being great places to work because they’re just different places every couple of years.

Also see: Great Place to Work CEO emphasizes culture as prime worker benefit

The best advice I ever received was … On a micro-level, the best advice I ever got was to resist the temptation to add value in meetings when I couldn’t. Sometimes listening is better than speaking. The second best piece of advice was to not get caught up in the natural cycle of organizations, but to recognize where we want to ultimately get to. Be steadfast in helping the organization get through some of the noise and some of the things that happen in companies that are just natural functions of human organizations. 

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