Last week I was surprised to receive a press release from Fortune Magazine announcing the publication of their annual list of “100 Best Companies to Work For”. (How did they find me? Was it from the post I wrote blasting their Gen-Y expert? ). This instantly stirred up some negative feeling on my part because frankly,
I think “Best Places To Work” lists are a HUGE SHAM!
Why do I feel this way? Because I once worked for a company that would routinely end up on these “Great Places to Work” lists and let me tell you, it was anything but great. My company’s placement was more a testament to how skilled our PR person was at promoting the company than a true representation of the company’s quality of life.
However, most of the publications who publish these types of lists boast about how comprehensive their survey criteria are. For example, here is what was listed in the Fortune press release:
“To select the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” FORTUNE works with Levering and Moskowitz of the Great Place to Work Institute—a global research and consulting firm with offices in 30 countries—to conduct the most extensive employee survey in corporate America. More than 81,000 employees from 353 companies responded to the 57-question survey created by the Institute. Two-thirds of a company’s score is based on the survey, which is sent to a minimum of 400 randomly selected employees. The remaining third is based on the Culture Audit, which includes detailed questions about demographics, pay and benefits, and open-ended questions on philosophy, communication and more.”
Note how only “two-thirds of a company’s score is based on the survey” of its employees, while the extra third is based on some nebulous “Culture Audit” which is most likely a buzzword-infested love fest where management and HR get together in one room and espouse how they promote “work-life balance” and “family-friendly” policies (when in reality, they probably offer neither).
If a company offers such great perks and benefits, wouldn’t it show through in an employee survey?
I remember one such survey I was forced to take on behalf of my company (and when I say “forced” I mean they mass emailed us every week to “remind” us to vote and put up fliers all over the office about the survey. They even posted them in the bathroom stalls!), where I literally gave them negative values (on a scale of 0 – 5) and they still managed to make it onto a “Best Places To Work” list. And this was after my company “extended” the deadline to vote because they didn’t even garner the 50% response rate on the survey needed to submit to the publication.
It’s also interesting to note how many companies made it onto Fortune’s list who are now suffering from mass layoffs. In my home-state of Washington, 2 of the 6 “Best Corporate Headquarters” based in Washington (Microsoft and Starbucks) just announced massive layoffs. Other struggling companies that made it onto the Top 100 list also included Whole Foods Market and eBay. Are layoffs not considered to negatively impact employee morale or company perks, bonuses and performance?
So when it comes to “Best Companies To Work For” lists, I take the advice of Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk:
“You can forget the lists. The bar is so low to get on the lists that which company is on and which company is off is statistically irrelevant.”