By Rieva Lesonsky

best small companies to work forThe Great Place to Work Institute recently announced the winners of its 7th annual “Best Small-Business Workplaces,” honoring the top 25 small companies (25 to 250 employees) to work for in America.  One company — “experience design” company Kahler Slater — not only made this year’s list, but has made every previous list since the award’s inception in 2004.

I thought that was an amazing achievement, so I was excited when CEO Jill Morin (pictured) shared with us her 7 top tips for making your business a “best place to work.”

1.  Trusting relationships. Positive, trusting relationships are the most potent pathways to creating a winning workplace and realizing your organization’s vision.

Fast tip practiced by Kahler Slater: Start right upfront, and choose new hires through consensus decisions — team-driven choices made by the candidates’ potential co-workers.

2.  Respectful collaboration.Two heads are almost always better than one, yet collaboration requires respectful communication, from engaging people openly and civilly to looking for value in their ideas.

Fast tip practiced by Kahler Slater: Agree to build on others’ ideas by always responding with “Yes, and…” — and never with “No, but…”

3.  Passion. True passion, not superficial interests, is essential for real and lasting success.

Fast tip practiced by Kahler Slater: Make passion a manifesto for the business, and ask everyone the ultimate question, “What is your passion?”

4.  Creativity. Fun is serious business, and play ignites imagination and sparks creativity and innovation.

Fast tip practiced by Kahler Slater: Have regular “creativity fire drills” — “Quick! Pin up whatever you’re working on and discuss it with anyone in the office who’s interested.”

5.  Integrity. Honesty rocks — and rules.

Fast tip practiced by Kahler Slater: Commit to being truthful, even when it means having difficult conversations or dealing with sticky situations.  (No avoidance allowed, period.)

6.  Openness. The more your people know about your business, the better equipped they will be to contribute to its success.

Fast tip practiced by Kahler Slater: Be transparent in every way, from opening up office spaces to opening up the books and sharing financial information.  (One exception: when you’re planning a fun surprise or practical joke!)

7.  Community. Today, it’s important to be a part of the world community, and share your time, talent and treasure for the betterment of society.

Fast tip practiced by Kahler Slater: Host a Volunteer Day at least once a year.  Assign employees to different teams and charitable causes, and bring everyone back together at the end of the day to share and celebrate their contributions, successes, and experiences.