You are on page 1of 4


An Edelman perspective on making meaningful employee connections that deepen engagement, build trust and accelerate business performance.


Hundreds of companies each year brave the rigorous application process to be considered for Fortunes Best Companies to Work For list, which is produced by Great Place to Work Institute. In 2013, contenders had to showcase more than just great business performance and generous health-care options that now are mere table stakes. They had to deliver something special. So, what set this years winners apart? Reflecting our analysis of the latest list, 10 key insights and trends emerged. They are grouped among the three types of organizational connections that we believe comprise an engaged workforce: Employees connected with the company Employees connected with each other Employees connected with the outside world


Trend No. 1: Employee Wellness Programs
While such practices were rare to nonexistent just five years ago, 55 of the 100 Best Companies in 2013 offered health incentives, notes Leslie Caccamese, senior strategic marketing manager at Great Place to Work Institute. This year, the most list-worthy wellness initiatives went beyond affordable or free health insurance premiums, but include entire healthy lifestyle options. Google, ranked No. 1 on the 2013 list, added three new wellness centers and a seven-acre sports complex for its employees this year not to mention the more than 100,000 hours of massages performed in 2012. Studios at DreamWorks Animation (12) are visited regularly by fresh juice trucks that distribute free smoothies and, at Devon Energy (27), employees enjoy a 20 percent discount when they select the cafeterias healthy meal option.

Trend No. 2: Compensation and Profit Sharing

Another way companies create a positive workplace culture is by giving employees a tangible connection to the companies success. At Robert W. Baird & Co. (14), members of nonsenior managers have the opportunity to own a majority (78 percent) of the firm.

The Container Store (16) offers a 401(k) plan that matches 50 percent up to four percent of pay to keep employees invested. The Everett Clinic (58) rewards employees with profit-sharing of up to 5 percent of pay.

Trend No. 3: Employee Recognition Programs

Two words: Thank you. Simple, yes, but those words can make a true difference to employees. Many of the best 100 companies let employees know their hard work is valued through senior management actions. At NetApp (6), Vice Chairman Tom Mendoza asks managers to notify him when they "catch someone doing something right." He then spends time each day calling about 20 employees to thank them. In the same fashion, the president and CEO of Devon Energy (27) calls employees or sends personalized notes to thank them for a job well done and regularly hosts employee luncheons. Other companies recognize employees by encouraging them to share ideas to help move the business forward. Qualcomm Rank (11) encourages its engineers to share ideas at an annual in-house tech conference. In 2012, engineers submitted nearly 200 papers and winners presented them at the forum and participated in speaking events.

Trend No. 4: Professional Development

Not only are companies recognizing employees smart ideas, but they also are investing in employees futures by offering internal and external development and training opportunities. OhioHealth (69) calls itself a "learning organization" and, accordingly, provides more than 200 hours of training a year for full-timers; hourly full-timers get 123 hours. FactSet Research Systems (44) gives financial bonuses of up to $17,500 to employees who pass a financial analyst certification exam. At Mercedes-Benz, USA (30), the German automaker offers 175 instructor-led training sessions, more than 250 ecourses, up to $8,000 per year in tuition reimbursement, and job shadowing. A new addition to the list this year, Automotive Resources International (70), not only has never had a layoff, it offers unlimited tuition reimbursement for employees as well.


Trend No. 5: Relationship Building
Companies are encouraging relationship building and camaraderie between colleagues, which helps build positive workplace cultures and, in many cases, positive financial performance. Aflac (84) helps its employees connect with and appreciate each other during a six-day annual appreciation event that includes theme park visits, film showings, skating and daily giveaways. At Umpqua Bank (55), employees gather at the start of each day for a motivational moment to recognize achievements, play work-related games and set goals. CHG Healthcare Services (3) holds entertaining contests such as staff talent shows, trivia contests and activities such as a Dress as Your Favorite President competition to help create connections between employees that break down cube walls.

Trend No. 6: Company Challenges

Many companies challenge their employees to reach goals together. HilCorp Energy (7) rewards all employees when it meets specific goals. In 2010, the company promised staff that if its production rates and reserves double by 2015, every employee will receive $100,000. Four hundred employees celebrated achieving an earlier goal with $50,000 each toward a new car. Inuit (22) encourages employees to spend 10 percent of their time pursuing projects they're passionate about. Last year the company rewarded its top innovator with $1 million in cash and stock. At Chesapeake Energy (26) employees are challenged to follow safe work practices. Employees who follow them are eligible for safety bonuses. In 2011, more than $8 million in such bonuses were distributed to more than 6,000 employees across the company. And CHG Healthcare Services (3) awards extra paid time off to entire sales teams that meet their goals.

Trend No. 7: Celebrating Company Milestones

While celebrating relationships is important, honoring company history and milestones are other great ways to create a culture where employees feel a strong connection to each other. On the first working day of every January, employees of Burns & McDonnell (18) mark the anniversary of their ownership of the company with a bowl of chili served to them by officers and managers. To mark its 100th birthday, Perkins Coie LLP (33) distributed $10,000 to committees in each of its 16 local offices and let them decide where to donate the money.


Trend No. 8: Paid Time Off to Volunteer
Companies are looking outside their walls to create a better world for the communities in which their employees live and work. Employee involvement has become vital to this commitment. Deloitte (47) offers a three-to-six-month sabbatical at any nonprofit with participants earning full benefits and 40 percent of pay. Other impressive volunteer efforts this year included: PCL Construction Enterprises (73) is employee-owned and community-minded, with an annual volunteer goal of 18 hours per worker; employees can win $200 checks for their charities. In addition to daily workloads, Bingham McCutchen LLP (82) attorneys performed more than 44,000 hours of volunteer work last year. (19) allows employees 48 hours of paid time to volunteer.

Trend No. 9: Work-Life Balance

Not only are companies urging and assisting employees to volunteer in their communities, they are pressing for employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Boston Consulting Group (4) maintains this balance by issuing a "red zone report" to flag when individuals are working too many long weeks. And when workers at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (28) put in extra hours, the company sends flowers and gift baskets to their loved ones. At Alston & Bird LLP (23), perks include $10,000 and 90 paid days off for adoptions; partial scholarships for on-site child care and an entire wall dedicated to employees' childrens artwork.

At Recreational Equipment (REI) (17), training for new hires includes an outdoor service project. After 10 years of service at this law firm, Perkins Coie LLP (33) offers employees a two-month paid sabbatical. And last year, more than 4,000 Intel (68) employees took an eight-week paid sabbatical, which they are entitled to every seven years. The online retailer Zappos (31) is moving to new headquarters in Las Vegas and CEO Tony Hsieh is making the move as comfortable as possible for his employees. He is spending $350 million to develop the entire neighborhood so employees will have access to great places to live and socialize in outside of work.

Trend No. 10: Employee Referrals

A fulfilled employee can be a companys biggest advocate and strongest ambassador. At Wegmans Food Markets (5), not only is turnover exceptionally low, but the employees enjoy the company so much they highly recommend it to their own relatives. One-in-five employees have other family members working there. At Edward Jones (8), 44 percent of new hires come from employee referrals. And, The Everett Clinic (58) pays referral bonuses of $10,000 for wooing new physicians.

The insights from this years list suggest that theres no single answer to the question of what makes a company a great place to work, but rather that its a complex blend of tangible and intangible attributes, programs and deeply engrained cultural norms that looks different for every organization. The questions for companies fortunate enough to be featured on this years list are: How do we publicize and celebrate this achievement internally and externally as a way to bolster pride, attract better job candidates and improve retention? How do we continue evolving the nature and depth of engagement with our workforce to stay on the list for years to come? For companies seeking to be on the list but who havent made it yet: How can we increase connections and engagement at our organization? Whens the right time to attempt application for the recognition? Do we have the right resources who can dedicate the time required to apply and manage the process?

Edelmans Employee Engagement experts help organizations accelerate business performance, delivered by highly engaged and trusted employees. We do this by making meaningful, trust-building connections connecting employees with the company, connecting employees with each other, and connecting employees with the outside world. We have a global network of employee engagement specialists who can develop engagement strategy; deploy the tools and processes to deliver it; create the multimedia channels and content that support it; and design the insight mechanisms to measure it. For more information, visit us at or follow us on Twitter at @EdelmanEE.