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Building Great Workplaces – The Great Manager’s Way

Great Mid-size workplaces have been very successful at demonstrating how their managers are one of the biggest reasons behind their ability to create and enhance great workplace culture.

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Certain elements of Great Workplaces consistently fall harmoniously in place – like strong foundational pillars. Decades of research clearly shows us that among these pillars, the element of Fairness holds prime position.

Great Mid-size organizations have reinforced the power of Fairness this year again. Interestingly, Fairness plays a significant role in differentiating the Great Mid-sized organizations from the Rest.

In addition to that, Great Mid-size workplaces stand out for the Respect that their employees perceive they receive from the organization. These workplaces are defined by the unique benefits they offer to their employees and the way the management values and involves people in decision making. The challenge of implementing the oft-spoken of ‘work-life balance’ does not faze the Great Mid-Sized workplaces. In fact, it sets them apart from the Rest. Employees in these organizations also feel strongly that they are offered training or development to further their careers.

The smaller size of Great Mid-size organizations clearly allows them to leverage the role of the manager – an aspect that holds them in good stead when delivering phenomenal employee experience. At Great Mid-size workplaces, it was found that there was very little difference in reported employee experience across job levels. That is, however, not the case among the Rest. In the Rest of the Mid-size organizations studied by Great Place to Work® Institute, employees in the middle management and below supervisory job roles report far lower engagement than senior management. In these organizations, Managers may not necessarily be trained or hired for delivering superior employee experiences.

Mid-size organizations (defined by Great Place to Work® Institute as those that have 100 to 500 employees on their payroll) take advantage of their relatively small size to create experiences that even some Great Place to Work® Certified organizations that are larger in employee strength are unable achieve. These include areas of Fairness like avoiding favouritism and the perception of being paid fairly. As compared to larger organizations with more than 5000 employees, employees in the Great Mid-size organizations report that their managers are approachable and easy to talk with, while recognizing honest mistakes as a part of doing business. These organizations are also recognized by their employees as being fun workplaces and psychologically and emotionally healthy places to work at. Interestingly, Certified organizations with more than 5000 employees have not been able to create any experiences that set them apart from the Great Mid-size organizations.

However, while size may be a hurdle, what can larger organizations do to enhance their workplace culture? A lesson from the Great Mid-size organizations could most definitely be leveraging managerial effectiveness. In fact, at Great Place to Work® Institute, our research reveals that Managers are the crucial link between an organization’s people practices and the resultant employee experience. But where could these managers start?

In the recently released annual research by the Great Place to Work® Institute, it was established that the 3Cs lie at the core of the culture of India’s Best Companies to Work For 2020. It defined how the management in Best Workplaces epitomize Credibility, demonstrate Care and chalk out Career Growth for their people. 

Given that our study of India’s Great Mid-size organizations in 2020 once again demonstrates the importance of the role of people managers in Great Workplaces, we studied this phenomenon further to understand what larger organizations could take into account when operationalizing the 3Cs. 


The Great Mid-Size Organizations Lead the Way

Our research shows us that managerial competence can be measured. In fact, how managers can impact the organization’s ability to exemplify the 3 Cs (that Best workplaces have already mastered) can also be articulated. Here are the areas of the 3 Cs where people managers have the most significant direct impact.


When a manager’s actions match their words

When a manager genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas

When a manager can be asked any reasonable question and a straight answer is received


When a manager shows a sincere interest in the team member as a person, not just an employee

When a manager encourages team members to balance their work life and their personal life


When a manager is able to establish a perception of fairness in the way performance evaluations are conducted and communicated

At Great Mid-size organizations, managers are well on their way to living up to their responsibilities in these areas. Here are the three sub-areas of the 3Cs that these managers are already exemplifying:


Much is being discussed about the ‘new ways of working’. Organizations have spent the last few months adjusting to a digital and dispersed workforce. During these unprecedented times, front line managers and people managers have been the architects of positive employee experience. Today, employee wellness, motivation and productivity must be monitored more than ever before. Therefore, we believe that in addition to visionary leadership, Great people managers may be game changers in creating and enhancing great workplace culture.

Here is a guide for people managers to continue to exemplify the 3Cs during one of the most challenging times in the common history of the world.

CREDIBILITY: Inspiring, Collaborating & Listening in the Post-COVID Virtual World



…communication for the Virtual World: 

With employees in different corners of the country (or the world) people managers will have to drastically shift from an in-person mode of communication to a virtual one. The advantages of non-verbal cues will be drastically reduced, and managers will be greatly dependent on only about 10% of what constitutes communication – verbal cues. 

Managers will need to be far more aware of what employees are not saying and will have to make a far more significant attempt to build personal connect and establish a human touch in their interactions. 

…leadership for the Post-COVID generation which will involve every manger’s ‘actions’ being assessed from a distance. Managers will have to ensure that their communication is constant, that they are able to inspire from afar and that every word (suddenly more written and therefore more recorded) is followed through. 

…how to deal with and communicate uncertainty. Things will change in personal and professional lives and already some parts have become interchangeable. Managers have not only needed to learn how to deal with the sudden overlap and become far more flexible in their approach but have also had to be the bearers of frequently changing decisions and policies as organizations adapt. Managers will have to become more and more comfortable with acknowledging that they may not know the answers to everything and will have to continue to establish their credibility, while the definition of competent management shifts. Managing the organization and its people during difficult times, seeking active feedback on business continuity plans, acknowledging that changing of decisions means adapting in the new circumstances will all be necessary elements of managerial competence that defies traditional connotations of a manager.  

…to be fair across co-located and remote teams. A managers behaviour, responses to people actions and intentions, praise and criticism are all being scrutinized by the minute. Exhibiting a genuine openness and tolerance to diverse ideas and suggestions is far more challenging in a remote environment than during in-person interactions. Managers will have to be mindful that their demeanor comes across as fair and their behaviour, bias-free.

CARE: Collaborating & Balancing in the Post-COVID Dispersed World



…collaboration & personal connect in a dispersed world. As more and more organizations realize that there may actually be benefits of ‘work-from-home’ and employees choose the flexibility that comes with it, managers will need to establish innovative ways of bringing people together, ensuring that ideas are shared and establishing a feeling of a team or family. Working in silos will be a temptation, even for the manager, but the disadvantages of that, if not avoided, will be a challenging to reverse.

…how to maintain and balance work & personal life in circumstances where the lines have (and will continue to) blur. 

…how to deal with and communicate evolving ideas of productivity. While some will grapple with the internal conflict of tracking time utilization of their team, yet not micro-managing, the balance of that will be one of the sharpest skills of an effective manager.

…how to support Mental & Psychological Wellbeing in a Virtual World. Managers will need to encourage conversations regarding how team members are ‘feeling’ without stepping over the line and establishing ways in which team members can seek help if they need to. Options will also need to be virtual yet make the team member feel safe.

CAREER GROWTH: Performance Management in the Post-COVID World of Innovative Opportunities



…career growth (traditionally assumed to be vertical) – the focus will now be on professional growth. The traditional structure of organizations will shrink in size and the nature of engagement with many more contributors beyond this structure will be constantly evolving. The need to engage those beyond the fixed workforce will become even more critical and a part of this engagement will involve accounting for their career growth. 

…how to have effective virtual performance conversations. The one element of Career Growth (of the 3Cs) that a manager is significantly responsible for, i.e. effective performance conversations, will now require more focus. While organizations will have to also support managers with making performance conversations more effective virtually, mangers will have to be very cautious that they do not become transactional. 

…how to create a learning culture that may help not only to develop existing employees but also to attract diverse talent.

In conclusion, Great Mid-size workplaces have been very successful at demonstrating how their managers are one of the biggest reasons behind their ability to create and enhance great workplace culture. They epitomize the strength of Great Managerial ability and pave the way for the new future – where managers will define how organizations wade through the choppy waters of these extraordinary circumstances.

Sreemoyee Sengupta is a Project Manager at Great Place to Work® Institute, India. 

To start your organization’s journey towards creating a great place to work, apply for the Best workplaces list by visiting .

This article was first published in the print issue of (25 June- 09 July) BW Businessworld. Click Here to Subscribe to BW Businessworld magazine.