THE KEY TO HAPPY WORKERS

[MEMO} A GREAT PLACE TO WORK: WHAT MAKES SOME EMPLOYERS SO GOOD [AND MOST SO BAD]; BY ROBERT LEVERING; RANDOM HOUSE; $18.95.In this survey of work places and workers, Robert Levering finds that the secret to a great place to work is simply people. People and commitment to people.

It doesn't matter if the employer has two employees or 5,000, it's the care and nurturing of employees that makes for a great work place. And this great work place translates into great workers - well, at least workers who say they work at a great place.Levering, who co-authored "The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America," returns to many of those places to explore what makes them outstanding in the eyes of their employees and others. What can employees and employers learn from Levering? A lot.

When companies are committed to people, good ones get better and bad ones become profitable. The point Levering makes again and again is that there are many paths companies can take to get to a "great place." His studies take him to Preston Trucking, Federal Express, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance and Marion Labs, among others. Among many company attitudes this one at Preston Trucking says it best: "The person doing the job knows more about it than anyone else." It is this attitude - starting at the very top of the company - that makes for a great work place.

Levering writes, "Good work places provide beacons in a fog of mediocrity and insensitivity. They offer a different vision from the dog-eat-dog, each-man-for-himself, free-the-entrepreneur philosophy that enjoys widespread currency today. A great work place is one where everyone, employees and management, is pulling together. It makes the workers feel better. It makes the managers feel better about the roles they play. And it helps society in general. In short, the attitudes (expressed in this book) can do much to revitalize, and possibly even transform, American society."

"A Good Place to Work" also gives job seekers criteria for spotting bad work places, and it suggests a number of questions to ask potential employers. It provides a wealth of ideas and help for today's managers to improve the quality of the work environment, so when asked what business he or she is in, the response will be:

"I'm in the business of growing people - people who are stronger, healthier, more autonomous, more self-reliant, more competent. Incidently, we also make and sell for a profit things that people want to buy so we can pay for all this."