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What REALLY Makes a Company a Great Place to Work?

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Welcome to the very first episode of the Want To Work There podcast! This has been a five-year dream in the making and I can't believe it's actually here.

Want to Work There with Jill Felska. Bright yellow and white text on a blue background.
Jill Felska is the host of Want to Work There podcast, a show for HR and people ops leaders who are trying to improve company culture one day at a time

In this first episode, I’ll be talking about what REALLY makes a company a great place to work - and it’s probably not what you think! You’ll get to know me (your host) Jill Felska and why I am so passionate about helping more companies become great places to work.

I’ll also walk you through an exercise that will help you document what your ideal work culture looks like, how close you are to achieving it, what questions you need to ask in order to either sustain or move closer to your vision.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why I’m starting this podcast and am qualified to help you navigate the choppy waters of building better workplaces.

  • What you really need to be focused on when it comes to building an incredible company culture that makes top employees say, “I want to work there.”

  • The correlation between marriage and great workplace culture - and why it’s a positive one.

  • The one question you need to ask yourself now if you’re passionate about building great places to work.

  • Why it’s important to break this work into smaller projects and activities.

  • All about the project I’m launching in tandem with this podcast!

  • Who will most benefit from tuning in each episode.

  • And what you can expect from future episodes!

Did you love the episode?

If so, I’d love for you to share it with three friends or colleagues who are also passionate about building a better world of work! Find us at or by searching Want To Work There wherever you listen to podcasts.

Here's the edited transcript:

What REALLY makes a company a great place to work?

The events of the last few years have drastically sped up a trend that was already very much in motion towards a more human focused, employee centric way of working. All of us as individuals are getting more clear on what it is that’s important to us when it comes to work - and as a whole Americans are feeling more empowered than ever before to leave a job if it doesn’t meet their needs.

And yes, for employers this can be a scary prospect, but I’d argue it’s going to be your biggest competitive advantage if you give it the time and attention it deserves.

Hi friends! Jill here! Before we dive in, I wanted to let you know that there is a downloadable resource available to accompany the episode, which you can find at

Welcome welcome welcome!! This is finally happening and I am beyond excited - and also quite nervous, but I think that’s par for the course for any first podcast episode. I guess the best thing to do is just dive right in!

My name is Jill Felska I am ridiculously obsessed with changing the way we work for the better

I’m starting this podcast because I full-heartedly believe we can and should change the way we work - but that it’s a really huge, hard ask that none of us should have to tackle alone!

For me, this passion all started 14 years ago when I found myself at my first real job out of college and asking “What really makes a company a great place to work?”

You see, I’d landed what I believed to be my dream job working for a huge global brand during the height of the 2009 recession.

However, within three short months of starting I was feeling the effects of what I now know was a very toxic culture. At the time, I didn’t have the words or an understanding of what culture even was. But I knew in my gut that something wasn’t right. Needless to say, I quit that job just 8 months after starting, with only $92 dollars to my name and the belief that something better was out there. And yes, that is definitely a story worth telling, but one for another day.

Shortly after leaving that job, I began a new career path solely focused on understanding what makes a company a great place to work.

Now, after 12 years of doing this work, I know one thing for sure:

There is no single "perfect" example of what makes a company a great place to work.

Yes, there are best practices and toxic behaviors to avoid, but when it comes to what makes a company a great place to work, it’s really all in the eye of the beholder.

Now, before you write me off and move on to the next podcast in what I imagine is a very long queue, let me explain why this is actually a positive thing.

The absence of one specific formula for being a great place to work means you don’t have to be all things to all people. Instead, you get to figure out what matters to you, build for that and then find the people who are attracted to the same philosophies and values.

Think about it this way. You know that there is not one answer to what makes a perfect marriage. What feels like the perfect marriage to one couple could be another couple’s worst nightmare. The same is true for what makes a perfect company culture.

And let me tell you, there has never been a more important time to understand this than 2022.

The events of the last few years have drastically sped up a trend that was already very much in motion towards a more human-focused, employee-centric way of working. All of us as individuals are getting more clear on what it is that’s important to us when it comes to work – and as a whole Americans are feeling more empowered than ever before to leave a job if it doesn’t meet their needs.

And yes, for employers this can be a scary prospect, but I’d argue it’s going to be your biggest competitive advantage if you give it the time and attention it deserves. So back to our original question.

How do you define your version of what a great place to work looks like?

Answering that question is a big part of what we’re going to tackle together via this podcast. But for today, I’d like to start with a small activity that I’ve done with numerous clients over the years.

I’m guessing most of you are familiar with the employee-review site Glassdoor. I can’t tell you how many employers have done the “damage control” scramble when a negative review is posted about their organization. However, in my experience, it’s rare that leaders are thinking proactively about the type of comments they wish employees were leaving.

Ask yourself this question: “What is the ideal review I wish an employee would leave about working at our company?”

Whether you pause now or take the time later, I highly, highly recommend taking out a blank piece of paper (or the template you’ve downloaded from the website) and freewriting in response to this question for 5-10 minutes.

You may be surprised by what comes out. Or maybe it’s a strongly-held vision you’ve had for quite some time. What matters is that you’ve captured it, because you can now reflect on just how closely aligned this vision is with what it’s like to work within your organization today.

If you honestly reflected on how things run in your company today, can you imagine someone leaving this review? Or even parts of it?

If the answer is yes, then take time to reflect on and write down your answers to the following:

  1. What are the positive things you are doing now that ensure this?

  2. How can you make sure you don’t lose them as you grow?

If the answer is no, then these are the questions you want to answer:

  1. What things need to change in order for the review to become a reality?

  2. What is the 1% change that would get you closer?

  3. And finally – What’s safe enough to try?

I’ve done this activity with so many clients over the years and it never ceases to draw out some game-changing a-has, which is why I’m so excited to share it with all of you!

Hopefully, it takes the nebulous concept of “being a great place to work” and helps ground it in reality - making it something that feels both accessible and actionable.

That is the exact aim of everything I have planned for this podcast.

Now you may be asking – why, Jill, are you so stupidly passionate about breaking big theoretical culture concepts down into bite-sized actionable steps?

It’s because this work lies directly at the intersection of HARD and IMPORTANT!

As you now know, I’ve personally been helping companies build better work culture for over 12 years - and I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing some days!

This work is nuanced, ever-changing, and depending on the day can be either completely emotionally exhausting or absolutely life-giving.

I have dedicated my entire career to this topic and I still struggle - so the fact that we expert managers and leaders to get it right when it’s not their first area of expertise is mind-boggling to me.

Over the years, I’ve often wished for a playbook or a reference hub that I could go to for the best possible answer when I’m facing a people and culture-centric work problem.

Now, those who know me personally know information access is NOT my problem. I have multiple color-coded bookshelves with every non-fiction book I can get my hands on. And yes, the internet holds everything I could ever want to learn and more. But it’s a lot. And when I’m coming off a really long, tough day and am facing a specific challenge, the last thing I want to do is start plowing through books or scouring the internet for the particular answer I need. What I’ve always wanted is a wiki-type homebase curated by someone who shares my values and passion for building better workplaces.

While there are tons of amazing resources available, I never found that perfect place that was focused only on curated answers to some of the most challenging aspects of building positive work culture. So, I’ve set out to build it myself. As of today, I am officially relaunching the beta version of - a site I hope will become your go-to place for finding culture best practices, tools, and specific, tactical answers to your most challenging questions.

Before you race off, expecting to find everything you’ve hoped for at site, I should warn you that this is just the beginning. The site is in its infancy and is not even 2% of what I hope it will be a year from now. The cool part is you can officially consider yourself an early adopter.

As you bask in the glory of having your finger on the pulse, let’s focus back on what you really care about - the podcast!

I want to make building better workplaces as simple and easy as possible for those who are willing to pick up the torch. And that’s what this podcast is really all about.

My guess is that if you’re listening you either A) work in people ops B) have a leadership role within an organization C) manage a team D) are an individual contributor determined to create change from the bottom up or E) are my mom.

Hi mom! I’m doing a thing!

I’m so glad each and every one of you are tuning in, because in my experience strong culture is built and reinforced from all parts of the company in different ways.

That said, the difference in culture between a small business and a fortune 500 is tremendous - and all of my experience and expertise lies in the former.

While I’m sure the advice and tools will be somewhat applicable to larger companies, I’m creating everything specifically for companies that have less than 250 employees. I want to support startups and small businesses who are focused on building a strong foundation of healthy culture practices. Why? Because every company has to start somewhere – and I’ve learned that it’s WAY easier to build a positive culture from the start than it is to fix a toxic one.

Also, small business and startup people are my people! I’ve found that anyone who is interested in working at smaller companies is usually dedicated to innovation, knows how to make scrappy work, and tends to be passionate about the mission behind whatever it is they’re doing. These are the type of people who light me up - and I have a feeling that those are the type of people who will connect with my pink-haired, totally queer, thinks I’m funnier than I am self. My nickname in college was the human sparkler and it’s still probably one of the best ways you could describe me. I say this to note that this podcast will be anything but buttoned up.

I want you to feel like you’re with a passionate, overly optimistic friend while you’re on a walk, doing your dishes, or folding your 274th basket of laundry. I want this podcast to not only be a source of knowledge, but something you tune into to refill your cup. I know how hard this work REALLY is…and I hope to play a small part in reminding you that it really is worth doing and that you are absolutely NOT alone!

So what can you expect if you stick around? I’ll be doing a mix of solo and interview shows, but each will include tangible takeaways on whatever topic is covered - so you can move from inspiration to action.

I definitely have a lot of knowledge in this space that I’m excited to share, but I also can’t wait to learn from other brillant workplace advocates who are way more qualified than I am to speak on certain topics.

Culture experts are here

I’m also really excited to dig into and challenge traditionally held beliefs about the way we work and what really makes a company a great place to work. I’m picturing Mythbusters but for workplace norms. Sure, something might sound great in theory, but what happens when it’s rolled out in the real world? What works? What absolutely doesn’t?

What’s worth iterating on? I’m excited to help road-test ideas and hear from others who have implemented something new, either to brilliant or horrific results.

No matter the topic, I can promise that we’ll explore everything through a lens of curiosity, empathy, and humor. All three values are core to who I am and will definitely remain a constant throughout the episodes.

And finally, I want to know what is keeping you up at night!

Are you dying to understand how companies implement 4-day work weeks? Are you trying to uncover your company’s true core values but have no idea where to start? Is psychological safety something you know is important, but have no idea how to build and sustain among your team?

I want to hear from you and what you’re dying to know more about! Send me an email at with anything you’d like explored on the show!

For some reason I have the strong urge to wrap this episode by saying, “and that’s all, folks.” but truly this is just the beginning. The beginning of a dream I’ve had for a very, very long time. So instead, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite words from author TJ Klune:

Change often starts with the smallest of whispers. Like-minded people bring it to a roar.

I can’t wait to make some major noise together!

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