What it Means to Work for a "Best" Company Today - One Employee's Perspective
Recently, Keysight was named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. Ranking at number 46 on the list publicly validates what employees of the company have known all along — Keysight is a great company to be a part of! And while recognition from such prestigious organizations with solid research methodologies helps substantiate sentiment across employee groups, each person has their own prioritization of what makes a great company. Having worked for Keysight since its formation in 2014, I always viewed the company as the right fit for me. But our leadership’s response to the challenges of the last few years is what, in my opinion, solidifies Keysight as a best place to work, and exemplifies what separates good companies from great companies.
Response to Recent Events Differentiates Good Companies from Great Companies
There are several reasons Keysight has been the right fit for me over the years, including its fiscal responsibility, strong executive leadership team, well-rounded employee benefits and pay structure, world-class career advancement and development opportunities, and cultural values that align with my own, such as courage and integrity. But these traits are common employee expectations and may be experienced at many very good companies.
To me, what differentiates the best companies are corporate attributes that, until recently, were not necessarily the most visible. The challenges of the last few years have tested business strategies, corporate culture, and employee commitment to their breaking point. As a result, company characteristics that may not have been as front-and-center during “normal” times — such as purpose, sustainability, inclusivity, and caring — are having a big moment. So big, in fact, that the companies that had these characteristics all along are in a much better position to have an engaged workforce and stay resilient in today’s business environment. This is where Keysight has always shined.
Critical Traits of a Resilient Company Today
Reflecting on recent events, the level of business and global disruption is unlike anything experienced in modern history. The effects of climate change have manifested into increasing impacts from wildfires, power disruptions, food and water scarcity, and extreme weather events. Political unrest has highlighted and exacerbated multiple human equity aspects. And of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives, communities, companies, and supply chains around the world. Many companies can thrive and treat their workforce well when times are good, but great companies thrive, develop their workforce, and stay resilient even during difficult times. This requires a certain culture to be in place before incidents occur with flexibility inherent to address changing dynamics quickly and effectively.
The following corporate characteristics have become increasingly more visible elements of corporate culture in the best companies, and I’m proud to say have always been part of our value system at Keysight. They have emboldened employees like me to help maintain the company’s strong position of corporate resilience. To me, these are the corporate traits that really make a difference today.
Purpose – First and foremost, the ability for companies to support community prosperity, not just business results, is something that aligns with the values of many employees who want their every-day work to make a real difference in the world. Companies with a clear purpose that supports building a better world will attract and retain high performing individuals as a result. As an example, Keysight's mission to connect and secure the world is as relevant now as ever. Through our hardware, software, solutions and services, the company helps build a better planet by accelerating breakthroughs in purposeful technology areas such as clean tech, social impact and wellness, and safety and security.
Sustainability – Beyond having a corporate purpose, companies need to acknowledge the role they play in supporting and helping build a more sustainable environment for future generations. As community members, corporates and employees are both critical to positive efforts in this space. Keysight, for example, is taking an active role to help mitigate the worst impacts of climate change by committing to net zero emissions in company operations by the end of fiscal year 2040. This commitment puts the company’s environmental sustainability efforts in alignment with the Paris Agreement’s preferred goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. And while there is a team at Keysight that manages operational aspects of this goal, every employee has a role to play in ensuring its success and doing their part to support a sustainable future.
Belonging & Inclusivity - Recent events have elevated the need for companies to commit to making strides in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Such efforts also help build more resilient workforces with increased innovation and market expansion opportunities. Keysight, for its part, has always placed a high value on DEI, and in fact has made it a CEO-level priority. As a core value, Keysight’s DEI efforts embrace diverse cultures and ways of thinking as critical to our long-term innovation strategy. With targeted actions across the career journey — from supporting K-12 STEM education in under-resourced communities and diverse recruiting efforts, to employee programs for sharing their unique perspectives and inclusive business policies — Keysight has increased its resolve to make a difference in this space in support of more prosperous communities and long-term company innovation.
Caring for Employees and Communities – Many companies have some level of community social impact efforts. Whether it be corporate donations, philanthropic organizations, or employee volunteerism activities. Such efforts are often expanded during times of crisis. However, the best companies recognize that this work is not anecdotal or one-off. It is part of their culture and continues whether times are good or not. To me, this is where Keysight has always been a leader. Keysight has long contributed to the communities where it operates, participating in local and global volunteer efforts while supporting numerous charitable and educational organizations. The efforts in this space skyrocketed in scope and meaning these past few years as individuals and communities relied heavily on the support of corporate sponsorship and volunteers to address myriad impacts. Stepping up to such situations is not uncommon for Keysight. What heartened our workforce even more to the company was the level of involvement and comradery of our employee population through high-stress situations to not only continue helping our customers and local communities, but each other as well.
This last attribute hit me as particularly important in shifting my personal perspective of the company from great to best. I know exactly when “normal” changed in our Keysight world. It was October 2017 when the Tubbs fire broke out in northern California. At the time it was the biggest wildfire ever experienced in California, and it hit directly in the area of our corporate headquarters in Santa Rosa. Along with Keysight campus impacts, many employee homes and neighborhoods were lost. Following our defined crisis management approach, I participated on the crisis response team within a group of employees tasked with contacting each and every employee in that region (more than 1,400 at the time). Our role was to ensure local employees and their families were safe, inform them of the generous direct support the company had available, provide resources for them and their neighbors, and generally offer a virtual shoulder of support. While it was a tremendously emotional time, I was so inspired by the individual strength of those impacted to persevere, and amazed by the outpouring of support from employees all over the world reaching out to help our colleagues and their communities any way they could. From our corporate leaders in the thick of the event, to individual employees at satellite offices halfway around the world, we were truly one Keysight, and #KeysightStrong was born.
Unfortunately, as we have all come to know now, that first significant event wouldn’t be the last. What followed have been multiple “once-in-a lifetime” wildfires, social unrest events, severe weather incidents, the pandemic, and most recently a military conflict between two nations that has further disrupted global business-as-usual. I could write ad nauseum about Keysight’s response to each incident. And while corporate support across communities continues, the most recent Keysight response is one that stands out to me once again as an example of a best company.
You see, on the day that Keysight was named to Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, I received a message detailing the company’s local support of our Shanghai employees that again filled me with pride in working for the company. During weeks of mandated quarantine for residents of Shanghai to mitigate a COVID outbreak, our customer support employees tirelessly continued to support regional customers from their homes. Our customer’s work was important, so their work was important. However, easy access to food during the city-wide shutdown was challenged as the days of lock-down wore on. As soon as this issue was discovered, Keysight’s regional leaders quickly procured food sources and formed an emergency food distribution program to get nourishment to the company’s roughly 200 employees quarantined at their homes in Shanghai. I was awestruck. It all happened so fast, over a single weekend. It is another example of employees helping employees and our corporate leaders stepping up to take care of our workforce beyond the basics of a paycheck and benefits.
Today’s Learnings Inform Future Success
There hasn’t been a more challenging time in modern history for global businesses than the last few years. However, the silver lining of these challenges has been the learnings we have gleaned — as individuals, community members, and corporate entities. Critical corporate characteristics that may not have been as visible prior to recent events — such as purpose, sustainability, inclusivity and caring — are imperative for success now and into the future. With such traits in place, when challenges arise, the best companies will be resilient. And that is something that customers, shareholders, suppliers, communities, and employees (including myself) will always remember. Its these attributes that will differentiate the best companies throughout the foreseeable future.