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We all know some Not-So-Great Places to Work. It doesn't take a national survey to articulate those factors that lead to burnout and dissatisfaction. Long hours for little pay. All work and no play. Sacrificing health and family time for the sake of the company. Feeling inconsequential, even invisible. The list goes on and on.
But here in greater Madison, this year's Best Places to Work winners couldn't be more different than that—and they, like the rest of the country's winning workplaces, are evolving.
"Things like work-life balance and wellness were not really being talked about ten years ago,whereas today, employees make job decisions based on those things," says Jason Lauritsen of Quantum Workplace, the Omaha, Nebraska, company that has measured 440,000 employees annually since 2004 at nearly 5,500 organizations across forty-five markets.
Here in Madison, the data revealed twenty-six high-ranking companies demonstrating superior results across the board. The local data is especially notable against the national landscape, where Quantum's 2015 results revealed that employee engagement—particularly among Millennials—is at an eight-year low. According to Lauritsen, that doesn't mean workplaces are declining; rather, employees have higher standards, and employers would be wise to take note.
"As the economy improves and employees have more options, they're more honest and critical. They're starting to hold the organization more accountable for creating a great workplace for them," Lauritzen says. "The message we believe that sends is that it's really important to be thinking about this. And the companies that are, are probably those that are doing well; and those that aren't, are probably those that are struggling."
To measure engagement, Quantum used ten key factors: teamwork, manager effectiveness, trust in senior leaders, trust with coworkers, retention, alignment with goals, feeling valued, individual contribution, job satisfaction and benefits. A notable finding at the national level this year is that a sense of feeling valued by leadership is not extending to all levels of the company. Among hourly workers, for example, Quantum marked a seventy percent decline on items measuring their value to overall company success. Questions such as "If I contribute to the organization's success, I know I will be recognized" revealed a twelve-time greater gap for hourly workers than executives.
"The important message here is to really be thinking about all employees," says Lauritsen. "There's a real gap showing up in the data this year between how valued and connected to organizational success the front line is. The farther you are away from the executive suite, the less certain you are that you're being rewarded, and your engagement is declining as a result."
This year's survey-winning leaders are transparent about company information. They are demonstrably valuing their employees at all levels. They are rewarding and investing in talent, providing support for the job at hand and opportunity for advancement in the future. They're clearly communicating their mission, vision and values and engaging with employees to take ownership of the same. They're fostering trust; employees feel it for them and for their fellow coworkers. They are making space for and placing value on diversity, both culturally and in the sense that it's okay—even desirable—to be different. They are providing competitive wages and benefits, modeling work-life balance and investing in employees' physical and mental health and wellness. They are encouraging hobbies and passions outside of work that make for well-rounded, fulfilled employees, and in-house they are cultivating environments where people actually want to show up to work every day because it's different. It's challenging, supportive, freeing and fun. These Madison-area workplaces are doing something right, and that's a big win.
Click on the links below for business profiles.
2015 Best Places to Work Rankings
1. The Employer Group
3. Blue Tree Network
4. Restaino & Associates Realtors
5. Community Support Network
7. Bunbury & Associates Realtors
9. CG Schmidt
10. Neider & Boucher, S.C.
11. Beacon Athletics
12. Century 21 Affiliated
Madison Magazine's Best Places to Work survey starts with an open call to area businesses for nominations. After registering the business, all employees within the nominated businesses are sent a sixty question web-based survey from Omaha, Nebraska-based Quantum Workplace that measures ten key engagement categories:
1) Team Effectiveness
2) Trust in Senior Leaders
3) Feeling Valued
4) Manager Effectiveness
7) Individual Contribution
8) Trust in Coworkers
9) Job Satisfaction
Once data collection is complete, Quantum conducts a rigorous security audit to verify all surveys. The results are compiled and analyzed to determine which organizations have the highest levels of employee engagement. The twenty-six businesses profiled in this story ranked the highest in these categories.
Think your company is a Best Place to Work? Then be sure to nominate it for next year's project. Visit madisonmagazine.com/bptw in March 2016 for details.