As teenagers, Kari Yuers and her brother did their chores in the factory founded by their dad, an inventor and entrepreneur.
At the Vancouver, British Columbia, headquarters of Kryton International Inc., Yuers hauled buckets and cleaned floors—and experienced life as a Kryton employee firsthand. As Yuers advanced through the company that her father founded, becoming general manager and eventually CEO in 2001, she resolved to add the personnel systems and programs Kryton was lacking.
“When I became CEO, I was keen to build a great company to work for,” she says.
Yuers has since achieved her goal. Kryton was named the top manufacturing workplace by BCBusiness magazine in 2010 and the No. 2 workplace overall. Yuers began entering workplace ranking programs in 2008.
“One of my goals when I hired a full-time human resources professional was to win one of these awards,” she says.
But Yuers’ objective wasn’t just publicity. She saw the ranking program, which surveys the employees of organizations that enter the competitions, as an opportunity to get feedback on what Kryton was doing well—and what it wasn’t. In 2008, the company placed ninth; Yuers used the results to identify the 10 lowest-ranking areas and created a plan to address each.
Organizations enter workplace ranking programs for a variety of reasons. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, or NRECA, has been entering since 2003, primarily to attract qualified candidates.
“Our employment brand is not a big name. We felt we needed something extra special to get the attention of candidates,” says Paul Hvidding, director of human resources at the Arlington, Virginia-based association.
The organization regularly enters four major programs: the Northern Virginia Family Services Companies As Responsive Employers, or CARE, Award, Washingtonian magazine’s Great Places to Work, Computerworld’s 100 Best Places to Work in IT, and the AARP’s Best Employers for Workers Over 50.
The positive PR generated by the awards extends beyond recruiting, says Hvidding. “The recognition reassures current employees as to our value proposition, and it sets the bar pretty high. Our managers and supervisors aspire to create a work environment we can all be proud of.”
Hvidding also uses the information generated as a benchmark and a driving force. When NRECA entered its first program in 2003, it did not win. “We learned from that experience and made some substantive changes to our benefits and programs,” he says. Hvidding also reviewed the information submitted by the winners and realized that NRECA did do some things he hadn’t highlighted well.
Medallia Inc., a Palo Alto, California-based maker of customer experience management software, is new to the rankings game, having entered its first program last year. Employee recruitment was the goal, says Amy Pressman, president and co-founder. “The company had doubled in size in the previous year. We had a great culture but were kind of a well-kept secret,” she says. “Although we have a strong employee referral program, we wanted to cast our net wider.”
To enter the program sponsored by the Bay Area News Group, Pressman permitted an online survey of all of her employees.
“I like that employee participation eliminates a company’s ability to spin” the information submitted, she says.
The reward was twofold: Medallia received customized survey results that showed how it did in various dimensions as well as how it compared with other companies. Recruiting benefited, too, although not exactly as Pressman had planned.
“The payback was slightly different from the goal,” she says. “I’m not sure how many candidates [the award] attracted, but it added to our credibility and made [working here] a faster sell.”
Some companies find that the benefits of workplace ranking programs can extend over time. Beryl Cos., headquartered in Bedford, Texas, entered and regularly placed high in workplace ranking programs for about seven years. The company, which was named No. 2 in the nationwide Great Places to Work program in 2007, stopped entering programs about a year ago.
“We had won the best of the best,” explains Lara Morrow, who goes by the title “queen of fun and laughter.” “It is a lot of work to gather the information, and we felt that we were inundating our employees with surveys.”
Morrow estimates that completing the application for the Great Places program took about 100 hours. However, the company has reaped significant advantage from the recognition, and continues to do so.
“Employees, vendors and clients want to work with us. Our recruiting costs have declined by half, and we now enjoy a 60 percent employee referral rate,” Morrow says.
She also notes that the awards aid retention. “People are aware that they have found a job someplace special and are much less likely to jump ship for 50 cents or a dollar more per hour.”