1. Business

Claffey: The value of being smart and organizationally healthy

When Workplace Dynamics CEO Doug Claffey first started teaming with newspapers to identify top workplaces, employee surveys focused on measuring employee "satisfaction."

That was seven years ago, says Claffey, whose Exton, Pa. research firm first helped with the Tampa Bay Times in 2010 to rank Tampa Bay's top workplaces. But "satisfaction" failed to keep up with the modern workplace, Claffey says, and it was soon dropped in favor of "engagement." How engaged are workers became the test of excellence.

Now Claffey has taken the next step. His surveys ask company employees two categories of questions: Me and We.

The Me questions focus on pay and benefits – the "What's in it for me?" part of work.

But the We questions lie at the core of Workplace Dynamics' choosing truly top workplaces. The We questions include:

• Are we all in this together?

• Do we feel connected to this organization?

• Where are we headed?

• How do we get there?

Clear and positive answers to these questions are big indicators of "organizational health," Claffey says. Workplaces with high levels of organizational health are more likely in the long run to remain successful.

Claffey shares this idea with good company.

McKinsey & Co. consultants Scott Keller and Colin Price co-authored "Beyond Performance," a book about assessing organizational health. To sustain a top business, they say, don't make performance a primary focus. An organization's health is equally important and equally manageable.

Lest we start humming Kumbaya, Claffey argues that top workplaces must be both smart and possess organizational health. The trick with being smart, he says, is that it is too difficult for most companies to significantly outsmart one another with either marketing or financial strategies because so many business schools and top consultants offer similar input.

"Your top workplaces in Tampa Bay are the healthy organizations," Claffey says. "The great thing about being healthy is that you will be more robust to any shocks to the system, in contrast to companies that may be smart but unhealthy."

According to Top Workplace data, many top ranked companies here have enjoyed considerable employee growth. Since 2010, for example, Raymond James Financial added 1,697 employees and Laser Spine Institute added 180.

And what about perks, which are also detailed in this section? They are little more than flashy objects to catch the eye, he says.

Perks help make a top workplace, Claffey says, but their impact is often exaggerated. "You can't put in a cappucino machine or yoga studio and then get a top workplace.

"I will often ask leaders: 'What is your secret sauce for a top workplace?' The consistent answer is: 'You have to care about your people. And you have to show it every day.'"