Posted by & filed under Employee Development.

Good business leaders always have an eye toward strengthening their organizations through employee retention and satisfaction. There are myriad ways of creating a company culture that encourages these outcomes, but one approach that is gaining momentum is organizational democracy.

WorldBlu, a company dedicated to democratic workplaces, describes their member organizations this way:

Leaders and employees of WorldBlu-member organizations are passionate about freedom-centered workplaces. They value people as much as profits and they’re mobilizing towards a new corporate democracy that drives results by attracting top talent and harnessing the collective intelligence, full self-expression, personal power and creativity of all who champion freedom and democracy in the workplace.

The company just published its annual WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces 2012 last month, naming 48 nonprofit and for-profit organizations from around the world that embody these ideals. The selected organizations represent diverse industries, from technology and manufacturing to health care and retail, and they range in size from five to 90,000 employees. WorldBlu judged the organizations based on their 10 democratic design principles:

1. Purpose and Vision
2. Transparency
3. Dialogue + Listening
4. Fairness + Dignity
5. Accountability
6. Individual + Collective
7. Choice
8. Integrity
9. Decentralization
10. Reflection + Evaluation

Highlights From the List of Most Democratic Workplaces

The organizations profiled in WorldBlu’s list all have innovative and unique approaches to establishing an environment where employee retention, professional development and personal accountability thrive. Here are a few of our favorite highlights:

  • TakingITGlobal, the world’s largest online community of youth interested in taking action on global issues, supports the principle of Purpose + Vision by involving every employee in its intense strategic planning process. There were many ways for employees to participate and give regular feedback, and the result redefined the organization’s intention and purpose.
  • Barrett Values Centre, which develops metrics and culture assessments used globally, practices the principle of Choice by encouraging all employees to take training courses each year that will help with professional development and personal growth. Employees can choose their training and development courses, and in recent years they have explored interests including yoga, Photoshop, decision-making processes and facilitator training.
  • NixonMcInnes, social business consulting company, embodies the principle of Reflection + Evaluation by hosting monthly “Church of Fail” meetings where all employees are invited to share their failures in a supportive and fun environment (failures are greeted with resounding applause). NixonMcInnes also has an employee-elected rewards team to evaluate and approve all pay rises, all the way up to the CEO.
  • DaVita, a Fortune 400 healthcare company with more than 35,000 employees, practices the principle of Dialogue + Listening by hosting regular “voice of the village” calls where teammates are encouraged to call in and ask questions of their senior leadership team.
  •, is the top online shoes retailer, demonstrates the principle of Transparency by live-streaming its town hall meetings so anyone in the world can watch, hosting free tours of its workplace and publishing an annual “culture book” in which all employees write an essay. Employees all also receive reports outlining’s profits, monthly goals, expenses and progress.
Do you see any characteristics of democratic workplaces in your organization? What practices do you wish your organization would adopt? Share your comments below.

Leave a Reply