Table of Content
Identification of Companies
Wegmans Food Markets
Every year, the business magazineFortunepublishes its list of the100 Best Companies To Work For®. For this purpose Fortune partners with the global research consulting firmGreat Place to Work Institute® to conduct the “most extensive employee survey in corporate America”  with 407 participating companies this year. Only companies that are more than seven years old and have at least 1,000 employees are eligible. A company’s score in this ranking is based on two factors. One is a 57-question survey sent to a minimum of 400 randomly selected employees, asking for things like attitudes towards the management and job satisfaction. This survey accounts for two thirds of the score. The other third is based on a Culture Audit, capturing detailed demographics, pay and benefit programs, management philosophy, methods of internal communications, opportunities as well as compensation and diversity issues .
When looking at the results of this ranking, one immediately notices that the same company names have appeared over and over again among the top ten or top twenty over the previous years. This paper takes a deeper look at some of these companies, their corporate culture and the way they treat their employees. Furthermore, it tries to determine whether some measures or ideas exist that are common to all these companies and help increasing job satisfaction. From that, propositions are given of how these measures can be applied by other companies, independent of the industry they are doing business in.
Identification of Companies
To identify companies that consistently achieved extraordinary ratings in terms of job satisfaction, the100 Best Companies To Work For® of the last five years, from 2007 to 2011, are considered. The two companies with the highest average ranking over this period are used in this paper. They are Google (average rank 2.8) and Wegmans Food Markets (3.8). Additionally, the software company SAS is included, although it only achieved an average rank of 19.8. However, SAS ranked first in the last two years and climbed steeply in this list from 48th in 2007 to 29th in 2008, 20th in 2009 and finally 1st in 2010. Although not intended, these three companies from very diverse industries happen to occupy three of the top four places of this year’s100 Best Companies To Work For®, which was published in January 2011.
Google, founded in 1998 and headquartered in Mountain View, CA, is in the business of online internet services, employs over 20,000 people in the U.S. and generated almost $24 billion of revenue in 2009. In addition to its original product, the world’s most widely used search engine, Google has been very successful in recent years with other services like Google Maps, Gmail or Google Calendar. In the100 Best Companies To Work For®list, it has ranked extraordinarily high over the last five years, 4th in the last three years and 1st in 2007 and 2008, resulting in an average rank of 2.8.
What makes Google so great in the eyes of their employees? Certain single measures have found a lot of attention in the media and made Google famous for its working environment, things like unlimited sick leave, free food, laundry service, dry cleaning, oil change, car wash, gym or haircuts for employees. According to a study conducted by theGreat Place To Work Institute® “[…] it is really no one of these items. Google is the grand sum (and more) of these unique ‘parts’ that together create an incredible workplace. It is the Google culture […].” From the early days of the company on, it has always been the intention of the founders to create a great workplace instead of just making a lot of money. The first version of the search engine was developed, when the co-founders were still part of the computer science department of Stanford University. The basic idea, put forth by co-founder Larry Page, was “recreating that university environment ” from which Google originally arose to foster creativity and high performance in the workplace. Based on the company’s motto “Don’t be evil” Google has found its own unique way to treat its employees with respect and prompt them to exploit their creative capabilities and work hard.
This culture already begins with recruiting. Google has a very clear image of the kind of people it wants to employ. It is not just picking experts in a certain field. An important part in the hiring process is also the candidates’ “Googleyness”, the ability “to work effectively in a flat organization and in small teams and respond to a fast-paced rapidly changing environment. ”
As a matter of fact, working in teams is the norm at Google, especially when it comes to big projects. The company grants the teams a high level of autonomy and puts a lot of effort in making the surroundings as comfortable as possible for the team, for example an own conference room that is solely used by the team .
A lot more elements constitute the organizational culture of Google. The cited study of theGreat Place To Work Institute®classifies these elements in five different categories, practices that support credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie.
Practices that build credibility
Credibility is built through two-way communication, competence and integrity. Effective two-way communication means that managers share information clearly and comprehensively and provide mechanisms that encourage employees to begin conversations about all their questions and needs. Competence includes “the skills and behaviors needed for the effective coordination of people and resources, directing employees’ work with the right amount of oversight, and clearly articulating and pursuing a vision for the organization ”. Integrity finally is understood as honest, reliable, consistent and ethical behavior of the management.
Google applies a number of practices to build credibility with its employees. Here are some examples for this:
- TGIF, a weekly company-wide get-together. In addition to welcoming new employees and presentations of news about Google, TGIF includes a Questions and Answers session that encourages all employees to ask executives all questions they have in mind.
- Many internal e-mail lists are a medium for discussions about ideas or complaints. On special websites, ideas for product improvements or other suggestions can be posted, discussed and rated. Management follows these discussions closely, responds to the issues and, if necessary, puts them on the agenda of a TGIF
- At quarterly “Kick-Off” meetings, Google’s sales force in North America comes together with the Sales Vice President to discuss recent performances and establish new goals for the coming quarter. On top of that, the Google’s entire sales force comes together at Global Sales and Operations Conference. The highlight of this event is a Questions and Answers session with the whole senior management team of the company.
Practices that show respect
In the second category are practices that prove respect for the employees. These practices include three things: showing professional support though training, equipment and appreciation, fostering collaboration between employees and management and demonstrating a sense of caring by providing a safe and healthy working environment and showing interest in the people’s personal lives.
Here are some examples with which Google seeks to accomplish these goals:
- An education reimbursement program allows for the reimbursement of up to $8,000 per year for external training and education. Engineers can enroll in the MS Program of Stanford University with full coverage of tuition by Google.
- All employees at Google are allowed to dedicate 20% of their time to a project that is not part of their particular job description and that can potentially benefit the company.
- Googlers (as people working for Google call themselves) enjoy the availability of free high-class and often organic meals all day
Practices that ensure fairness
Practices to ensure fairness in the workplace are intended to provide a sense of equity in the distribution of rewards. They also include avoiding favoritism of all sorts, absence of office politics and a sense of justice (like a lack of discrimination and fair processes for appeals).
The measures Google uses to accomplish fairness include the following:
- The compensation strategy provides attractive rewards for strong performance, but also downside exposure in the case of poor performance. The higher a person climbs in terms of leadership and responsibility, the more is the compensation level tied to performance.
- The Founders’ Award is Google’s most significant and high profile recognition program. It rewards exceptional team accomplishments that created tremendous value for the company. The awards single team members receive are based on their particular contribution to the project and can easily reach several million dollars.
- The diversity program is not limited to the HR department, but runs throughout the entire organization. It also reaches outward to raise the excitement of women and underrepresented minorities for the engineering field.