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Uncovering the truths of workplace culture

Johanna Hising DiFabio
Assistant Dean, Sloan Fellows & EMBA

In this issue of the MIT Sloan Fellows MBA Program Newsletter, we explore the workplace of today and get an evocative glimpse of the workplace of tomorrow. Five experts on the subject from the MIT Sloan Fellows community share their ideas about how workplaces are rapidly becoming more human-centric.

And no, human-centric does not have to disadvantage the bottom line—in fact, building a human-centric workplace can be a profitable move in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Enthusiastic, well-trained employees do better work and impress customers. And people-oriented workplaces have a greater chance of holding on to their most talented employees.

Workplace culture has other ramifications, too. It can have an outsized impact on your reputation score. MIT Sloan Management Review recently introduced a tool designed to make corporate culture transparent to the outside world, including to potential employees, investors, and customers. It’s called Culture 500, and it’s a fascinating web interface that measures the corporate cultures of leading global corporations.

The rankings on Culture 500 are based on anonymous reviews by 1.2 million employees posted on the job-search site Glassdoor, the largest repository of corporate data in the world. The metrics examined are traits that encourage innovation, collaboration, and better financial performance. The results are often eye-opening. Microsoft, for example, gets high marks on innovation, but low marks on agility. Apple and Walmart are both high on innovation as well, but very low on mutual respect among workers. Costco ranks high on collaborative spirit, but very low on execution—that is, employees are given the freedom to implement their ideas, but not the resources to do so.

In addition to those case studies, I encourage you to delve into the field studies below of work life in the 21st century. We are grateful to MIT Sloan professors Zeynep Ton and Tom Kochan and MIT Sloan Fellows MBA alumni Brian Halligan ’06, Mauricio Chapa ’19, and Katie Luby ’18 for helping us pull together answers to our core question: What exactly goes into the making of a human-centric organization?

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