The 100 Best Companies to Work For: Why They Matter

March 9, 2017, 11:30 AM UTC

Since 1998, Fortune has been publishing a list of employees’ 100 favorite companies in the country. The result has been a two-decade tour de force showcasing industry-leading benefits, like Adobe’s six-month paid maternity leave, and mind-bending perks, like Publix’s holiday bonus of up to a month’s wages for supermarket employees.

But far more important than any lavish policy or fancy freebie, employees in the organizations on this list say they trust their coworkers and managers.

These companies aren’t just being generous, of course. Over the years our research and consulting firm, Great Place to Work, and many other scholars have consistently found that the workplaces that score high on metrics of trustworthiness also finish first in profitability, revenue growth, stock performance, and other key business ­measures. Read Fortune’s article “When the Best Workplaces Are the Best Investments” for an in-depth look at an investor who uses the list to beat the market.

Despite their success, the 100 Best aren’t perfect. Our research finds major disparities among the experiences of frontline employees, as well as by gender, race, and full- or part-time position. And many are still dominated by one demographic group, which can cause large swaths of company populations to feel they are unable to achieve the same levels of success.

That’s why starting this year and going into the next, we’re raising the bar for how we calculate what makes a great place to work—and putting a new focus on the companies that are bringing out the best in everybody, from the boiler room to the corner office. Our new methodology, which will be rolled out in full for the 2018 list, emphasizes the consistency of employees’ experiences, regardless of who they are or what they do, rather than looking primarily at company­wide averages.

Of course, many of the list’s current companies are already inclusive places to work. And evidence shows that also helps them leave competitors in the dust.

In studying the 100 Best and the nonwinning contender companies for 2017, we found that the more consistent and inclusive an organization is on key factors related to trust, and the more diverse it is demographically, the more likely it is to outperform peers in revenue growth. Notably, companies that score in the top quartile of success on these metrics enjoy three times the growth of companies in the bottom quartile, as illustrated in the chart below. (See the 100 Best Companies to Work For list for more on our methodology.)

Graphic shows revenue growth for companies on "great place to work" list

The country’s top workplaces are increasingly aware of the need to eliminate differences in employees’ experiences.

Take Salesforce, ranked eighth on this year’s 100 Best list. The enterprise software company, led by CEO Marc Benioff, famously invested $3 million in 2015 to address its gender pay gap. The move, along with a host of other equality efforts, has reaped results. Salesforce is becoming a beacon for talented women in technology, and it’s enjoying the fruits of a more fully engaged workforce. The percentage of women employees who say they want to work at Salesforce for a long time has jumped from 85% in 2014 to 93% today. And 92% of female employees now say people look forward to work at Salesforce, up from 85% in 2014. Perhaps not surprisingly, the company has been growing faster than its rivals.

Writ large, there’s never been a greater need for these kinds of strong and ethical workplaces. In the past decade our global political and economic system has left many feeling disenfranchised, financially precarious, and angry about rising inequality.

As social divisions widen, there’s a need for a new deal that addresses these insecurities. Here, business can help. The best workplaces in today’s climate are organizations where everyone feels heard, fairness reigns, social bonds are forged across boundaries like race and class, and people are inspired to reach new heights.

In short, Great Places to Work for all are the future. It’s a future that can’t get here fast enough.

Michael C. Bush and Sarah Lewis-Kulin are CEO and vice president, respectively, at Great Place to Work, the longtime research partner for Fortune’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, and other best workplaces lists. Great Place to Work also provides executive advisory and culture consulting services to businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies in more than 50 countries on six continents.

A version of this article appears in the March 15, 2017 issue of Fortune as the introduction for the 100 Best Companies to Work For package.

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