Behind Lists Ranking The Best Companies to Work For

What defines a great work culture? How are companies recognized as “great places to work?” A quick Google search will reveal dozens of lists that claim to have assessed and ranked the best companies to work for (we are referring to U.S. here). But how do the companies make these lists? We wanted to highlight just how these ‘rankings’ are formed.

The most notable and referred to list of “Best Companies to Work For,” is a yearly listed published in Fortune magazine.  The rankings are powered by Great Place To Work, an organization with 25 plus years of experience studying great workplaces. They can measure the behaviors and the environment of a workplace through an employee survey they designed, Trust Index, which looks at 58 specific metrics. Their Trust Index survey is taken by over 10 million employees annually, measuring employee engagement by surveying employee opinions, attitudes and perceptions on the level of trust between colleagues and between management and employees. To be considered for Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list, companies must go through an application process. To be selected a company must pass a rigorous screening process and meet several minimum qualifiers such as company age and number of employees. Selected companies are ranked predominantly on the basis of employee’s response to the Trust Index (2/3 weight) and the Culture Audit survey (1/3 weight).

great workplaces - small businessEntrepreneur magazine hosts an annual list titled the Great Place to Work: Best Small & Medium Workplaces (also powered by Great Place to Work). This list is compiled using the same combination of the Trust Index employee survey and the Culture Audit survey as mentioned above. The difference is in the type of companies surveyed. For the Best Small & Medium Workplaces list, Great Place to Work states that companies must be two or more years old and have between 25 and 999 full and part-time employees in the United States.

Powered by Evanston, Illinois based Winning Workplaces, Inc. magazine sought out to recognize businesses that cultivate productive and satisfied employees. In 2011, nearly 350 companies self-nominated to be considered. To be eligible, companies had to be privately held with head quarters in North America, in operation at least three years by end of 2010 and have no more than 500 full-time employees. Applicant companies were judged by a panel of judges including Winning Workplace’s staff in areas such as employee engagement and development, company mission, employee benefits, management effectiveness and rewards & recognition.

Taken from, the company says that their Employee Choice awards are determined by a company’s overall rating on Glassdoor, which is determined using a company survey that captures employees’ attitudes about: Career Opportunities, Compensation & Benefits, Work/Life Balance, Senior Management, and Culture & Values. Their 2012 rankings are based on reviews from more than 250,000 employees taken from 65,000 companies. What distinguishes these rankings from others, is that there is no self-nomination process.


Industry Specific Rankings

Great-Places-to-Work-adageAdAge turned to a New York-based employee and human resource consulting firm, Buck Consultants to design two surveys (one for the employer and one for their employees) whose intentions were to find companies with the best benefits and most-engaged employees. Employee engagement (for them) is an indicator of the degree to which employees feel committed and involved with their work including factors such as: clear paths to promotion, understanding of company goals and open & transparent management styles. Agencies with 50+ full-time employees were eligible to participate but the companies needed to self apply. In 2012, 15,000 employees took the survey from nearly 185 companies.

Created by The Partnership for Public Service, The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government provide a comprehensive rating of employee satisfaction across federal government agencies. Their approach is extensive. Data used to compile these rankings was pulled from the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) which is administered online to nearly 550,000 full-time employees. The data was weighted to represent all federal employees covered by the survey, accounting for probabilities of selection, as well as demographic characteristics such as age, gender, race, supervisory status and agency size. Taken directly from their website, Best Places to Work index is calculated by the percentage of positive responses (Strongly Agree/Agree or Very Satisfied/Satisfied) to three workplace satisfaction questions and is weighted according to a proprietary formula developed in conjunction with Hay Group in 2007. The workplace environment scores are calculated by averaging the percentage of positive responses in ten categories, including effective leadership, employee skills/mission match, pay and work/life balance. A regression analysis is then performed to determine the categories with the most influence on the Best Places to Work satisfaction score.

To become eligible, employers must submit themselves for consideration to Modern Healthcare. Once a company is submitted, Modern Healthcare sends a form to the company which must be completed by a minimum of 25 employees. The survey, generally covers: demographics, benefits and company policies. Core areas of the survey include: pay & benefits, overall employee satisfaction, training and personal development, relationship with supervisor, work environment, role satisfaction, leadership & planning as well as culture and communications.