Inside Best Places to Work 2014
What is it and why should your company participate?
What makes a great place to work? Four times in the last eight years we’ve asked hundreds of local employees that question using some of the most innovative survey research in the country. Right here in our own backyard, Next Generation Consulting is a Madison-based research and consulting firm that helps cities, states, companies and nonprofits learn how to be a desirable place for today’s workforce to live, work and play. Founder Rebecca Ryan is an economist, futurist and author of the just-released ReGeneration: A Manifesto for America’s Next Leaders. She’s also the author of Live First Work Second: Getting Inside the Minds of the Next Generation. We’ll work with Rebecca and her crack team of experts to discover the next generation of Best Places to Work in the Madison region. Click here to register! or read on to find out more about the survey, how we do it and why your company should enter the contest.
Madison Magazine: What’s changed about the workplace since the last time employees in the Madison area took this survey?
Rebecca Ryan: In 2010/11, many organizations were still laying people off. That has mostly ended in the Madison area, things are beginning to stabilize, and many employers are beginning to hire.
MM: What’s the value in conducting this survey from your perspective as well as from the employer’s?
RR: From my perspective, I love the behind-the-scenes aspect of BPTW. Each time, we get more companies applying, so it’s fun to see the competition heat up. And since Madison Magazine has run this contest four other times, there’s now more reputational cache attached to winning.
From an employer’s perspective, this survey provides a valuable data point about how employees perceive the levels of trust, management, life-work balance, rewards, connection and development in your company. If employers care about hanging onto their people, they should be interested in competing, because they can find out how they’re scoring in these six dimensions of employee engagement. More on that in a minute…
MM: Why should companies participate in the Best Places to Work survey?
RR: Three reasons!
Number one: why shouldn’t they? There’s no downside to participating. If you don’t win, only you and your employees will know. We never publish ALL the organizations that compete; we only publish the winners.
Number two: If you do win…you get ridiculous bragging rights! I’m sure many of your readers have visited retailers or offices where the “Best Place to Work” winner banner or sticker was visible.
Number three: The ability to learn what REALLY matters to your employees and make data-driven decisions. The survey we used has taken us eleven years to develop. And any participant can pay a nominal fee to receive their survey scores in the six dimensions of employee engagement we’ve developed: Trust, Management, Life-work balance, Rewards, Connection, and Development. These six dimensions are literally the levers that employers can toggle to achieve greater employee engagement and profitability. To give you a sense of what a value this is, most employers pay $40,000 or more for this kind of data and insight. Participants in Madison Magazine’s “Best Places to Work” survey get this same level of insight starting at far less.
In addition to the information you gain about your own workplace, you can also benchmark yourselves against other Madison-area participants. To my knowledge, there’s no other way to do this in Madison. So, every strategic HR professional or executive who cares about finding and keeping great talent should be reading this and thinking, “Competitive intelligence! Sign me up!”
MM: What can employees expect to get out of taking the survey?
RR: Self-reflection…and bragging rights. A lot of people work for great places, and they tell their friends about it, but when their company actually wins the award…that takes bragging rights to a whole new level. Anecdotally, some employees admit that they didn’t appreciate all the benefits their employer gave them before taking the survey.
MM: What’s new about the survey this time around?
RR: We have been inspired by the record high number of women in Congress, our new Chancellor, and the number of influential women who’ve recently stepped out of leadership in Madison, e.g. Jennifer Alexander at the Chamber of Commerce, Kathleen Woit at the Madison Community Foundation, MG&E’s Phyllis Wilhelm and others. So this year, we’re going to have one special category for best places for women to work.
MM: What have you seen companies do with the results?
RR: It varies.
At minimum, we have a meeting with the CEO or Human Resources executive to review the results page by page, and help them understand what’s going on in their workplace. We answer a lot of questions, and share best practices from other clients. One year, we hosted Come-to-Jesus meetings with twenty senior leaders to ask, “What’s going on here?” because their survey results were abysmal.
MM: How does Madison measure up against its peer cities as a best place to work?
RR: As many readers know, my firm studies the places that the next generation chooses to live and work. To help people evaluate the city that’s right for them, we’ve created a series of seven indexes that the next generation weighs and values when choosing where to live. Anyone who has a student in college knows that they often choose where they’re going to live first, and then look for work. Well, Madison’s cumulative scores in those seven indexes that matter to young talent (Vitality, Earning, Learning, After Hours, Around Town, Cost of Lifestyle and Social Capital) beat every other city in its size division. In the Earning index, however, Madison is not the strongest. We need to provide more support for entrepreneurs and have a more diverse job base to increase our scores there.