A post I wrote a few months ago, Why Top Talent Leaves: Top 10 Reasons Boiled Down to 1, has suddenly become very ‘viewed’ on Forbes, LinkedIn, and facebook— and lots of people are commenting and conversing about it online. One of my commentors wrote “[The Forbes reader] immediately connected to the headline because they are either an enlightened leader who is interested in employee retention, or an overlooked high performer attempting to affirm their own beliefs.”

I suspect he’s right, so I thought it would be helpful to follow up that post by focusing on how to recognize a company that does the things that keep top talent—and in fact, great talent at any level. So, if you’re a leader wanting to make sure you’re building a department or a company where people want to work; if you’re an employee wanting to have some practical markers to measure your own company; or if you’re wondering how to tell whether a company you’re considering would be a good place to work—Here’s how to spot a “people magnet” company:

  1. Customers are happy. Contented customers result—without exception—from happy employees. I have never yet worked with or observed a company where the employees are badly managed and demoralized, and the customer service is great. I wrote another post recently about contrasting customer service experiences I’d had with United/Continental and Jetblue. I strongly suspect that Jetblue is a better place to work than United.
  2. Frontline employees can tell you about the company. In anti-people magnet (people repelling?) companies, employees tend to be confused or clueless about what the company does. I often ask frontline employees about their companies, and when I say, “So, tell me, what’s your company like?” I way too frequently get: (a) the deer-in-the-headlights effect (blank stare, no facial expression), (b) the are-you-some-kind-of-idiot response (“We sell electronics, lady…that’s why this stuff is on the shelf.”), or (c) the you’ve-confused-me-with-someone-who-gives-a-s#@t response (“Huh. Do you want a bag for that?”). Which leads me to the third indicator.
  3. Frontline employees WANT to tell you about the company. Pride in one’s company is one of the surest indicators I know that a company is well-run. I was recently at a wonderful resort in Jamaica, and when I asked the woman giving me a massage about the company, she went into a 5-minute verbal love letter about how much she liked working there; how management really cared about pampering the guests; how much leeway she and her colleagues were given to do the right thing for guests, etc.
  4. Senior people say good things about each other and their teams. In companies that attract and keep great people, employees at all levels are much more likely to trust and rely upon each other. Top management models and rewards collaboration, and people don’t succeed by throwing other people under the bus. In companies that retain great people, the leaders tend to be trustworthy, and they tend to hire for and reward trustworthiness. And when honorable people work together, they are likely to create a mutually supportive and productive work environment.

What would you add to this list?