Lessons from Corporate America


Seven principles that can change your workplace from ‘good’ to ‘great’

We all know that it is difficult to adapt to a new place, new culture, and new surroundings. But why do many have the ‘American Dream’? What is enticing in this nation? Is it the opportunities, work culture, lifestyle, savings or affordability? Answer is ‘all of above’. I am not saying that America is ‘the’ place to live. Obviously, there are good and bad things everywhere. Wise is the one who learns from the good elements and leaves the bad. This article is an attempt to learn from the work culture of some leading companies in the United State of America.

  • Leadership
  • Mentoring
  • Work environment
  • Career progression
  • Ethical principles
  • Social responsibility
  • Fringe benefits


Leaders can no longer lead solely based on positional power. They must be partners with their team. With this approach, leaders in many American companies were able to inspire, motivate, and energise their teams with clear vision and strategies towards a common goal. Investing in leadership development has been a top priority for many successful companies like 3M. Leaders at 3M provide the focus, power, and inspiration that have made 3M one of the most innovative enterprises in the world today. 3M recognised the powerful impact leaders have on the company’s ability to continue delivering innovative solutions.

Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, describes his role as simply “picking good people and giving them maximum authority and responsibility.” In addition to Wal-Mart’s formal programs, they have a natural process in which leaders help develop each other. It is imperative to in-crease expectations of leaders, to mentor each other around the world, to influence greater collaboration, leading to higher performance and global success. Wal-Mart spends a whopping $ 50 million each year on leadership development. It is true that nurturing great leaders helps to steer to new heights aggressively.


A good mentorship program provides a platform to share goals and experiences with sole focus on mentee’s development. Mentoring is simply about striking up a confidential developmental relationship between two people. Typically, mentoring involves learning from some-one more experienced than you or who has knowledge to share – and whose skills, knowledge and personal insight can be tapped. It helps people develop and progress quickly, do their best work – and fulfil their potential as fast as possible. For example, at Deloitte, any new hire from college can choose anyone from Manager to Senior Partner as his mentor. Although the mentee need to drive the process, mentors at Deloitte do a fabulous job in acting as a sound board and in providing career guidance. People centric focus and level of involvement during the process makes Deloitte No.1 among Big 4 ac-counting firms.

Work environment:

A significant emphasis is placed on maintaining a collaborative and inclusive work environment. Further, a flat hierarchy acts as a catalyst to maintain such an environment. These elements are foundation for building a culture of openness. This culture helped Adobe Systems to make it Top 100 companies to work for in 2009 (ranked # 11). Adobe implemented employee council to ensure free flow of ideas. Another beneficiary of implementing collaborative work culture is Cisco systems (ranked # 6). At Cisco, employees find that they have more say in decision making.

In nutshell, maintaining a collegial work environment is quintessential for organisations and individual progression.

Career progression:

Effective career planning considers both organisation-centered and individual-centered perspectives. I think these two elements are well balanced in the American companies. This is especially evident in Big 4 accounting firms. At Deloitte, vision, mission and value statements set the tone and day to day activities of the organisation. Based on these, goals of the employees at each level are defined. These goals are organisation-centered.

In addition to these goals, employees are encouraged to identify personal goals. Obviously, these goals should align with organisation’s goals or at the least; the employee is expected to explain to the leadership how these goals benefit the organisation. The result, employees take complete ownership of his career and put their best effort to achieve both mandatory and personal goals.

Ethical principles:

In my experience while providing advisory services to American companies, I have observed that they strive to conduct business honourably, ethically, with the outmost professionalism, and in compliance with applicable laws. The ethical principles govern their daily business activities. Non-compliance of ethics is considered a serious offense and may also lead to termination of employment or services with the client. People believe that as one is compliant with ethics, they are protected by the leadership.

Social responsibility:

Commitment to give back to the community is another important factor that sets American companies apart from the crowd. It is not just famous philanthropists such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, but employees of many companies feel socially responsible to contribute to the community. For example, each year, tens of thousands of Deloitte employees across the country leave the office and head out into the community for a full day of volunteerism designed to help nonprofits organisations. This equates to $ 7 million every year. Further, Micro-soft matches donations made by the employees for a noble cause. These actions instil social responsibility and create a culture of selflessness amongst the employees.

Fringe Benefits:

Benefits are non-cash compensation provided to the employees in addition to their normal salary. The purpose of benefits is to enhance productivity and demonstrate a sense of ‘We care about you!’ amongst the employees. Google is a classic example. I would be surprised if anyone turns down an offer from Google because Google’s benefits are endless. In addition to medical benefit, Google’s campus hosts multitude of amenities such as state-of-the-art gym, pool, beach volleyball court, free food served by the best chefs, free servant maid services for top performers etc. It is no wonder that Google still attracts 777,000 applicants a year. Of course, it is hard to compete with Google on benefits, but below is a generic list of benefits/programs provided by many companies:

  • Ergonomics to adapt the workplace to a specific worker
  • Flexible working hours to accommodate personal needs
  • Telecommuting that enables employees to work from home
  • Health and wellness to provide free medical check-ups and vaccines
  • Child care programs with day care


It is expected that in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years. I strongly believe that some or all of the common practices presented above will help India Inc. build world class companies with highly motivated work force. Some of the companies may have already implemented one or more of the above mentioned points. Let’s strive to create a positive work environment by implementing best practices not only from home but also from across the globe.

About Author:

Vamshi Guntha

Vamshi Guntha is a Chartered Accountant, CISA, and CIA, with 12 years of experience in audit and advisory services. He is currently working as a Manager in Enterprise Risk Services group of Deloitte & Touche LLP, USA. He can be reached at vaguntha@deloitte.com.



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