Each year Fortune publishes the 100 Best Companies to Work For in the U.S. While the bulk of the company evaluation rests on a comprehensive employee survey, Fortune publishes a wealth of employer statistics about benefits, diversity and jobs. Weber Shandwick has been cataloguing this data since 2006, enabling us to look at how each factor is changing over time and how reputations can be shaped by being a best company to work for.
Most Best Company statistics for jobs, diversity and benefits were unchanged between 2012 and 2013. However, this leveling off could be taken as a sign of good news. 2010 and 2011 were mediocre years for jobs and the improvement in job and diversity statistics in 2012 suggested that the market was starting to strengthen and reputations are stabilitzing. Similar numbers in 2013 may signify that improvement is still underway.
Below are insights into these jobs, diversity and benefits trends:
Jobs: The Best Companies reported virtually the same job statistics in 2012 and 2013, including median job growth (6%) and median voluntary turnover (7%). In fact, with the exception of 2010 and 2011 which were poor years for jobs statistics, median job growth has maintained a steady rate since 2006, only fluctuating between 5% and 7%. Perhaps this job growth range is a Best Company standard.
Improvement in negative growth may be a sign of recovering job market. After hitting a low last year (11%), the number of companies experiencing negative job growth remained steady in 2013 (12%). This is a drastic improvement from 2011 when 45% of Best Companies reported negative job growth.
The rate of Americans quitting is on the rise, suggesting that people across the country are becoming more confident in leaving their jobs to find work elsewhere. Best Companies, however, maintained the same voluntary turnover rate between 2012 and 2013 (8%). The difference between these two trends may reflect the impact that a good reputation can have on retaining a company’s workforce.
Diversity: Diversity initiatives at Best Companies have also remained mostly unchanged. The average percentage of women and minorities working at Best Companies has been consistent since 2008. But with women already comprising, on average, nearly half the Best Companies’ workforces, it is very possible that we will see this trend continue into the coming years. 2013 was another solid year for gay-friendly policies and benefits. Nearly all Best Companies this year have gay-friendly policies (99%) and the number of those offering gay-friendly benefits has hit a record-high (93%).
Benefits: The most noticeable change in employee benefits offered by Best Companies since last year is the decrease in number of companies extending compressed workweeks (down from 80% in 2012 to 73% in 2013). Also taking a small hit is on-site childcare, which fell below 30% for the first time since 2008. The Fortune evaluation, however, does not look at companies that offer flexible workweeks, which could be taking the place of these two benefits. Best Companies could be giving employees the opportunity to better balance their work lives outside of a formal perk. We may be starting to see this trend happening at companies not on the best-of list too. For example, while Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was recently in the media spotlight for banning working from home, it is possible that Yahoo employees have other options for work flexibility aside from telecommuting. The benefit with the greatest improvement is on-site gym, which hit a high this year (73%). All other perks remained largely unchanged from 2012.
On my travels, I met with the CEO of Ocean Park (disclosure: a client) in Hong Kong. Ocean Park is a theme park that promises to connect people with nature and provide memorable experiences for all. Although I had several memorable experiences seeing my first Panda and getting a personal behind the scenes tour of how Pandas are taken care of, I also had an unplanned memorable experience that had simply to do with people. After my presentation on Social CEOs to the executive team, Ocean Park’s CEO Tom Merhrmann joined us outside as we started our tour. Tom is a very social CEO as you can see in his discussion of the Halloween bash with Marketing Magazine or impersonating Elvis, let alone his presence on Facebook and LinkedIn.
When we were outside the meeting room, we quickly ran into two Ocean Park visitors who were enjoying the park. Within seconds, I saw Tom offering to take their picture with one of the girl’s cameras. I had no doubt that the visitors had no idea who he was but were only glad to have their picture taken together to create their own memories of the day. It was nice to see that how observant he was of his customers’ concerns. A few seconds later, I turned around to see him picking up some litter that had fallen to the ground. Between watching a CEO connecting with customers and picking up a speck of garbage to keep a park pristine as it could be, he reminded me that being socially-media savvy is just one element of leadership.
I was taking a look at the new Harris Poll RQ study that was released this week. Reputations of U.S. companies are always important to review in order to see how companies or sectors are improving while others are declining. The survey has some reptuational nuggets worth sharing here.
This year, 16% of the U.S. public said that the reputation of corporate America was improving, an increase of 7% over one year earlier. That is positive news despite the fact that 49% of consumers say it is declining. That is not a surprise because trust in business has reached its lowest depths over the past few years of economic decline. But it is a good sign that reputations are making somewhat of a comeback.
But what really has left me thinking twice is not the finding that Amazon.com is the most highly reputable company in America this year, a notch above Apple. What has me in a state of awesome disbelief is that Amazon earned nearly 100% positive ratings on all measures related to Trust and that among Americans who have discussed Amazon with their family and friends, nearly 100% of these conversations were positive about the online retailer. I have rarely, if ever, seen a company ever get that close to 100%. I’ve been conducting research for a long long time and this is an amazing feat. 100% satisfaction! A rarity.
The Harris Poll also found that more than 60% of consumers say that they now “proactively try to learn more about how a company conducts itself” before they consider buying that company’s products and services. Again, the world of reputation is seriously changing when people care this much about a company’s treatment of employees, customers and communities. Values are increasingly playing a greater role in reputational perceptions and this market force is only going to continue. Mark my words.
It is November and I remembered that the World’s Best Multinational Companies to Work For list must be out. I went to the Great Place to Work Institute and there it was. The list was released last week. I have to say that between Hurricane Sandy, the election and the Noreaster we had in New York, we lost two entire weeks to chaos. So I must have missed the awards announcement on November 12th.
To make it to this premier ranking is not easy. Companies have to meet the following criteria — chosen from 350 companies, appeared on at least five national Best Workplace lists, have at least 5,000 employees worldwide and have at least 40% of the workplace based outside the home country.
Some of the amazing facts about these companies are:
- On average, returning companies on the World’s Best Workplaces list increased their revenue by 9% this year.
- Over the past 12 months, these 25 companies created 120,000 new jobs globally.
- Furthermore, voluntary turnover at 15 of the 25 companies was at 8 percent per annum, compared with the all industry average in the United States of 9.1%, according to CompData Service.
- Country with the most companies on the list — Mexico.
- Average number of national list recognition awards — nine
- Percent of women in executive/senior positions — 27%
- Greatest improvement in Trust Index — work/life balance, professional development
- Region with the most companies on the list — Europe
- Most represented industry on list — Manufacturing and Production
The reputation of the companies on the list are all stellar. I am, however, trying to understand why the logo of this award uses a dinner plate. Or am I being too literal? Perhaps it is the dinner plate from a white-tie dinner. You think?
When I was speaking at the YPO/WPO luncheon in Minneapolis two weeks ago, I mentioned that I was talking about how to prepare for a public relations crisis that can cause reputational damage and what can be done. I always like to find examples that might resonate with an audience and I found this one which I still can not get out of my head. In the checklist I provided attendees regarding preparing for a crisis, I mentioned the importance of establishing a chain of command. It is important that everyone knows exactly what to say and who should be saying it when crisis strikes. This control over a chain of command starts with the person who answers the phone!
Two weeks before I arrived in Minneapolis, I had come across an article that described exactly how it should NOT be done. The article was about how some workers at JFK airport filed a complaint with the TSA about how they were being rushed to do their jobs to avoid schedule delays. And the jobs they get paid to do are important. One quarter of these workers — security agents — employed by this small business complained that they were unable to search flights in enough time to discover if there were any weapons, drugs or explosives left behind after the passengers left. These agents are supposed to pull down every tray, check every overhead bin, probe seat pockets and use metal detectors to make sure the planes are safe and secure as mandated by the federal government after 9/11. Since airlines are very concerned about flight delays and on-time arrivals, these employees felt that they were being given little time to do their jobs. As one employee said, they were being asked to do their jobs in three minutes when the minimum amount of time needed was 25 minutes.
Here’s what stunned me. When the company that employs these agents was asked about the complaints, the pr director responded by saying that the employees were lying. “It is impossible for these allegations to really take place.” Here is an example of a company caught unaware and responding poorly. Within a few words, the director put the company’s reputation at severe risk. When The New York Times calls to find out information about an alleged complaint, the company spokesperson should have said that they would get right back to the reporter with a response and more information. Saying that one’s own employees were lying just does not cut it. From what I can gather, the PR director said that the employees were trying to unionize and therefore intent on aggravating the situation. Whatever the reason or excuse, this was quite the example of self-inflicting repuational harm. One for the books!
You have probably read enough about our survey The Company behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust. The first segment of the study, released in early 2012, reported on the growing interdependence of product brand and corporate reputation. The findings alerted marketing and communications executives to a tectonic shift in communicating the voice of the “enterprise” to key stakeholders. The survey, conducted with KRC Research, was among nearly 2,000 consumers and executives in two developed markets (U.S. and U.K.) and two developing markets (China and Brazil). The second release focused on CEOs and their role in reputation-building from the viewpoint of consumers and executives. This third release, just issued today, explores how executives in companies that market their products under multiple brand names differ from those companies who market mostly under one single brand name in their approach to building reputation. It addresses why it may be critical for product brands to be transparent about their ownership, even in cases where a company has made thoughtful and strategic decisions to lessen the exposure of the corporate brand.
We learned that 75% of executives at companies that manage products under multiple brand names now believe that a strong parent brand reputation is as important as the company’s individual product brands. As I was quoted in today’s release and executive summary: “Historically, multi-brand organizations more extensively marketed their product brands over their corporate brands, but their future success might entail determining how to bring the corporate brand forward to realize the full potential of all their reputational assets.”
I always get asked what surprised me. First, despite the advantage of leveraging the parent brand to enhance the reputation of the product brands, the survey found that many multi-brand executives aren’t fully embracing consumers’ increased scrutiny of the company behind the products they buy. While more than eight in 10 single-brand executives recognize that consumers are increasingly checking labels and doing research to identify the company behind the brand, significantly fewer multi-brand executives recognize how proactive and discerning consumers are about what they buy.
|Percent completely/mostly agree…||
|More and more, consumers are checking labels to see what company is behind the product they are buying||
|More and more, consumers are doing research to learn about the companies that make the products they buy||
* indicates the group is significantly higher
The second surprise was that despite the fact that multi-brand executives say they are promoting company reputation as much as product reputation (81 percent and 80 percent, respectively), they fall short in communicating some key drivers of company reputation compared to their single-brand counterparts, particularly how employees are treated. There was a particularly large gap between single- and multi-brand companies when it comes to communicating about their workplace (73 percent vs. 52 percent, respectively). Companies that are proud of their records for employee satisfaction should not be reluctant to communicate these qualities and tout their awards or placement on ‘best of’ lists. These credentials help drive the overall reputation of a company, regardless of how many brands it markets, and possibly influence purchasing behavior.
Take a look at the summary for greater detail. When I was talking to PRWeek about the findings, they said they were surprised how little information was available on this topic. We agree. When we did the background research on the increasing indivisibility of the corporate and brand reputation today, we were floored by how little had been done and how companies had been relying on “this is how we’ve done it” thinking. We hope that we at Weber Shandwick are filling in some critical gaps on this dimension of corporate vs. brand reputation in a no-secrets-consumer-is-in-the-driver’s-seat Internet world.
Hard fact of the day: “The percentage of engaged employees in world class organizations is double that of average organizations. In the U.S. alone, Gallup estimates that the cost of disengaged employees in lost productivity is $370 billion per year.”
To move the reputation needle, engage your employees.
Just finished reading the new IBM CEO survey, Leading Through Connections. There is alot of great information about how CEOs see the world, particularly the new workforce. Instead of the usual command and control state of affairs, CEOs now realize that they will be building their company reputations on their employee intelligence networks and shared values. As the report says about CEOs, “they are arming the people who represent their brands to the world.” Without knowing what the values, mission and purpose of an organization is, there is little hope that reputations can be steadied and differentiated in the present sea of information chaos and overload. ”For organizations to operate effectively in this environment, employees must internalize and embody the organization’s values and mission.” Companies with the best reputations will have employees who help build and safeguard their companies reputation every minute of every day because they understand what the company stands for. They will guard their company reputation as their own because they will implicitly understand the character of the organization. It is now the CEO’s job to arm them with the tools to understand how best to represent their brands no matter where they are or what time zone they are in. Shared beliefs, up and down the ladder, will create winning cultures and winning companies.
The survey touched a teeny bit on CEOs and social media. Here is what they said. “Though CEOs frequently mentioned dipping their toes into social media waters, few claim to be personally immersed. This arms-length involvement puts CEOs in a precarious position.They are making critical judgements about a disruptive technology without much firsthand knowledge.” A few weeks ago, I had a discussion with a corp communications officer for a major global companywho told me that he knew little about social media and depended totally on a younger guy in his department to handle it. The time is ripe now for CEOs and other company officers to take the leap forward and get to understand social media more deeply. That’s where the future is headed and headed at light-speed. In fact, in the survey, the most startling stat for me was how social media was the least utilized customer interaction method today. Yet, CEOs predict that in three to five years, social media will become one of the top two ways to engage customers. They expect a 256% increase in usage! The number one way to engage in the future was face to face and sales interactions, as it is now. But social media is going to ramp up quickly as the best way to engage with customers and CEOs know it. They just have to get their companies in gear for 2015 when social media reaches its full potential. Unfortunately, the study shows that traditional media will lose out (CEOs predict a 61% decrease in three to five years) as social media gains acceptance.
(The IBM study talks about “future-proof” employees. I borrowed it here for my title. I like the phrase! Also really like the infographic. )
The Power of Reputation. Chris Komisarjevsky’s new book, The Power of Reputation: Strengthen the Asset that Will Make or Break Your Career, is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding how to steer their reputation into a career worth having.
Chris provides practical, easy-to-apply advice, techniques, tips and best practices on how to build that reputation you always wished you had but maybe never planned with very much care. He covers all the many elements that make up an enduring personal and professional reputation (they are the same, you know) such as values, character, behavior, trust and communications.
I regard myself as an insider when it comes to Chris’ new book. Chris was CEO of Burson-Marsteller when he hired me and throughout my time there, encouraged me to build the bank of reputation research we launched as a firm. He also served as a role model for how CEOs should lead their organizations and build a best place to work.
There are so many great examples that I remember from his leadership and I got to experience up-close how the character of the person at the top sets the tone for the entire organization. There is no denying the inextricable link between the two. Perhaps for that reason, I was particularly drawn to the chapter on Values. Chris provides a list of values that can guide your career path. It seems that everyone should be given that list as an exercise when they start a new job so they can be regularly reminded to follow it. The Power of Reputation also provides terrific real-life examples and anecdotes from a wide variety of CEOs who have been faced with reputational issues and had to decide what was most important to the organization and its members.
Overall, if you are looking to better understand what you stand for, what your company should stand for, and how to build trust and an enduring career, this is a great book to read.
Just read this article in Forbes about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ number one leadership secret. I’ve followed him for years and enjoy reading about how Amazon has grown from a bookseller to an everything store online. I had already been thinking about about the importance of employees and customers for new CEOs when I read that Bezos’ number one leadership secret is that the customer is always right. There is this example described in the article that when Bezos calls meetings, he leaves an empty seat at the conference table for what he calls the customer’s seat. A potent reminder to bring the customer’s point of view to the table. The article hints at the fact that Bezos has built his hugely successful business bent on “coddling his 164 million customers, not his 56,000 employees.” This has me wondering that in this age of the Internet and social media galore, if customers are now more important than employees, maybe because of sheer size? The pendulum seems to be swinging again anyway. It used to be that all business activities were primarily all about customers, then all about employees and now… it’s all about equal parts’ employees and customers but with customers gaining the upper hand again. The Internet has created a sense of urgency about how satisfied your customers are. Probably because they spread word of mouth more quickly and seem to have more power than employees. They can advocate or criticize your business approach or customer service online for all to see. They have more power because they have so many choices from which to buy from. The answer for new CEOs, however, appears to be focusing on employees with a healthy dose of understanding what your customers want and quickly scaling to reach them online to confirm what employees are telling you. Something to think about over the next few weeks. Whose more important — employees or customers for new CEOs and CEOs who’ve been in office for some time?