Legendary business guru Peter F. Drucker frequently lectured and wrote about the necessity for business profitability. Without it, of course, there would be no business but more importantly, he noted, there would be no employment. No employment, no employees. The logical extension of this argument, Drucker concluded, is for businesses to trust and treat their employees respectfully as valuable assets, not costly, mindless drones.

Taking a page from Drucker’s insight, QuikTrip—a Fortune “best company” over the years—is a gas station-convenience store chain with 700 sites, 19,700 employees and $11 billion in annual sales. How did a company in an industry where employee turnover is rampant make the list? In a survey, nearly 90% of QuikTrip employees said, “Management trusts us to do a good job without watching over our shoulders.”

Truly great companies trust and recognize employees. They are transparent in showing employees the big picture. Then they leave them alone to paint it.

At Hyatt—another perennial Fortune “best company”—they even go a step further. In Hyatt’s 600 properties located in more than 50 countries, employees are referred to as “internal guests.” Employees are treated with the same level of respect as hotel guests and restaurant customers and they are given incredibly free range to make daily business decisions on the spot.

Since 1998, when Fortune began the best companies to work for list, two factors that make companies a great place to work have never changed—trust and recognition. “Employees treasure the freedom to do their job as they think best, and great employers trust them,” noted Fortune. “Just letting employees know they’re doing a great job costs nothing but counts big.”

Remember, Employees Are Customers Too!

Gun and Tom Denhart  founded children’s clothier Hanna Andersson in 1983 at their kitchen table. They pasted one-square-inch fabric samples into their first catalog run of 75,000 copies, used a  spare room for the office and their garage for a warehouse. Today, the Portland, Oregon, retailer employees 185 people and serves millions of customers through extensive e-commerce and retail operations.

To achieve its growth, the company practiced fairness with customers and employees and relied on a simple but powerful belief: “We keep a commitment to the values of respect, integrity and responsibility in all we do.” And to maintain that family atmosphere, Gun Denhart established these principles:

  • Enjoy your work. (If you don’t, let’s talk about it.)
  • Keep a balance between work and play. Too much of either is not wholesome.
  • Bring energy to your work. If you can’t, it may mean you are in the wrong job.
  • Have no fear. We don’t shoot the messenger. We are all in this together.
  • Rest assured that success will reward us all. When success means profit, we’ll share it.
  • Apply love & respect in all you do. Love for your work, respect for others. It works wonders.

Great companies understand that building trust and respect not just for external customers but for internal employees, managers and leaders is a key to profitability and sustainable success. Most of the other very profitable companies on the annual Fortune magazine “List of the 100 Best Companies to Work For” have three things in common: They value, trust and recognize their employees—the Golden Rule of Great Companies.

Next, in Part 2: We provide examples of how you can deal with change by helping to build trust within your own company.

Change moves on whether we plan for it or not. Contact us and we can help you and your organization understand and succeed in a dynamic and changing environment.

If you’d like to learn more check out Part 2 of this short series.