Meaningful work. Good company.

3 min read

HWC employees and their families smile in the stands at a baseball game

What makes a place a “great place to work?”

Work is central to our lives. It pays the bills, but it also helps fulfill our needs for purpose, identity, and belonging.

A career is a cornerstone of our sense of self. And a great workplace – one that supports and challenges us in equal measure – can help us grow and contribute in ways we might not have imagined.

When Washingtonian magazine named HWC to its 2017 list of 50 Great Places to Work in Washington, DC, we were excited. We threw a party. We ordered stickers. We also did some thinking about what makes a workplace great, and how we could remain a great place to work for years to come. Today, I have the opportunity to share some of my thoughts on the subject.

If you came looking for the seven easy steps to making a company a “great place to work,” I’m sorry to disappoint. There’s no secret recipe or perfect formula. I believe there are, however, at least four components which work together to create a great workplace: people, culture, leadership, and investment.


This is the foundation of every genuinely great place to work: excellent people who believe in the mission and bring their best each day. The collective personalities, work ethic, and intelligence of everyone in a company form the basis of the second component, culture.


Culture is intangible and belongs to everyone. The culture of a great place to work is one in which all can thrive; where individuals have the freedom, autonomy, and resources to do their best work. One in which all are empowered.


Empowering all is the duty of leadership: those with the authority to create policy and allocate resources. In a great workplace, “leadership” doesn’t just mean those at the top. It also describes at least three other things: (1) driving the organization forward in pursuit of a mission and vision; (2) industry thought leadership, and (3) building capacity for leadership across the organization. Great leadership inspires all to improve each day.


Great leaders invest in their people, and a great workplace shows its commitment to employees through investment. Investment in excellent benefits and compensation, so folks and their loved ones are happy, healthy, and able to thrive. Investment in training, education, and professional development, so team members can grow professionally and keep pace with an evolving industry. And investment in the tools and technology that make outstanding work possible, so nothing stands in the way of a job well done.

What makes HWC a great place to work?

HWC possesses all the elements of a great workplace defined above, but a few things set it apart.

Meaningful work stands out above all else. Public-sector consulting offers a rare opportunity to create real and lasting change for the American people. At HWC, we use our diversity of expertise to solve difficult problems for our clients, and in the end, leave agencies working better and smarter.

We believe good government can change the world.
This ethos is at the heart of everything we do.

HWC’s core values—creativity, flexibility, and tenacity, embody an approach to our work that creates lasting solutions to difficult problems.

To produce these solutions, we hire excellent people who expect nothing short of excellence from themselves. Together, we’ve created a culture that values collegiality, work-life balance, having fun, and doing great work. We’re a collection of smart, motivated, entrepreneurial folks who are not afraid of failure.

HWC employees from the company kickball team pose in front of the US Capitol.
One of sign of great culture? Folks who enjoy spending time together outside of work hours. Especially when playing on a company-sponsored kickball team.

This culture is reinforced by a management team, anchored by partners, who are accessible and invest in our people. Management empowers folks at all levels to take on new projects, drive change, and demonstrate leadership. They create an atmosphere which removes barriers, enables success, and supports autonomy. For example, flexible schedules and work locations give staff the freedom to do their best work. The latest and greatest technology to ensures that employees have the tools they need to perform. And professional development allows all to stay informed and apply the most recent best practices to their activities.

The management team also takes care to ensure that people enjoy the work they’re doing. When deciding how to divide my time among our clients and internal projects, my manager considers the needs of each project. He also considers everything I’ve shared with him about my career goals, my strengths, and my interests. Sending me to a new project isn’t a simple matching of supply to demand and skills to requirements. My happiness is an important part of the equation. And my experience isn’t unique.

In a recent analysis, Facebook found that when folks have great management, they don’t quit a boss, they quit a job. At HWC, we do our best to build jobs around people so they stay challenged, happy, and productive. When your job is built around you, it’s hard to imagine working anywhere else.

Meaningful work. Good company. For me, that’s what makes HWC a great place to work.

What makes your company or organization a great place to work? Let me know in the comments below.

Interested in becoming part of the HWC family? View our career opportunities.

Jon Darby Jon Darby is a designer and developer who works on marketing and client delivery at HWC. He has a Master of Arts in Advertising from the Savannah College of Art and Design and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Emory University. He delights in creating products and user experiences that are both meaningful and beautiful.