100 Best Companies to Work For 2012

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

We all want to love going to work, to have a nurturing, welcoming workplace that makes our jobs easier, more enjoyable. We all know that not every company fits that description. Happily, the companies and organizations listed on these pages do, according to the very people who work there. Congratulations to the Seattle Business magazine 100 Best Companies to Work For of 2012!

 

100 Companies List (pdf download) 

Small Company Winners

Midsize Company Winners

Large Company Winners

Nonprofit Company Winners 

Company HQ Outside Washington Winners 

 

HOW TO BECOME A BEST COMPANY TO WORK FOR>

Benefits: Provide a comprehensive benefits package including dental. Offer a comprehensive retirement plan, paid vacation and sick leave, flexible hours, telecommuting and job-sharing opportunities.

Communication: Share good and bad news about the business. Make management accessible to employees and encourage feedback.

Corporate culture: Encourage employees to act and think independently. Focus on long-term success. Allow employees to act on their convictions.

Hiring and retention: Offer opportunities to advance. Maintain low turnover. Establish a formal program for identifying future leaders.

Performance standards: Create challenging but attainable performance goals mutually agreed upon by manager and employee. Conduct evaluations that are updated regularly. Leadership> Inspire employees to do well. Encourage team spirit. Respect employees and their opinions. Promote diversity. Encourage employees to take leadership. Build strong relationships based on trust.

Responsibility and decision making: Foster an environment of accountability. Give employees latitude and authority. Encourage problem solving and teamwork.

Rewards and recognition: Provide competitive and equitable salaries. Implement performance-based compensation. Provide bonuses for excellent performance. Regularly recognize individuals and groups.

Training and education: Promote employee development. Train mentors. Encourage employees to share expertise.

Work environment: Encourage creativity and brainstorming in a comfortable and safe setting. Provide balance between work and personal needs.

ENTER THE COMPETITION! NOMINATIONS GO LIVE IN SEPTEMBER.

JUDGES>

First-, second- and third-place winners in the 2012 Best Companies to Work For competition were determined by these judges.

John Hartman, CEO, CEOtoCEO

Cindy Olsen, vice president of human resources, Concur Technologies

Nita Petry, area president for Washington state, Gallagher Benefit Services Inc.

Jeannine Ryan, director of sales and marketing, Washington Employers

Brent Schlosstein, founder and principal, TRUEbenefits LLC

Laura Swapp, director of diversity and inclusion, REI

SIZING THEM UP>

For judging purposes, we separate companies into five categories: small (30 or fewer employees), midsize (31 to 100), large (more than 100), nonprofits and firms headquartered outside Washington.

RUNNING THE NUMBERS>

Seattle’s Gilmore Research Group compiled data submitted anonymously by thousands of employees from the nominated companies. (Firms can nominate themselves.) Gilmore uses the detailed responses to determine each business's score in such areas as communication, leadership, benefits, corporate culture and workplace environment. In addition to providing the basis for our judges to determine the top three winners in each category, Gilmore will prepare a customized report for any member of the 100 Best Companies to Work For interested in acquiring one.

On Reflection: Corporate Game Changer

On Reflection: Corporate Game Changer

Gamification software from a UW startup makes biz-school case studies more authentic.
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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.