Top Places to Work Lists Are Valuable for both Branding and Poaching!

It’s official. Google is the #1 Best Place to Work in America according to Fortune Magazine. If you haven’t yet read this issue of Fortune, you should. It’s a powerful listing of what can be done by corporations in order to make their workplaces more exciting.

It’s also important to realize that even though the Fortune list is the granddaddy of them all, there are numerous other lists that also recognize firms as a top or best place to work. If you are on a recruiting or employment branding team, it is critical that you realize the tremendous value that these lists can have on recruiting. They are unequaled in their ability to help establish your employment brand image as a top place work, but they are also excellent sources of information on which firms’ recruiters should focus poaching efforts.

There’s No Better Way to Get Recognition

Two weeks ago, Fortune Magazine‘s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list came out, and if your firm isn’t on it (or ranked high on it), your employment branding strategy can only be judged as a failure. You might ask why. Well, simply put, the Fortune list is the most powerful branding opportunity available to firms. There is simply no other action or program that has as dramatic an impact on a company’s long-term recruiting as being highly ranked on this list. The issue of Fortune that includes this list is the most widely read and passed around issue of the year. It is also highly credible because the criteria are relatively rigorous, and it’s been around for almost 10 years.

The top 10 firms on Fortune‘s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” include:

  1. Google
  2. Quicken Loans
  3. Wegmans Food Markets
  4. Edward Jones
  5. Genentech
  6. Cisco Systems
  7. Starbucks
  8. Qualcomm
  9. Goldman Sachs
  10. Methodist Hospital System

I’ve had the opportunity to work with seven of the top 10 firms on the list, and I can assure you that they are, in fact, extraordinary places to work. It’s also important to note that if you visit the list on Fortune‘s website, you can sort the 100 firms by many categories, including great benefits, a low turnover, high pay, etc.

The Value of Getting On These Lists

There are many reasons for getting on Fortune‘s and other similar lists. They include:

  • Quantity and Quality of Applicants. Appearing on these lists will increase your visibility dramatically and, as a result, both the number and the quality of applications that you receive will increase dramatically.
  • Press Coverage. Getting mentioned on the best lists means that you will receive dozens of editor and reporter calls, which in turn help to further spread your brand image.
  • Speaking Engagements. Appearing on these lists guarantees that you will get opportunities to speak at industry events, seminars, and trade shows. Not only does this exposure further reinforce your brand, but it will also provide your firm with an opportunity to provide large audiences with detailed stories and more in-depth examples to further strengthen your employment brand.
  • Learning Opportunities from Benchmarking. Getting on these lists means that the very best individuals from other companies will invariably call you to learn more about what to do. These calls allow you to reciprocate and to learn more about that firm’s best practices. You should also consider recruiting away the individuals who make the benchmark calls to your firm.
  • Target Them for Hiring. If you’re looking for the best trained practitioners, it only makes sense that you target your recruiting on the firms that regularly appear on these lists. When you hire people from a listed company, you not only get good employees but their hiring also helps you gain an understanding of the best practices that got the firm on the list in the first place.
  • Employer Referrals. Your employee referral rate will invariably go up after being listed because more individuals will approach your employees and ask them what it’s like to work there. In addition, the increased pride by your workers (as a result of being listed) will generally cause them to increase their attempts to sell their colleagues and friends on coming to work at your firm.

Other Important Lists That You Should Attempt to Be On

There are several other powerful lists that can help a firm build its employment brand. These lists include:

The Best and Worst Firms For People Management

This is a subset of the “most admired” firms list published by Fortune Magazine. This list allows you to see which firms have the best and worst people management practices among the most admired firms. If you’re in HR, consider these as opportunities to identify both the right way and the wrong way to manage people.

Best Firms at People Management:

  1. FedEx
  2. Procter & Gamble
  3. Google
  4. General Electric
  5. Genentech
  6. Starbucks
  7. CHS
  8. Kinder Morgan
  9. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners
  10. Exxon Mobil

Worst Firms at People Management

1 Visteon

2 Delphi

3 Dana

4 Federal-Mogul

5 Huntsman

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6 Delta Air Lines

7 ArvinMeritor

8 Lyondell Chemical

9 Northwest Airlines

10 UAL

20 Best Global Companies for Leaders

Published by Fortune Magazine but administered by Hewitt Associates and The RBL Group, this list focuses on leaders. It is viable if you want to examine the best practices and leadership development or if your firm is having a talent shortage as a result of large-scale retirements. This list contains a group of 20 firms from around the world that are noted for their strong leaders and leadership development programs. It currently lists:

  1. General Electric
  2. Procter & Gamble
  3. Nokia
  4. Hindustan Unilever
  5. Capital One Financial
  6. General Mills
  7. McKinsey
  8. IBM
  9. BBVA
  10. Infosys Technologies
  11. Inditex
  12. Medtronic, Inc.
  13. Eli Lilly and Company
  14. McDonald’s Corporation
  15. Whirlpool Corporation
  16. Natura Cosmeticos
  17. GlaxoSmithKline
  18. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
  19. ICICI Bank
  20. WIPRO

The Best Place to Start a Career

This list is published by BusinessWeek Magazine and is the list to be on if you want to attract the best people graduating from high school or college. The current list includes:

  1. Deloitte & Touche
  2. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  3. Ernst & Young
  4. IBM
  5. Google
  6. Microsoft
  7. Accenture
  8. Lockheed Martin
  9. Teach For America

100 Best Companies by Working Mother Magazine

Obviously, this list is targeted at working women, and it highlights the many benefits that women-friendly companies offer. The current top ten includes:

  1. Baptist Health South Florida
  2. Booz Allen Hamilton
  3. Ernst & Young
  4. General Mills
  5. IBM
  6. KPMG
  7. The McGraw-Hill Companies
  8. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  9. UBS
  10. Wachovia

Final Thoughts

The importance of being on lists grows every year as firms put more emphasis on employment branding. But, it’s also important to realize that these various lists also have equal value for learning about best practices and as targets for recruiting efforts. Now, some might argue that many of these lists are really just “beauty contests,” and they would be partially right. The fact that these lists are not perfect in no way takes away from their branding power and their ability to send a message to potential applicants that your firm is a place that the very best should consider for their next job.

Getting on these lists is a skill that you can develop over time. If you’re just starting out, I suggest you begin with local or functional lists. Then, as your experience and skill increase, try to get on the granddaddy of them all: the Fortune “100 Best Places to Work” list. If you do, you’ll become an instant hero within your corporation, I guarantee it!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



2 Comments on “Top Places to Work Lists Are Valuable for both Branding and Poaching!

  1. Maybe I’m jaded from decades of recruiting, but with all due respect, I have little regard for ‘TOP 100’ best places to work listings. I’m yawning as I read this.

    My reasons for caring less are numerous:

    1. I don’t work for these companies.

    2. I’m 100% satisified working for my own company

    3. While these lists get companies ‘noticed’ and generate valuable P.R. – Our search firm has had tremendous recruiting success yanking individuals out of the very companies striving to get placed on those lists. This leads to the following:

    4. Many employees are left out of the party even within
    ‘Top Ranked’ companies. Not all enjoy ‘THE TOP RANKED PERKS’

    5. It creates a higher standard/perception difficult to live up to in real life (employees find it not so after a short time!)

    6. One company on that list was investigated by the SEC, privately paid many millions in fines, exploiting investors, while employees were leaving … even while their ‘ranking’ was ratcheted up!! (I will omit name as I have inside information others would not have).

    7. Just like J.D Powers and other ‘awards’ — I’ve seen cases where all was but ignored immediately after the award or ranking was achieved.

    Yes you derive the benefits your bullets outline – but expectations are now higher from incoming employees.

  2. Dr. Sullivan successfully articulates why a company would want to be included on these lists. The opportunity to be recognized is consistent with our culture’s expectation to be viewed as the ‘best and the brightest.’

    Frank’s list is practical, comprehensive and representative of the inconsistencies inherent when describing and defining ‘top.’

    My experience when working within the ‘top places’ is that the external perception is consistently different than the internal experience.

    Perhaps the expectation, as Frank notes, is elevated resulting in an unrealistic perception of the internal workings of the culture of the workplace.

    I agree with Frank’s list and it is difficult to conceive that in the face of ethical and moral lapses, corporations can maintain their ‘place’ on the list!

    In the final analysis, such lists must be taken with ‘buyer beware’ caution.

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