What Makes These Companies The 5 Best Places to Work?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On March 17, 2014

Every year Fortune magazine publishes a list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” Why should this matter to you? Almost any business owner will tell you that his or her people are the company’s most important resource. For some leaders, those are just words. But for the most successful companies that’s an undeniable truth.

Finding the right employees, getting them to stick with you, and getting them to give you their very best is absolutely essential to your company’s success. So how do you do that?

Obviously, the companies that made the Fortune list are successful businesses. But it’s not just their financial success or their market share that makes them good places to work. And it’s not just that the companies are getting bigger. As a matter of fact, if you look at the job growth of the top five companies on this year’s list, there’s a wide disparity (one company posted job growth of more than 46 percent, while another only added a bit over 3 percent).

Employees are also not driven exclusively by financial rewards. It’s not that those aren’t important, but they aren’t enough by themselves. One of the interesting things about these “best of” companies is the different ways in which they motivate employees. When Fortune ranked and summarized their list, one of the questions they posed was “What makes it so great?”  You can peruse the whole list of 100 here, but let’s take a quick look at the top five companies.

  • Google: Google’s stock climbed past $1,000 in 2013—a boon for Googlers, all of whom are stockholders. CEO Larry Page urged them to be “audacious,” especially in philanthropy. Google donates $50 for every five hours an employee volunteers. Last year a new program sent employees to Ghana and India to work on community projects.
  • SAS: Employees of the software developer use the services of its onsite health center, which is also open to family members. The facility counts 53 medical and support staff, including 11 nurse practitioners, three family-practice physicians, three registered dietitians, 11 nurses, five lab techs, a psychologist, and three physical therapists.
  • Boston Consulting Group: The strategy consultant celebrated 50 years last June with a special global broadcast. Everyone received an interactive desk sculpture inspired by founder Bruce Henderson’s favorite quote: “Archimedes said that if he were given a long enough lever and a place to stand, he could move the world. We have a place to stand. It is BCG.”
  • Edward Jones: The fourth-largest financial services firm in the U.S. rivals Starbucks in number of locations and added 3,000 employees last year—they join a network of financial advisers who stick around for a while. Turnover is at an industry low of 8%, and more than a third of the firm’s advisers are more than 50 years old.
  • Quicken Loans: The mortgage lender is intent on reversing brain drain from Michigan. A recent job fair in downtown Detroit attracted 2,500 applicants for 500 jobs. It also partnered with area businesses to offer incentives to employees willing to move to the city, including $20,000 in forgivable home loans.

Do you notice a trend there? Neither do I. And that’s what’s really interesting. None of these companies followed a formula or trend in creating an atmosphere that attracted the “right” employees. What’s clear is that the leadership in each of these companies had things that they valued that attracted like-minded individuals. In some cases, it was a vision for the community. In others, it was a goal. In yet others, it was an overall sense of providing for employee’s well being.

What is it about your company that makes it a great place to work? When someone thinks of the “benefits” of working with you, do those benefits extend beyond fiscal remuneration? What are you offering your employees that will make them want to give you their very best?