Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Best Places to Work

I always enjoy reading the Fortune list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For". I find the disjoint combination of types of businesses - in this year's Top Five you'll find Google, Quicken Loans, Wegman's Food, Edward Jones, and Genentech.

So, the best company can be one in which you're brainically improving search algorithms (taking breaks only for gourmet lunch), or helping someone finance their home, or bagging groceries, or cold-calling widows, or cloning a goat.

(Bringing up the rear, the Bottom Five of the Top Hundred were: Herman Miller, FedEx, Sherwin-Williams, SRA International, and TI. Am I the only one who finds it hard to believe that a company that produces office cubicles is a great place to work???)

Work life is certainly interesting.

Perhaps because it never occurred to me to question why no place I've ever worked made it onto the Top One Hundred list, I've never thought about how the list is created. In case you're wondering, here's how:

To pick the 100 Best Companies to Work for, Fortune partners with Great Place to Work Institute® to conduct the most extensive employee survey in corporate America. Of some 1,500 firms that were contacted, 407 companies participated in this year's survey. Nearly 100,000 employees at those companies responded to a 57-question survey.

Two-thirds of the score is based on the survey results.

What I find interesting is that so few companies are in the running to begin with - only 1,500, presumably because there's a minimum size for consideration - and that only a bit over 400 companies chose to participate.

So, the Top Hundred - rather than being the bestest ev-ah - are really the top 25 percent of the companies that answered the survey.

I find myself curiously disappointed - and yet curiously heartened - by this bit of information.

Disappointed because I actually like the idea that Wegman's, which I know only through my regular trips to Syracuse but which I know first hand is a terrific grocery store - is a great place to work.

But I suspect that my personal favorite local chain - Roche Brothers - may also be a great place to work. It's just that they may not have been among the 1,500 selected to participate (or the 407 that elected to do so). And that's what makes the list so heartening.

These may be good places to work - even great places - but they're not the only good places to work, dammit!

Another company that made the Top One Hundred is Shared Technologies, which caught my eye because their average annual pay was listed as $187K, putting it up there in the company of the big, white-shoe law firms. The average salary listed was that associated with the most common job title. In the case of Shared Technologies, that's apparently salesperson. Come on, how can an organization where the most common job is salesperson be a great place to work. Sounds like a complete nightmare to me.

Ah, well.

I'm sure that all of the Top Hundred will enjoy some bragging rights, and that HR will make something of it when it comes to hiring. But this is obviously not any great objective and "scientific" ranking of workplaces. I'm sure that some places that thought they'd get terrible results opted out, but it would be interesting to see (without necessarily naming names) what the spread was between the Top Hundred and numbers 300-407 on the scale. Probably not all that much.

1 comment:

John Whiteside said...

Well, arguably part of being a best place is being so focused on being great that when you hear of this survey, you think, "We've got to participate!" rather than, "Oh, bother, what's the point?"

It would be interesting to ask employees what the best places to work are. I remember just after Whole Foods was on the best place list one year, I went to my local store (in DC) and listened to the cashier muttering, "Best place my ass!" followed by a litany of complaints.