What’s the best company to work for?

This is the web version of CEO Daily. To get it delivered to your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning.

For 24 years, Fortune has been publishing an annual ranking of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, based on a rigorous methodology that includes an employee survey. Its importance has grown each year, as companies increasingly recognize that, in today’s economy, talent drives business value.

The pandemic year has tested people-first companies like no other. The shift to work-from-home, the challenge of providing care to vulnerable elderly and out-of-school children, the stresses of joblessness and loneliness, have created unique challenges that separate the good from the great. 

So who made the cut?

I’ll keep my comments here to the top three. For the remainder, you can find the full list online this morning here. And if you are job hunting, you may want to check out our accompanying list of “Best Big Companies to Work For,” since overall winners like Wegman’s (#4) and Texas Health Resources (#7) are geographically limited options.

Number one on the full list—drumroll please—is Cisco. When the pandemic hit, the company delayed already announced layoffs and extended pay and benefits for affected workers. Hourly employees continued to get paychecks, even when the shut-down kept them from work. The company also stepped up its donated services to telemedicine providers. At the end of the day, I believe enlightened leadership matters—so kudos to CEO Chuck Robbins for this accomplishment. If you want a sense of what makes Robbins special, listen to this Leadership Next podcast we did with him shortly after the George Floyd killing. (Btw, Cisco has been on the list for 24 straight years.)

Number two on the list is Salesforce. Among other things, the company gave six weeks of extra PTO to parents, and $500 per month child-care and education reimbursements. And ditto the above comment re: leadership. CEO Marc Benioff stands out. You can listen to him on Leadership Next here.

Some will argue that it’s easy to be employee-friendly when you are a tech company and your pandemic business is booming. So a special nod to number three on the list, Hilton. In spite of furloughs and layoffs at corporate headquarters, the company’s people say they were treated with dignity and compassion, with extended benefits and help in securing short-term jobs. CEO Chris Nassetta will be joining us on Leadership Next later this year.

One important note about the list: we can only rank those companies that agree to the rigorous process run by our partner, Great Place to Work. We do—but some don’t.

More news below.

Alan Murray



CEO pay

The median CEO pay at hundreds of the U.S.'s biggest public companies reached $13.7 million last year, up from $12.8 million the year before. That rise came despite salary cuts undertaken at the depth of the crisis, because the stock market surged and much of the CEOs' compensation comes in the form of equity. Also, some companies moved their performance targets because of the pandemic. Wall Street Journal

Chinese vaccines

The efficacy of China's COVID vaccines is "not high" and there's room for improvement. That's according to George Gao, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. China has already distributed hundreds of millions of doses around the world, without releasing detailed clinical trial data. Washington Post

Alibaba fine

Alibaba got hit with a record $2.8 billion antitrust fine in China on the weekend…so the company's stock rose 6.5%. That's because Alibaba executives told analysts they do not know of any more specific investigations into its business. Financial Times

Indian unicorns

In the space of four days last week, India minted at least six new tech unicorns. By way of contrast, the country saw only seven new unicorns created during the whole of 2020, and six the year before. The uptick may say something about the amount of money sloshing around from sources such as Naspers and SoftBank. Fortune


Business meetings

Bad news for airlines: More than two-fifths of European businesses will fly less often than before, even one COVID travel restrictions are lifted. That's according to a YouGov poll that also found 5% of respondents won't be taking any business-related flights in the future, sticking to online meetings instead. Fortune

Nuanced play

Microsoft is reportedly in advanced talks to buy Nuance Communications, a venerable speech-recognition company that focuses on the medical sector. The deal could be worth $16 billion. Fortune

Tony Chocolonely

Fortune's Vivienne Walt has a great profile of Tony Chocolonely, the ethical chocolate startup that's still—after two decades—trying to highlight the child-labor practices of Big Chocolate. But is it possible to become a large-scale chocolate company and remain truly ethical? Fortune

Ending greenwashing

Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman wants to see an end to greenwashing, and he reckons the key is supporting the IFRS Foundation's new sustainability standards board. "We must work toward global standardization, since the rewards of regulatory alignment grow exponentially as more stakeholders subscribe to the same terms of engagement," he writes for Fortune. "The wider debate over whether hydrogen and natural gas should be labeled 'green' is emblematic of why such common understandings are essential." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet