The 100 Best Companies to Work For

FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

This is the year that separates true best companies from
pretenders. An economic contraction the country hasn’t seen since the Great
Depression has put pressure on all aspects of a business. Layoffs, pay freezes
and cuts, benefits pruning—all have been the norm during these turbulent times.
Many employees are simply thankful to have a job, and are less concerned with
health club memberships and other perks.

The Judges

Rankings in the Best Companies to Work For were determined
in part by a panel of distinguished judges.

Al Lopus: President, Best Workplaces Institute

John Hartman: Executive coach, Waldron & Co.

Scott Ofstead: Vice president of human resources, Kibble
& Prentice

Nita Petry: Area president, Washington state, Gallagher
Benefit Services Inc.

Scott Rabinowitz: Managing director, Seattle, DHR
International

Josh Warborg: District president for Northwest operations,
Robert Half International

But there are standouts, as there always are. Some companies
realize that an investment in human capital can have a positive effect on the
bottom line. It can be something as simple as listening to the employees—that
is, management visiting each location, talking directly with the staff and
paying much more than lip service to what they say—or a comprehensive effort to
improve the health of the entire workforce. One company goes as far as to
publish its financials internally every month, so that all employees are given
the same picture of the firm’s health. Another funds an employee’s education,
whether or not it’s work related. Yet another issues each new employee a Nerf
gun for the occasional skirmishes that break out in the office.

These are the companies that have survived turbulent times
and managed to keep their employees happy. These are the Best Companies to Work
For.

Click below to see the lists:

Click below to read the stories:

(The small and midsize company lists have been updated to correct for an error in one company's size.)

Click here to see the photo gallery from our June 17 awards banquet.

On Reflection: Corporate Game Changer

On Reflection: Corporate Game Changer

Gamification software from a UW startup makes biz-school case studies more authentic.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

Imagine you’re the CEO of an airline in crisis. Customers and shareholders are unhappy. Your employees have just gone on strike. What do you do? Give in to union demands? Hold your ground and negotiate? Fire all the employees? 

It’s the first of a cascading set of decisions you must make in The Signature Case Study, a new interactive game developed by Seattle-based Recurrence (recurrenceinc.com) in partnership with the University of Washington’s Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking (CLST). Players take one of five C-suite roles and each player’s decision changes the options available to the others and affects their total scores based on employee, shareholder and customer satisfaction.

The Signature Case Study takes the case-study method, a paper-based system pioneered by the Harvard Business School, and uses game techniques to make it more entertaining and accessible while also giving students and teachers immediate feedback on the quality of their decision making.

Data on 19 variables derived from real airlines on things like lost luggage, fuel costs, stock prices and customer satisfaction are built into algorithms that drive the game and can result in thousands of academically validated outcomes.

CEO and co-inventor Brayden Olson named the company after Friedrich Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence, the notion that all life will repeat itself through eternity. The interactive case study, he says, allows people to learn from mistakes and develop critical thinking skills that improve their judgment so they won’t make similar mistakes in real life.

While traditional case studies depend heavily on the skills of professors to engage students, The Signature Game Study’s software uses game elements to require interactivity, says co-inventor Bruce Avolio, a professor of management at the UW’s Foster School of Business and executive director of CLST.

The game shows players how decisions made early on can narrow their course of action down the road. They also learn the importance of teamwork to overcome the toughest challenges. “Great games can be both more fun and more challenging,” says Avolio, who sits on Recurrence’s board of directors.

The product, released early this year, has already been adopted at more than 30 schools, including the UW, Stanford, Penn State, Johns Hopkins and the University of Texas, to teach leadership, organizational behavior and strategy. The cases sell for $47.50 per student; Recurrence is looking to add cases in areas such as operations, finance, marketing and entrepreneurship. It’s also working with the University of Alabama nursing school to develop a case study to teach such skills as diagnosis and health care management.

With more than 15,000 business schools in the world, Olson says the market is huge. He notes that publishers of printed case studies are selling 12 million a year, but they recognize that the interactive case study is the future and are looking for Recurrence’s assistance in developing them.