What Does It Take to Become a Best Company to Work For?

We’re often asked how businesses make the list.

People like to rave about companies that have pool tables in their lounges, free massages at employees’ desks and Friday afternoon happy hours at favorite watering holes. But seldom will such perks make us passionate about the companies we work for.

What gets us out of bed every morning excited about going to work involves more complex variables. Of course, nobody wants to work for a company that compels us to work long hours through fear and intimidation. But what are the positive characteristics we should look for when searching for that perfect match? We identify the businessess in our annual 100 Best Companies to Work For feature this month by sending employees of nominated firms an extensive list of questions to answer anonymously. We ask them to rate their companies and their management on the following issues we believe are most likely to create a fulfilling environment for employees.

Benefits. Does the company offer a comprehensive benefits package, including such things as dental coverage, paid vacation and sick leave? Does it offer flexible work hours, telecommuting and job-sharing opportunities?

Communication. Does the company effectively share news about the business, both good and bad? Do managers make themselves available to employees and encourage employee feedback?

Corporate Culture. Does the company encourage employees to act and think independently, focus on long-term success and allow employees to act on their convictions?

Hiring and Retention. Are there opportunities to advance? Does the company have a formal program to identify future leaders? What is turnover like?

Executive Leadership. How well do managers encourage collaboration? Do they respect employees and their opinions, and promote diversity? Do they build strong relationships based on trust and encourage employees to take leadership?

Performance Standards. Do managers establish challenging but attainable performance goals mutually agreed upon by the manager and the employee?

Responsibility and Decision Making. Is there an environment of accountability? Are employees given latitude and authority and encouraged to solve problems through teamwork?

Rewards and Recognition. Are salaries equitable and competitive and based on performance? Are individuals and groups recognized, and are there bonuses for excellent performance?

Training and Education. Does the company promote employee development through training and mentoring programs?

Work Environment. Are employees encouraged to be creative and to brainstorm solutions to problems in a safe setting? Is there a proper balance between work and personal needs?

That’s a pretty comprehensive list, and employees are usually honest in evaluating managers. Are there other criteria you think we should include in future surveys? Is there a company out there that you think should be included on the list? Let us know. We would love to hear from you.

LESLIE HELM is executive editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at leslie.helm@tigeroak.com.

Final Analysis: The Sporting Life in 2017

Final Analysis: The Sporting Life in 2017

Three predictions for the coming year on a new arena, an old arena and the Mariners.
As every first-year business student knows, a city’s economy is not considered “world class” until said city has erected at least four shrines to professional sports and these shrines remain empty and unused most days of the year. Seattle is knocking on the door of world classiness because it already has KeyArena, Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field up and running. Occasionally. Just one more monument to appease the great mass of athletic supporters and we’re there. Hallelujah!
It’s only a matter of time because Chris Hansen, the San Francisco rich guy who wants to build a new arena on First Avenue South and bring pro basketball and pro hockey to Seattle, is this close to getting his way. In October, Hansen revealed that he and his investors are now willing to pay the whole honkin’ bill for plopping a new arena into the SoDo neighborhood a block from Safeco Field. He still wants a piece of Occidental Way vacated and also expects some tax breaks from the city, but that’s how rich guys are. (See: Trump, Donald.) Besides, the people who believe we’re not world class until the NBA returns to Seattle are salivating over this deal because it’s the best deal we’re ever going to get
Of course, these same people said Hansen’s previous offer, which would have required that $200 million in public money be plowed into a new arena, was also the best deal we were ever going to get. 
Hansen’s decision to pay more for his arena places the sports economy clearly in the local spotlight this year. Heaven knows we could use more opportunities to pay $9 for a beer and see millionaire athletes selling Jaguars and BMWs on TV. It’s the kind of economic shot in the arm that only comes around whenever a sports league is in a coercive mood. 
And so, in the spirit of this January issue’s “looking ahead” theme, we offer three predictions relating to the regional economy as the Hansen arena intrigue continues to unfold.
Prediction 1: Hansen, who has already spent more than $120 million buying up property in the area of his proposed arena, will persuade the Port of Seattle, his arch nemesis in this melodrama, to fold up its tent and send all cargo-handling operations to Tacoma. That decision will pave the way for so many trendy bars and restaurants with names like Kale & Kumquat or Cobblestone & Wingtip that Hansen will be persuaded to create a private streetcar system to connect Pioneer Square with the burgeoning Stadium District. 
Prediction 2: The city-owned KeyArena, whose very future is clouded by the Hansen proposal, will announce plans to house up to 10,000 homeless persons every day. Even on days when the Seattle Storm and Seattle University basketball teams need the building, the city believes the Storm and the Redhawks could use the attendance boost, so it becomes a classic win-win.
Prediction 3: The Seattle Mariners, who still don’t like the arena proposal, will channel their hostility onto the field of play — and still not win the World Series. (This is called pattern-recognition analysis.) However, always mindful of improving the fan experience — because it’s not whether your team wins or loses, but whether you’re inclined not to press charges for being gouged by a vendor — the Mariners will introduce several new fan-friendly food items, plus mani/pedi stations in the pricey seats and roving loan officers to assist anyone trying to finance the purchase of hot dogs and sodas for a family of four. 
JOHN LEVESQUE is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at john.levesque@tigeroak.com.