It’s that time of year again – Fashion Week, when designers showcase their creations and buyers, retailers, editors and critics get to weigh in on what’s hot, what’s not and how we will look next season. In keeping with the metaphor of Fashion Week, let’s look into the fabric of Corporate America for thoughts about positioning your company as one of the best places to work.

In the coveted circle of the “best companies” to work for, what makes these companies winners? Many business owners believe that the top companies to work for such as Google, Zappos, and Apple provide the best benefits; overpay their employees and give free lunches, and although many of the “best companies to work for” do have the budgets to woo talent, these are not usually the reasons cited by today’s millennial generation of loyal employees. Trust and pride top the list of “perks” – people want to work with people that they trust and respect.

Like the exotic and fresh looks we’ve seen on the runway this past week, employees want to be recognized for their individual contributions. They want to be part of a team, but at the same token not viewed as a ‘pack’. Employee recognition by corporate leaders for personal achievement, coupled with hard work is high on the list for many people and not just the millennial generation. “Feeling that we matter,” says Esther Perel, Viral Ted Speaker, therapist and author of the global best seller, “Mating in Captivity”, “is that we are missed when we are absent, that we belong while also recognized for our uniqueness”. According to Ms. Perel, “this is the “New Deal” in Corporate America. There is a reason the “cri du jour” (cry of the day) is Connection, Compassion Community. We simply can’t live and work without.”
Sometimes creating fun and out of the box events and employee gatherings is the most memorable and appreciated rewards. One year Zappos gave all their employees pajamas during the holiday season. The day after the holiday, when everyone returned to work, the company declared “Recovery Day”; whereby all the employees came to work in their PJ’s. Of course this style doesn’t necessarily work for all corporate cultures, but the point here is going the extra mile in showing that people are valued.

Another sign of great companies to work for is during the hiring process and the honeymoon stage (first 90 days on the job), whereby candidates are looking to be blended into the fabric of the organization. Often companies with strong, fun and respectful cultures will go to great lengths to make the potential candidates feel welcomed and the trust building already starts during the interview process. Once an employee is hired the on-boarding programs are very inclusive and can sometimes go on for weeks. The core of this thinking is treating your employees with the best customer service and often the results of great service are loyalty, building fun and exciting cultures and winning balance sheets.

Thoughtful companies are focusing on health and wellness and mentorship. Although providing on-site gyms or reimbursement for memberships is not a new theme, promoting healthy eating (no skinny models) is today’s mantra. According to Tevis Trower, CEO and Founder of Balance Integration Corporation, “Corporate Wellness is not what it used to be.” In the past, traditionally there might have been a company nurse who would offer a monthly “lunch-and-learn”, but those days are really over.” Ms. Trower goes on to say, “Thought-leading companies that offer wellness programs benefit from insurance and employee absence cost savings. Additionally, these valuable programs drive employee engagement and are a cornerstone of having a vibrant corporate culture.” Leaders now understand that healthy people are happier and more productive. Additionally, tuition reimbursement, which has often been a ‘perk’ at many companies, is being taken a step further with ‘inside education,” junior associates are being paired with senior leaders for individual coaching and career development. One of the greatest creative directors for Calvin Klein, Francisco Costa, earned his strips thanks to tremendous training and mentorship by Tom Ford, an American fashion designer and film director, who gained international fame for his turnaround of the Gucci fashion house.

Refining your company is like developing your own unique personal style. Looking ahead, setting trends, and blazing new trails will no doubt dress up your company for success. Making employee satisfaction a strategic corporate goal, can very likely earn you a spot front and center on the catwalk of corporate America’s best places to work.