I recently read a blog post by Jack and Suzy Welch called “Six Ways to Tell If You Work for a Really Great Company,” and I started to think about what defines a great company today. Today, the definitions of greatness are expanding, not to be less exacting, but to be more dynamic and inclusive.

The explosion of the startup ecosystem and the rise in remote work and side-gigging means that employees now have more ways to align themselves with organizational greatness or create it themselves. Here’s my take on the six things the Welches pinpoint as markers of a great company.

  1. A real commitment to continuous learning. Whether you’re a billion-dollar multinational or a five-person startup, positioning your company as a place of personal and intellectual growth is crucial. You need to offer the feeling that your organization that the roles that each individual fills within it are conducive to personal growth, not holding it back.
  1. A legitimate meritocracy. People need to feel as if they are working on a level playing field. Whether it’s great work done by themselves or by a coworker, employees want to see that behavior rewarded in proportion to historical precedents. So if I do something great today, I will feel I deserve more than a pat on the back if my coworker got a parade for similar work yesterday. So too with disciplinary action.
  1. Celebrate risk taking. I love the phrase, “the stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” It’s the same with many, many industries today, except the pace of change is speeding up all the time. Great companies attract risk-takers like magnets because they know they need them in order to innovate and stay relevant in the marketplace.
  1. They are a part of the world. Companies cannot exist in their own cultural bubble. To do so is just asking for toxic elements to grow. The great companies acknowledge the state of the world and situate themselves comfortably within it. Diversity, social and cultural awareness, and policies that reflect consideration for employees’ personal lives are all part and parcel of this attitude.
  1. High hiring standards. If you start by hiring only top talent that truly fits with your company culture and business goals, it follows that those employees will not only do the best possible work for your clients, but also attract more high level employees.
  1. Profitable and growing. Last but certainly not least, a great company needs to make money. Even if your goal as an organization is to do good, to help people in need, you won’t be able to do it for very long and make the kind of impact I’m sure you’d like to make unless the company is profitable. Not to mention, top talent is attracted to successful, growing companies.

What do you think of this list? Are there exceptions, or something crucial that you think is missing? Let me know in the comments.

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