You’d think from reading the business press—and certainly Data Sheet, Fortune‘s daily technology newsletter—that tech companies are the only ones worth talking about. Tech is where to find the dynamism, the growth, the ideas, the wealth creation, and so on, that powers our economy. Some of that is even true.
But the one thing the technology industry appears not to have a lock on is employee happiness. At least, that’s my read of Fortune’s annual list of best companies to work for in the United States. True, Google (GOOG) is No. 1, for the seventh time. SAS Institute is No. 8, and Salesforce (CRM) is No. 23. (The list partly reflects employee surveys from companies that nominate themselves for consideration.)
Yet what jumped out at me is the number of non-tech companies on the list, suggesting that people like working for these supposedly static and old-line companies every bit as much. Insurance company Acuity, pride of Sheboygan, Wis., is No. 2. Consulting firm Boston Consulting Group weighs in at No. 3. Grocer Wegmans Food Markets, a perennial Fortune “Best Companies” lister at No. 4 this year, shows that it’s even possible for a service-oriented, lower-margined company to make its employees happy.
Plenty of companies please their workers. Google didn’t invent the concept, though it likely took matters to new lengths with all sorts of freebies (food, drinks, bikes to ride around campus) and genuinely thoughtful employee enrichment programs like a robust lecture series. I wrote about Google when it made our list for the very first time in 2007, back when these perks were more novel—and also before I became a Google spouse. (I still love the headline on that article: “Search and Enjoy.“)
And you thought your job was cool …
Alan Murray, Fortune’s editor, believes the chief quality our list illustrates is culture. Companies that have good ones make the list. Those who don’t—or who don’t apply—don’t make the list.
It is somehow refreshing to know that workers care about more than freebies and that sometimes a good job close to where one has put down roots trumps the Silicon Valley life.