Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where Would You Want to Work?

Everybody is attracted to lists, including corporate lists that rank the size of top corporations, the best places for diversity, and the places that offer the best opportunities. Lists provide a quick snapshot of voluminous information, of interesting statistics, or of a trend, issue, or phenomenon--no matter whether the lists are sometimes subjectively and unfairly compiled.
Fortune magazine may have started it all with its well-known Fortune 500. Few people may comb through the list line by line and in depth, but all business leaders, managers and students know what it implies--corporate size, influence, strength and global expansiveness.
Forbes owns the Forbes 400, the popular list that ranks the wealthiest people in the world. Other business media have popular lists that attract a following or at least spawn water-cooler and Internet chatter: BusinessWeek, Black Enterprise, and Institutional Investor.
Fortune may have the most abundant of lists. Beyond its list of the largest 500, it owns such lists as the most powerful women in business, the most influential business people and the most important (in its view) business people under 40.
Its latest list is out this week. It's the 100 Best Companies to Work For. (See Fortune has researched, compiled and presented this list for years. Year after year, it strives to present something as objectively as possible, although the list is based on surveys completed by the companies themselves, impressions from those who have worked there, and a handful of performance statistics. In general, the list is likely fair to those that make it. Companies on the list are likely justified. Perks, performance, and pay are what they are. The list might be unfair to dozens (if not hundreds) of small companies that are overlooked or out of sight when the lists are prepared.
Financial institutions, for various reasons, have not fared well on the "Best Companies to Work For" list. But a few appear year after year. They may legitimately be attractive companies to work for. Or they may have human-resources departments and employees who religiously take the time to complete surveys and provide data on benefits, perks and compensation (variables that rank high on the list).
Diversity, inclusion and employee satisfaction are important variables, so it shouldn't be a surprise that many on the list are Consortium sponsors (past and present): American Express, Goldman Sachs, General Mills, KPMG, and Deloitte, to name a few.
Fortune's 2011 list hardly differs from its 2010 list. Notable is the unusual number of consulting, accounting and law firms on the list: BCG, a dream target for many MBAs, is no. 2. Booz Allen, Accenture and Ernst & Young also make the list. These firms make the lists for various reasons. That new employees can aspire to be well-compensated partners one day might be a factor. Another could be their flat organizations and business models that minimize bureaucracy, processes and procedures.
A scattering of financial institutions made the list. There is no discernible pattern. Big global institutions like American Express and Goldman Sachs made it. Goldman would make most lists of the toughest companies to work for, as well, but its perks, compensation and long-term career paths may make the painstaking efforts to be employed their worth it. American Express was noted for promoting and retaining women in senior roles.
Oddly there are a few discount broker/dealers and investment managers on the list. One explanation could be the opportunity for day-to-day independence and business accountability for brokers and financial consultants. Edward Jones, Scottrade and Robert Baird made the 2011 list. In a strange way, Jones made the list despite, as Fortune says, a workforce of 93% white. But the firm was applauded for its recent efforts to do something about that. The company says it wants to be more than a "firm of middle-aged white men." Certainly an example where it gets an "A" for effort, although its past grade in diversity might have been a "D."
Familiar names make the list, as they do each year: Google, Dreamworks, Cisco, Genentech, Intel, and Starbucks--often because of the perks that have come in working at young, dynamic firms or firms with technology, project-oriented cultures. Those perks, of course, include flexible work hours, minimum (if any) dress codes, cafeteria privileges, stock options, and day-care arrangements--all sufficient enough for any employee to rank their company as high as possible on a Fortune survey.
Tracy Williams

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