By Frank James

First, let me say that I find these "best places" to live, work, whatever lists next to useless. They're biggest utility is to the companies or towns ranked high which can use them in marketing.

Still, I almost always look at them. Go figure.

That said, An outfit called Glassdoor.com has compiled a "best places to work" list for 2010 (isn't it still 2009?) and Southwest Airlines comes in at the top of the 50 companies. Number 50 is Marriott.

None of the companies, from what I can tell, are non-profit. (Sorry NPR.) That rules out a lot of great organizations and institutions.

Here's one way in which the list is suspect. Whole Foods, the supermarket chain, went from number six last year to 48 this year. How could that happen? Whole Foods has been fairly stable despite the recession.

The answer, according to a Reuters story, may have something to do with its CEO.

From Reuters:

Whole Foods Market Inc fell to 48th from sixth place last year. While the company remained a good place to work, employees expressed distaste for Chief Executive John Mackey, who in 2007 was found posting messages on a Yahoo! chat forum under an alias, criticizing Wild Oats Markets Inc, a rival that Whole Foods was seeking to acquire.

That's a very unsatisfying answer. It's hard to believe that Mackey's behavior would have that big an impact. Maybe the answer has more to do with the survey's methodology. For instance, Whole Foods is based on only 62 reviews. Southwest has 32 ratings, almost half. That's not good.

Here's a summary of the methodology:

The Top 50 were selected from more than 38,000 companies reviewed by the nearly 70,000 employees who completed a 20-question survey on Glassdoor.com in 2009. To be eligible for the list, a company must have had at least all of the following:
25 reviews from United States-based employees between January 1, 2009 and December 1, 2009,
"satisfied" ratings overall and across all categories, and
a CEO with at least a 50% approval rating.
The survey questions relate to employees' attitudes about Career Opportunities, Communication, Compensation & Benefits, Employee Morale, Recognition & Feedback, Senior Leadership, Work/Life Balance, and Fairness & Respect. After the overall ratings are calculated, a company may be excluded from the list if our review panel determines detrimental acts by management or other negative company events could ultimately damage employees' faith in the company's senior leadership and/or adversely affect its overall rating on Glassdoor.com.

Anyway, these surveys aren't worth much. But they can be fun to read.

categories: Business

12:04 - December 16, 2009