Glassdoor’s Top CEOs – What Can We Learn from the Businesses They Lead?

Glassdoor recently revealed its highest-ranked CEOs based on employee ratings. Leading the UK list was Peter Simpson, CEO of Anglian Water, who received a whopping 99% approval rating, followed closely by Network Rail’s Andy Haines and Metro Bank’s Craig Donaldson, both with 98%. The top 10 CEOs all registered 97% or over.

So what’s behind these incredible results? To find out, I took a closer look at some of the initiatives in place in these businesses, and what their employees are saying about life working under a top-ranked CEO. It’s unsurprising that a few themes popped up time and again.

Flexibility and work-life balance

The chance to work flexibly was mentioned repeatedly in Glassdoor reviews for these companies, showing just how important a factor it is in both work-life balance and employee engagement.

Flexible and remote working is also indicative of a workplace culture built around honesty and respect, where employees are trusted to do their jobs no matter where they are located.

As more and more employers give their people the freedom to work in a way that suits them best, those companies that refuse to adapt are starting to look seriously old-fashioned – and will eventually lose out on top talent.

Health and wellbeing

The employer’s responsibility to look after the health and wellbeing of their staff, both inside and outside the workplace, is another key theme.

Not only do Anglian Water offer private healthcare, but they also have a range of initiatives in place to support the health and wellbeing of their staff in the workplace.

For example, Anglian’s office-based employees can opt for a ‘cycle desk’ – a desk and exercise bike in one – allowing them to get their work done while working out. On top of that, they can join a ‘biodiversity walk,’ take a walking meeting, or practice mindfulness over breakfast.

Personal development

People are increasingly looking for employers who will help them to grow professionally while offering clear paths for career progression.

In addition to ensuring that their people have the skills and knowledge they need to be at their best, Anglian runs a Continual Professional Development programme designed to help employees transition to managerial and leadership positions.

This approach seems to be working, with Anglian winning the Personnel Today Award for Excellence in Learning and Development in 2017.

Metro Bank is also keen to offer their staff a place to learn and grow, with workplace classrooms and e-learning courses, an apprenticeship programme, and the chance to gain a professional qualification with the Chartered Banker Institute.

Their motto, ‘hiring for attitude, training for skill,’ shows their strong desire to recruit people who fit their company culture, and then invest heavily in their development.

And to help new recruits hit the ground running, Metro Bank offers a five-day on-boarding programme, covering not only job-specific information but also an introduction to their unique workplace culture.

Social conscience

Among the more traditional benefits listed on their websites, Anglian Water, Network Rail, and Metro Bank all offer their employees the opportunity to spend a day or more volunteering instead of working. This allows them to give something back to the community and provides some much-needed perspective to work life.

Anglian’s CEO has also been vocal on the issues surrounding sustainability and the environment, speaking out in support of the Committee for Climate Change’s demand for more ambitious emissions targets in the UK. Anglian Water is the only UK water company to record its carbon footprint and is on track to become a carbon-neutral company by 2050.

Metro Bank are also doing their bit for the community, holding fund-raising events for the Teenage Cancer Trust, offering a financial education programme designed to teach kids about money, and organisation community and networking events.

Inclusion and diversity

Network Rail has its very own diversity and inclusion strategy, known as Everyone, which aims to create a work environment that is fair and welcoming for all, and that benefits from a diverse range of ideas and thinking. They also have a dedicated inclusion and diversity team.

This approach involves actively encourage employees to speak up, challenge existing ideas, and to suggest ways to improve the way they work.

Understanding the true value of their product or service

While this one isn’t exactly an initiative that can be rolled out, it is important to mention nonetheless. One thing that is apparent from all three of the companies with top-rated CEOs is a genuine sense of pride in what they do.

This is explicitly set out on their websites, and perhaps more importantly, it is echoed in their employees’ Glassdoor reviews.

You could have the best CEO in the world and the most forward-thinking initiatives, but if you don’t offer a product or service that your staff fully believe in and understand, you will struggle to engage them.

All three companies have done an excellent job in making their people passionate about the work they do, and aware of the difference they make to people’s lives.

What lessons can we learn?

As a general trend, the happier a person is in their day-to-day experience of work, the more likely they are to rate their CEO highly. For instance, in addition to having the top-rated CEO, Anglian Water also came first in Glassdoor’s 2019 Best UK Places to Work, with an average rating of 4.5 (out of 5).

Most employees are unlikely to know their CEO on a personal level. In many large organisations, the majority of employees never even meet the CEO. Nevertheless, it is still possible – and important – for employees to know who their leaders are, what they are like as people, and what values guide their work.

Employees value clear communication and direction from the top. They want to feel part of the bigger picture and involved in the journey. A good CEO should try to include everyone in their vision of the future. Employees also tend to respect leaders who demonstrably care about people at all levels of the business – someone who is approachable, with a human touch.

Ultimately, employees will form an opinion about their CEO based on their experience of work, the workplace culture and attitudes that pervade the organisation, and the initiatives in place to bring that culture to life.


Nick Edwards - http://www.praguecopywriter.com

Nicholas Edwards is a freelance writer and editor based in Prague, the Czech Republic. When he's not helping local businesses master the English language, he loves writing about the future of work for People First. 

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