Since it was first published in 1998, the FORTUNE Best Places to Work list causes executives from around the globe to measure and mirror policies and programs in an attempt to replicate the “secret sauce” that results from such recognition: trust and admiration from employees. In reading the 2017 report and the individual company vignettes, one is both amazed and awash in the progressive thinking (Salesforce’s gender-pay equality), novel benefits ($5 co-pays at BCG), cool perks (free birthday cakes at Wegmans) and unconventional values (Bairds’ “no-asshole” policy which mirrors W2O’s by the way!), that comprise the list.

The real insight, though, from these well-respected organizations, can be found in four key areas:

  1. Constantly Challenging People – From paid time off for training and development, to mentoring programs and incentive-laden goal-setting, employees are recognized, rewarded and encouraged to continue learning.
  2. Choose your Own Adventure – Business is not a one size fits all experience. Particularly in today’s digital world. These organizations respect the need for individualism in the workforce and incorporate communications systems, management models, and social purpose opportunities that allow for it to take place.
  3. Respect and Humane Treatment – At the very core all of the FORTUNE companies on the list exhibit a deep respect for how people live not just work. As such, everything from policies, programs, perks, and relationships between and among all level of the business.  
  4. Rock-solid Efficacy – Regardless of the business and sector, employees believe in the mission of the enterprise. From supporting children with catastrophic illnesses (St. Jude Children’s Hospital) to selling “happiness” at Build-A-Bear Workshop, capturing the ultimate reason for being at each of these companies and allowing it to permeate their work and inspire their performance.

Establishing your organization as best place to work is not a random journey. It’s truly a conscious choice to involve, engage, and respect people and to be true to the ideals of the business.

Finally, there is no mystery surrounding this coveted list. Rather, it’s a pragmatic understanding of human behavior and the systematizing of information, strategy, policy, purpose, and culture to deliver a meaningful and sustainable experience.