Survey results: What makes a company people-first?

Flexibility, stance on remote work, and salary is what people care about most when looking for a new job—here's what else we found in our 2020 survey.

Survey results: What makes a company people-first?

When we came up with the idea of People-First Jobs, a job board focused on helping people find companies that take a healthy and balanced approach to work, we realized we still had a lot to define. After doing our soft-launch and seeing that our idea resonated with others, we knew we wanted to get input from other people on what makes a company people-first. So in early 2020, we ran a survey to collect feedback.

We asked three things:

  1. How do you define a people-first company in your own words?
  2. What are the five most important things you look for in a job posting?
  3. What do you wish companies would include a job posting that is usually missing?

You may notice that two of these questions are focused on job postings rather than the company itself. That's because job postings reflect the reality of the culture and values for a company.

Here's a summary of what we've heard from people.

The results

What makes a people-first company? We were eager to hear how others define it.
And we loved what we heard. Here are a few of our favorite statements.

A people-first company is one that recognizes that building great teams and supporting their people is the best way to build great products and provide great services to their customers.


A company that actively invests in caring for its people and empowering them to succeed instead of forcing them to conform to the company's agenda. Its leading vs pushing.

And one more:

A company with humane policies for employees and an environment respectful of humans: sufficient PTO and a culture of actually using it, paid family and medical leave, remote/wfh policy, offices instead of open plan/cubicles, reasonable working hours, culture not centered around drinking/carousing, diversity and inclusion that's more than just lip service - IN ADDITION to actual work that isn't harming the world.

To put that one more simply:

A company that cares for the people who are working for it, who are using its product, and for its impact and responsibility for society.

That describes a holistic approach to work and the impact a company has on our world.

We also asked for the top five things people want to see in a job post. There is some variety in the replies, but they fit nicely into 13 categories:

  • Salary
  • Flexible schedule and time (including PTO, sick time, and parental leave)
  • What the job entails (responsibilities, what a typical day looks like etc)
  • Stance on remote work
  • How the team works together (communication style, open floor or offices, planning style)
  • Team culture (diversity, inclusiveness, transparency, how the team makes money (profit vs. investment))
  • Team mission and purpose (how meaningful is the work, does the company benefit humanity and the planet)
  • How is success measured for the role
  • What benefits are offered for the position (insurance, 401k, disability etc)
  • Professional growth (mentorship, reviews, eduction allowance)
  • Tools used in the job
  • Requirements to get the job
  • What the hiring process looks like (how long before a decision is made, test exercises etc)

We weighted the responses by priority, removed the bottom three, and we are left with a nice list of the top ten things people care about most when looking for a job.

Although I would have expected the salary to be number 1, it was immediately clear that flexibility over schedule and location were far and away the most important aspects of a job.

How can we tie this all together?

It's important to remember that our primary goal with People-First Jobs is to help you find a great company to work for. And the best place to see the values of a company are in their job postings. Some attributes of a healthy company are easy to articulate; others, less so. Some are stated explicitly in a job description, others are implicit in the benefits a company provides for its employees.

We made an attempt to sum up what people told us and we’ve grouped these into three spheres.

The team

  1. Flexibility & balance. This is the number one requirement for people in 2020. They want to know if a company will support them outside of work just as much as during business hours. How does your team support a healthy balance between work and family and the rest of life? Are team members free to choose the hours that suit them best? Are they encouraged to put work away if they hit the wall or need a break?
  2. Remote work. Similar to the last point, job seekers want to know whether a team is remote-first or remote-friendly. Does your company act as if everyone is remote? Or are remote workers tolerated, but not encouraged?
  3. How your team works together. Another important thing people want to know is how your team gets work done. Do you have an open office plan? Is live chat mandatory and monitored? Or is asynchronous communication and focus time encouraged by the entire team? Other critical aspects are how your team plans. Is everyone involved, or do team leaders make decisions and pass details on?

The culture

  1. Team culture. People want to work for companies where there is shared ideals. Does your team seek to be inclusive and have diversity in its members? What kinds steps do you take to encourage camaraderie? Do you take team retreats? And is there transparency into the business model, financial health, and decision making of the company?
  2. Mission & purpose. Last, but certainly not least, job seekers want to know if the company does work they can believe in. Is the product or service you provide benefiting humanity? The environment? What is the long-term vision of the company?

The job itself

  1. Salary. While the final number is often dependent on factors like experience, it’s a waste of everyone’s time to go through the hiring process only to find both sides are far apart on basic compensation. Be clear and provide a range of salary levels.
  2. Benefits. What are the basic needs your company covers? Job seekers need to know if items like health insurance, 401k (RRSP) matching, or profit sharing are provided.
  3. Measuring success. Be clear about what it looks like to succeed in this role. Even if this is the first time you’ve hired a specific role, give an idea of what you’ll be measuring and how those measurements are used.
  4. Professional growth. This is given attention by both the company and the employee. A healthy company hires people with room to grow, but who are also internally motived to improve their skills. And then they're given the resources and accountability to do just that.

Implicit in all the attributes and benefits above is this: autonomy. People want to work for a company that clearly outlines what’s expected of them, then lets them go and do it. Mature, responsible humans can figure out when, where, and how long they need to work in order to meet those expectations.

This article first appeared on the Wildbit blog, People-First Jobs' original home. The Wildbit blog is chock-full of more great content that's worth reading. Check it out →