In our data-driven era, it may seem as though the more logical and machine-like you run your operations, the more successful you will be. However, quite the opposite may be true, according to a recent study. Rather, it’s the people-oriented enterprises that see the greatest success.

That's according to recent findings from Bain & Company examining the successes of Silicon Valley companies such as Apple and Google – the very paragons of success in today’s economy.

As Bain’s Michael Mankins put it in a Fast Company article, “companies like Apple, Netflix, Google, and Dell are 40% more productive than the average company... [You] might think that it’s because these companies attract top-tier employees–high performers who are naturally gifted at productivity – but that’s not the case.” Instead, Bain’s research found little difference in the numbers of “star players” in tech companies versus mainstream organizations – 16% versus 15%.

The high output and dramatic growth in the tech companies are attributable to the kind of workplace they encourage for their employees, Bain found: “Executives from large companies across 12 industry sectors worldwide said three components of human capital impact productivity more than anything else: time, talent, and energy.” In other words, corporate culture makes all the difference. The high-flying companies aren’t succeeding because they are technological wonders, they are succeeding because they are attractive, exciting places to work.

Along these lines, a recent article by Paul Brady, IT executive at Arbella Insurance, demonstrate show a positive and innovation-oriented corporate culture lifts all boats – even within the IT department itself.

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When Brady came aboard six years ago, he recognized that Arbella needed to take a more activist approach in attracting and nurturing talent. “Bottom line, we were lacking in innovation,” he relates. “Certainly, we were improving and doing incrementally better in the same areas year over year, but there were opportunities to think differently about how we did things. We needed new ideas – new energy.”

For starters, the company focused on increasing the diversity of talent coming through its doors via its entry-level hiring program. The company also began to actively encourage pairing junior and senior employees to provide ongoing learning and mentoring experiences. “When someone on a top step of the ladder leaves, and you promote someone below them then the cascading impact is several promotions. This results in a highly motivated, excited, and appreciative workforce because we are promoting from within.”

Along with more innovative new ideas, the increased atmosphere of openness has “transformed our culture, contributed to our position as a ‘best place to work’ in Boston,” Brady relates. In addition, it has helped the company and its IT department “to control costs while increasing our output.”

To achieve this, Brady’s team, working in conjunction with Arbella’s HR department, focused on “bringing people with different mindsets, experiences, and ways of viewing problems together to find the best solutions.” Currently, turnover in Arbella’s IT department is seven percent – “that’s exceptional for an IT job market in which the Massachusetts technology unemployment rate has been quoted at 1.5 percent,” says Brady. “Everybody that wants a job in IT, has a job in this state. So having a positive brand and being known as a great place to work is incredibly valuable.”

The ability to support not just a satisfying workplace, but one that creates a sense of excitement pays off large dividends in the long run. “An engaged employee is 44% more productive than a satisfied worker, but an employee who feels inspired at work is nearly 125% more productive than a satisfied one, Bain’s Mankins is quoted as saying. “The companies that inspire more employees perform better than the rest.”

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