Today marks the release of The World’s Best Multinational Workplaces List, a ranking of the 25 best global companies to work for in terms of workplace culture. It’s compiled by Great Place to Work Institute, a global research, consulting and training firm headquartered in San Francisco. Take a look at the list, and see if anything jumps out at you:
- SAS Institute
- Kimberly Clark
- Federal Express
- W.L. Gore & Associates
- Ernst & Young
- National Instruments
- General Mills
- American Express
- Novo Nordisk
- SC Johnson
You almost certainly noticed that the top three, and five of the top 10, companies on the list are IT companies. In an email interview with Great Place to Work CEO Susan Lucas-Conwell, I asked her for her thoughts on why that’s the case. She said that traditionally, there is an especially high level of competition within the IT industry to attract and retain top talent:
IT companies have adapted to this competition not only by providing competitive salary and benefit packages, but increasingly by differentiating themselves through their workplace environment. As a result, many of these companies are actively working on creating and maintaining a great workplace culture.
I mentioned to Lucas-Conwell that I have been to SAS Institute’s campus in Cary, N.C., and interviewed SAS CEO Dr. Jim Goodnight several times over the years, so I wasn’t surprised that SAS topped the list. I asked her what she would say is the single characteristic of the SAS corporate culture that other companies should most strive to emulate. Her response was that there isn’t really one thing that made SAS No. 1 on the list:
It’s the sum of the entire employee experience there. SAS has created a high-trust environment where employees are supported through their entire journey at the company, from their initial hiring and onboarding experience through to their retirement. That said, to highlight a few of SAS’ outstanding programs and practices:
- The company truly values communication and sharing. This is demonstrated through town hall meetings, skip-level meetings (meetings between managers and team members who are one or more levels below them), their internal social media network (called “The Hub”) and their monthly “Conversations Over Coffee” program, unscripted breakfast gatherings where employees can ask CEO Jim Goodnight questions that are on their mind.
- Impressive work/life balance practices: SAS facilities provide amenities such as Montessori day care, fitness centers, free meals, wellness programs and camps for employees’ children.
- The company offers true flexibility and support for employees to achieve their career goals. SAS would rather work with employees that are having a difficult time or need to relocate than lose these employees altogether.
- Lastly, SAS demonstrates a strong commitment to philanthropy and corporate social responsibility, particularly within the areas of education and environmental sustainability.
By my count, 13 of the top 25 companies are high-tech companies that rely heavily on STEM graduates, yet there is a chronic shortage of graduates in those disciplines in the United States. My presumption is that these companies are therefore recruiting a lot of their talent from overseas, so my sense is that a large percentage of jobs in the best places to work in the United States are going to foreign workers. I asked Lucas-Conwell for her thoughts on that, and she said they don’t track data on the number of foreign workers in their surveys:
Our surveys are sent to all employees of these companies, and our assumption is that the overwhelming majority are U.S. citizens. We can also assume that there are comparable numbers of foreign nationals in all companies that rely heavily on STEM graduates, whether or not these companies are featured on our list. Regardless of the percentage of foreign nationals working at these companies, what it is important to remember is that our survey measures employees’ perceptions of their workplace environment. Thus, we can say that employees who work at these list-making companies rate their companies highly on our employee survey because of the kind of workplace environment that is created—not because of any number or percentage of foreign nationals.
I asked Lucas-Conwell for her thoughts on whether the diversity that overseas recruitment inherently entails is one of the factors that make these companies great places to work. She said there is no one single policy or practice that makes a company a great workplace:
It is all of the policies and practices combined that make up a company’s culture, and it is this culture as a whole that employees experience—a d what we measure. Accordingly, while many of our Best Companies are highly diverse workplaces, diversity in itself is not a precondition for being a great workplace. What is important, however, is that companies proactively respond to the diversity in their workplace with policies and practices that ensure that all employees are treated equally and feel valued.
Finally, I asked Lucas-Conwell what she sees as the list’s most important takeaway. Her response was that it’s all about trust:
When employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with, they experience a workplace culture that is beneficial for all parties—e ployees, clients, stakeholders and the company as a whole. Happy employees who trust their leaders and feel personally trusted routinely go the extra mile, deliver better client service, and ultimately help their company to perform better. Great workplaces simply generate better business results. This fact has never changed over our 25 years of studying and researching best workplaces.