Best Places to Work 2011

by Darwin on February 10, 2011

The Best Places to Work is out from Fortune for the year 2011 (source).  Given the time of year when many college seniors are thinking about future employers and looking to land their first job, while college freshmen and sophomores are looking to finalize their major specialization (see this list of the Best College Majors by highest starting salary), it’s timely to consider just what is a great place to work versus a sub-par corporation that will leave new entrants to the workforce unchallenged, unrecognized and generally apathetic about their professional career.

The survey is interesting to say the least, even if some of the criteria and outputs are a bit questionable:


Best Places to Work – Trends

  • The biggest change I noticed from prior years was that there’s a smaller showing from Financial companies and Accounting firms – a sign of the times I suppose.
  • Tech companies comprise a larger portion of top companies compared to prior years.
  • Pharma is nowhere to be found any more – a big shift from decades of high standing (layoffs and shrinking growth prospects).

    Best Places to Work – The Top 10 List

    1 SAS
    2 Boston Consulting Group
    3 Wegmans Food Markets
    4 Google
    5 NetApp
    7 Camden Property Trust
    8 Nugget Market
    9 Recreational Equipment (REI)
    10 DreamWorks Animation SKG

    Best Places to Work Survey – Observations:

    The way this survey was structured, you can click through each company to see detailed statistics which were marginally helpful.  They have a tab for pay, but the way it was structured is kind of dumb.  They pick a title based on a common role, and then list the average pay for that title.  So, there’s no way to do a meaningful comparison across companies for pay.  By looking at the top 10 in pay (listing), you have a Senior Account Executive at being compared to an associate at a law firm.  And law firms comprise the bulk of the top of the pay list.  We all know lawyers make a lot of money.  It would have been nice to see median salary per employee or pay per types of roles or something but I suppose companies would be unwilling to give out that sort of info (even though somehow Fortune derived the average pay for the title they did list).

    Overall, often times, your major or skill set will dictate where you should target working as opposed to one of these lists.  For instance, a mechanical engineer probably shouldn’t focus on working at a Google or NetApp just because they appeared on this latest list.

    Six-Figure Jobs

    Six Figure Jobs are getting to be harder to come by in the current economic environment. As the supply-demand equation has switched from a shortage of qualified workers and an abundance of firms looking to talent to many talented, experienced employees looking for work, it’s not quite the same as we saw during the boom years. That being said, there are new services and resources that didn’t exist previously. A wonderful resource that I enjoy is The Ladders where you can Search Only $100K+ Jobs. If you’re highly qualified and used to earn upwards of six figures, this service can greatly hone your search and it also limits the candidate pool to those with recent six-figure salaries.

    The Ladders - Search Jobs by Region

    Do you work for any companies on the list?  Did BusinessWeek get it right?

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    1 BillyOceansEleven September 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    I guess it all depends on what is being defined as a good place to work. If you consider things like work-life balance, benefits, and compensation, all of the big 4 shouldn’t even make the list. The base pay is usually average at best, benefits are usually horrid, and you’ll regularly log 55-hour weeks except during busy season when it will jump to 80+.

    So why do it? In the accounting world, you almost have to have big 4 experience on your resume to get any position worth having. Most accounting job listings above entry level will list big 4 experience as a requirement, or at least preferred. Where else will you see in a job posting a requirement that you have worked for one of four specific firms?

    That’s where the value of Big 4 accounting comes from, although I would say it should raise their rankings on a “best places to start a career” list (which I believe BW publishes as well) and not on a “best places to work” list. Maybe if they had a list entitled “Best places to work to eventually get to one of the best places to work” list?
    .-= BillyOceansEleven´s last blog ..Seeds: “The Ultimate Barter Item” – Pass the Tin Foil Hat, Please =-.

    2 Jim September 9, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Google chose not to participate in the survey. So thats why they aren’t in the list. I read the print copy of the article in Businessweek magazine and somewhere buried in the full article they said so.

    Looking at their methodology it seems that they just averaged together the scores they got on 3 survey’s. About 50% of the total score they give is based on just reputation. 25% from student preference (before working at company) and 25% on college career services opinions (3rd party people who don’t work at company). The other 50% is based on employer survey about pay, benefits and training programs. So a well known company with decent pay would likely float to the top. This kind of metric would be biased to large multinational companies that everyone knows about.
    .-= Jim´s last blog ..$25 gift certificate for $1.00 thru Sept. 13 =-.

    3 Jim September 10, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Billy, in fact the BusinessWeek article referenced is titled “Best Places to Launch a Career”. So this isn’t “best place to work” period, but instead best place for a new college grad to start work. That is definitely a different measure.
    .-= Jim´s last blog ..Consolidate Your Airline Miles & Hotel Points =-.

    4 Darwin September 10, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Hi, yes, the first sentence of the article laid out that the survey was for “new graduates looking to launch a career”, so without changing the title, url, etc., figured the opening sentence was clear enough; sorry for any confusion.

    Thanks for the note on Google Jim, I missed that (I get the print version too!).

    5 Paul Kamp September 11, 2009 at 11:54 am

    I’ve heard from some of my accounting friends that I-banking types have started to be hired into accounting positions at some of the Big 4. Perhaps their dominance of the article has to do with the scarcity of positions that arise from this situation?
    .-= Paul Kamp´s last blog ..Part II: Does Increasing Tax Rates Increase Revenue? =-.

    6 Steve Jones February 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Please contact me when the process for “Best Places to Work 2010-2011” begins.

    Thank you

    Steve Jones

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