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.

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