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The Simple Secret That Made This Company the Best Place to Work in Massachusetts

Trusting your people is easy to say and hard to do — yielding a powerful advantage in the war for talent.

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BY Peter Cohan - 04 Dec 2018

secret to make your company the best place to work

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Do you want your company to be recognized as the best place to work in your region? Such a distinction delivers a powerful business benefit. Higher revenue growth and profitability flow from the way such a workplace's reputation motivates talent.

On Nov. 15, the Boston Globe again chose Lowell, Mass.-based workforce management software provider, Kronos, as the #1 best place to work in the state

Last week, Kronos's CEO Aron Ain spoke to students in one of my Babson College classes.

A big reason employees love to work there is that Ain shows his people that he trusts them. How so?

A few years ago, he gave company employees unlimited vacation time. This made Kronos's board of directors nervous -- wouldn't they take a permanent paid vacation? What's more, employees who had accrued five or six weeks thought it was unfair that a new employee would get just as much vacation as they had earned.

Not surprisingly, Kronos employees -- who must get permission to take their vacation time -- ended up taking on average about two days more vacation than before.

But Ain extends his trust for employees further. If a Kronos manager asks Ain how to solve a problem, Ain turns the question back on the manager -- saying, 'You know more about the problem and the possible solutions than I do. I trust you to make the right decision."

My students offered four takeaways from Ain's talk that I think any business leader should consider.

1. Create A Growth-Friendly Culture

Culture flows from what the CEO values. And if the CEO has growth-friendly values -- such as respecting talent, delivering competitor-beating value to customers, and innovation -- the company will grow.

Kronos clearly conveys -- through its words and deeds -- that it respects its employees. As one of my students said, "It was compelling to hear from a CEO of a company as large as Kronos who is so invested in his company culture. I am compelled by his trust in his employees -- it's a very respectful style of management and I would be honored to work there."

2. Make Family The Top Priority

Most companies expect people to give up family time to meet corporate goals.

So it was jarring to hear Ain talk about how he wants his people to make their family -- not Kronos -- their top priority. One of my students said, "I really appreciated [Ain's] advice about not losing sight of what is important to us outside of work. It was very refreshing to hear [his] perspective on the value of having passions and meaningful relationships outside of work."

Ain models that behavior. He disconnects from the office on weekends, so he can spend time with his family -- such as attending his daughter's sports events. Sunday nights he catches up with his emails so he can hit the ground running on Monday morning.

3. Reinvent The Company Before The Competition Forces You To

Kronos does not want to fall behind upstart competitors offering new technologies.

So he created a team consisting of three groups -- experienced Kronos engineers, talent from outside the company, and millennials who were familiar with easy-to-use apps -- and charged it with reinventing Kronos.

The team created a cloud-based service that accelerated Kronos's growth -- accounting for $100 million in recent revenue -- before rivals introduced such a product.

As one of my students noted, "I really enjoyed hearing [Ain's] insight about the role of strategy within the technology sector. It changed how I thought about strategy and the importance of remaining dynamic [in response to] the constant change and innovation taking place in the industry."

4. Make Sure Your Strategy Has The Resources It Needs

An under-resourced strategy is doomed to fail. Kronos's strategic planning process assures that each department has the budget it needs to meet its goals. Ain told my students that he speaks with each department head to make sure they've budgeted enough to implement the strategy. If not, Kronos gives them the resources they need.

This inspired one of my students to say, "I love that [Ain] pointed out the importance of going back to the strategic plan after [the] budget is created to verify that it is fully accounted for. This is one piece of strategy implementation that I often see being lost."

These four practices can make you a better leader.

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