Best Places to Work 2012—An Overview

A Q&A with Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation

Aug 18, 2011

Once again Madison Magazine and WISC-TV3 are offering an in-depth, exclusive look at the region’s Best Places to Work. To conduct our bi-annual workplace study we tap into some of the most innovative market research in the country, right here in our own back yard. 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 the next generation to live, work and play. Founder Rebecca Ryan is an economist, futurist and author of Live First, Work Second: Getting Inside the Minds of the Next Generation. We are excited to reunite with Rebecca and her team to discover, explore and celebrate the region’s Best Places to Work.

Here's how to nominate your company.

Or read on for Rebecca's take on what's new this year and why your company should participate.

Madison Magazine: First, tell us what we need to know about you and your company, Next Generation Consulting.

Rebecca Ryan: My firm, Next Generation Consulting, studies trends. But not just any trends ... the ones that help people achieve their full potential. In the late 1990s we found overwhelming, hard evidence that happy employees are more productive and innovative. So we figured out what—exactly—companies can do to make their employees happy. We invented a six-dimension framework to assess companies, and help them become great workplaces. With our help, some of our corporate clients have gone onto win Fortune 100 “Best Places to Work” or SHRM “Best Workplace” awards. We’re very proud of them.

MM: In a nutshell, what IS the Best Places to Work survey?

RR: It’s an employee engagement survey that measures a company’s strengths in six key areas;

1) Trust – Working in and environment where information is shared and people act with integrity and respect.
2) Management – Working with supervisors and managers who lead, guide and give feedback to individuals and teams.
3) Development – Having opportunities to learn and grow.
4) Rewards – Being compensated and appreciated according to one’s performance and contribution to the organization.
5) Connection – Feeling a part of something bigger; working for more than just a paycheck.
6) Life-Work Balance – Having flexibility to pursue their career and a life outside of work.

Generally, a company that has 80% or greater employee satisfaction in these six areas is considered a great place to work.

MM: This is the third BPtoW survey you’ve conducted for Madison Magazine.
What’s new and exciting this time around?

RR: I always say, “I’m amazed how dumb I was two weeks ago.” The connections between happy employees and profitability continue to be tested ... and often proven. So this year, we’re incorporating nine statements that predict an organization’s future financial performance. CEOs love seeing their scores in these metrics because they’re tied to the bottom line.

Something else new this year is incorporating a company’s sustainability and diversity efforts into the selection of the winners. We think this is especially relevant to the Madison business community.

MM: With an area unemployment rate hovering above nine percent, isn’t ANY place to work a best place to work?

RR: Good point! We have certainly seen a softening in employees’ expectations of their workplaces. As an example, prior to 2008, employees wanted more paid time off; now they’re placing more importance on things like benefits.

That said, I think the recession really separated the men from the boys. What I mean is this: when cash was flowing prior to 2008, many companies could afford the gimmicks of being “great workplaces:” Casual Fridays, flexible work hours, huge company parties. But when profits shrank, those gimmicky companies showed who they really were; many stopped treating their employees like people at all.

So the fallout is that the truly great workplaces—those who focus on the fundamentals like high levels of trust and communication—are still going strong, because they didn’t have to rely on gimmicks.

Employees still want high levels of trust, great managers, opportunities to learn and grow, life-work balance, rewards and connection opportunities no matter what the economic climate. A contest like BPTW reminds organizations that even in tough times being better is still valued.

MM: What are the top 3 reasons companies should sign up to participate in Best Places to Work 2012?

RR: 1. Morale boost! Employees and companies have really scratched and clawed to get through the recession. It’s been very hard on morale. So, if your company scores well on BPTW and makes the cover of the magazine, it’ll be a great reinforcement to your team ... and might be a good reason to reach out to your clients, too, e.g., “Thanks for sticking with us. We love our jobs!”

2. To get better. Any company that participates can get a copy of its results, benchmark against our database, and pick our brains on how to become even better.

3. Bragging rights. Madison Magazine is the region’s most widely read business and lifestyle magazine. Getting your organization published as one of the best workplaces is a great way to gain publicity and recognition in the area.

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