Would you leave your job and switch industries if that meant you’d finally look forward to work, avoid workplace favoritism, and experience fair pay and promotions?
The answer is likely a resounding yes.
Its study of more than 1.3 million employees for the 2023 Fortune Best Workplaces by industry lists revealed that companies that prioritize people outperform across all culture and business metrics, no matter the industry.
Take retail, an industry that’s struggled more than others to fill vacancies since the pandemic.
Not only did the Fortune Best Workplaces in Retail report a dramatically better workplace experience than their industry peers (52% better), but they easily outperformed a typical U.S. employer by 35%, including the highly competitive industries of professional services and technology by 25% and 27%, respectively.
Retail is not unusual. All the 2023 Fortune Best Workplaces by industry outrank the experience of employees when compared with typical workplaces.
“There are many people looking to make a career change and wondering which industry they should switch to,” says Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place To Work. “They’ll ask, ‘What’s the best industry to work in?’ There isn’t one. The question you should ask is, ‘Who’s the best company to work for?’”
The payoff of people-first cultures shows up in employees’ intention to stay at their companies (88%), referrals (91%), discretionary effort (90%), and agility (87%)—nearly double that of typical workplaces across all measures.
“This is what happens when you take care of your people,” Bush says. “Every leader I know wants to increase their productivity, performance, innovation, and agility levels. You need the best people to do that. To get and keep those people, it’s your job to make sure they look forward to coming to work every day. Lead this way and you won’t look back.”
Great Place To Work determined the 2023 industry lists by analyzing data from employees in manufacturing and production, aging services, health care, consulting and professional services, financial services and insurance, advertising and marketing, retail, real estate, construction, biopharma, and technology.
Working to build strong cultures where all employees are seen, heard, and valued is particularly important when it comes to productivity and agility—top of mind to leaders in the current lean economy.
When employees can count on their colleagues to cooperate, for example, they are more likely to give extra effort and adapt to change. On average, nearly 90% of employees at the Best Workplaces by industry feel they have cooperative colleagues compared with 63% at typical workplaces.
And when there is cooperation, employees are a whopping 587% more likely to believe their coworkers give extra to get the job done, and 57% more likely to say people adapt to change.
What the Best Workplaces do better
An average of 37% more employees at the Best Workplaces say their workplace is great compared to their peers at typical workplaces, according to a Great Place To Work market study of more than 4,400 U.S. employees.
Creating a great workplace requires a foundation of trust built on credibility, respect, and fairness. You can’t get there with perks and shiny objects.
Here are three differences in company culture between winning and average workplaces across all industries studied:
1. Fair profit sharing
108% more employees on average at the Best Workplaces report they receive a fair share of profits compared to typical workplaces.
Nugget Market, No. 14 among large retail companies, took several steps recently to share profits and compensation equally. It made its “thank you” bonus pay permanent, initiated a wage review four months ahead of schedule to keep up with the rapid rate of inflation, added $1 per hour to everyone’s wage, and doubled the associate discount to 20% for all employees regardless of role or tenure.
2. Managers avoiding playing favorites
Less than half (45%) of employees at average workplaces feel that management treats all employees equally. That number nearly doubles at the Best Workplaces (88%) because of programs that help managers avoid bias in their daily interactions.
For example, the Associate Care and Connection initiative at CarMax, No. 5 among large retail companies, intentionally connects managers with employees to build supportive and trusting relationships through one-on-ones, huddles, quarterly communications meetings, and roundtables.
3. Providing a sense of purpose
Research shows purpose-driven cultures outperform others regardless of industry. In fact, the belief that what you do isn’t “just a job” is one of the top drivers of retention in every industry. In retail, for instance, creating a sense of purpose makes retention 76% more likely and increases discretionary effort by 35%.
The outcome of great cultures is (no surprise) that people look forward to coming to work. Only half of people at typical workplaces look forward to coming to work, compared with nearly nine out of 10 employees at the Best Workplaces—a 76% increase.
Building a great culture requires intention and effort—no matter the industry or company size.
Roula Amire is the content director at Great Place To Work®.