Yoga Mats for Sale at Target

I remember walking through Target about 10 years ago and seeing a yoga mat for sale. As I continued pushing my red cart, I thought Yoga is officially mainstream.  It was no longer for the well traveled; it was now officially accessible for the masses at Target.  The same could be said about published lists and competitions for being The Best Place to Work.

I first learned about these competitions while reading Fortune Magazine in the late 90′s. Instantly, I thought this was fantastic. Companies being recognized for their role as employers!  Yes!  To make matters even better, the data suggested that these Great Places to Work even outperformed their competition. Perhaps treating your employees well yields greater profits. That piece of data alone has probably sustained Fortune’s list over the past 15 years, but what’s interesting to me is how normal these lists now seem.

In the Twin Cities, I’ve noticed at least 3 separate Best Workplace Lists.  Feels a little like seeing Yoga Mats for sale at Target. We’ve done a little analysis of the 3 Lists locally and want to add to the knowledge base about the lists and more importantly what separates workplace from a great workplace.

In terms of the local lists, the biggest difference is how a “small organization” is defined.  Whether less than 10, more than 10 or more than 50, the 3 Twin Cities lists differ on that category.  One similarity is that each has a 3rd Party to facilitate the Employee Survey (Gilmore Research, Quantum and Workplace Dynamics—all of which have primary offices outside of the Twin Cities)!  What I would give to facilitate the survey process for one of these!!!!

Reading the lists or attending the unveiling events, it would seem that inclusion on these lists is rooted in the perks or unique take on recognition of each winning organization.  The perks make good copy, but the winning formula is far more simplistic than that.  You see the employees each get a chance to complete a survey that tells the 3rd party what it’s really like to call the place home.  In some cases, one frustrated employee can be the difference between making the list or not.  The bottom line is simple, when a leader commits to the employee experience with their time and money, inclusion on these fine-lists can follow.  The one thing the winners all have in common is a CEO endorsement in word and deed.  Pretty simple, right?

If you’re reading this and you want to know what a Best Place to Work looks like…they:

  • Provide accountability and autonomy, a unique combination
  • Create the opportunity to do meaningful work
  • Illustrate how employees impact the org performance
  • Recognize achievements
  • Create a sense of belonging
  • Host regular meetings
  • Have their own unique rituals (the more unique and the more consistent, the better)
  • Provide competitive benefits

Of the three lists, there are a few items of note.    While being the most recent to do a ranking, the Minnesota Business Magazine takes first place on the calendar with a nomination period that begins on January 15.  The Minneapolis Business Journal is the oldest local list provider.  I would assume they saw the traction of the Fortune list in 1997 and began to offer their own in 1999 in multiple markets.  The Star Tribune list seems to cast the widest net with more than 330 organizations participating in 2012.

Much like seeing Yoga Mats at Target, I think a movement has begun.  More and more organizations see the value of making their place of employment one of the best.  Make it stand out.  My word of caution, doing what you have always done may not be enough to get on the lists anymore.  All three of these lists will see more participation in 2013.  This will make it more difficult to gain the recognition, but in the end whether you make the list or not, you have created a better place to work.

Our best wishes to this year’s applicants and congrats on taking your role as Employer as seriously as you do.  The point of creating a great place to work isn’t about making a list; it is about making the most out of your opportunity.  It’s about creating a place that people want to be.  The best places to work get discretionary effort from their team and have greater loyalty, lower turnover and better outcomes whether they make the list or not.   I like that. Best Places To Work List Comparison Updated

To view the analysis of our research on Twin Cities, please click here.

To schedule a weeklong audit of the Employee Experience at your organization, please email

Thanks for reading.

Blogging by J. Forrest