From cubicles to standing desks: The Tribune has been spotlighting Top Workplaces for a decade. Here’s how winners are selected.

Chicago Tribune Finance 1 month ago

Every fall for the past 10 years, the Chicago Tribune has produced Top Workplaces after surveying companies to see what they do to recruit and retain the talent needed to grow the top line and help it translate to a bigger bottom line.

What has changed in that time? The economy recovered from recession and roared into expansion. A new generation entered the workforce. There was a lot more talk about personal and professional development, work-life balance and transparency in the workplace. Dogs started coming to work with their masters and office walls came down in favor of open-office floor plans. A new term — the gig economy — emerged, along with a bunch of fast-growing companies employing those temporary workers.

To deal with it all, employers have grown increasingly novel in their approaches, adapting both to an evolving workforce and a strong labor market that offers opportunities elsewhere.

Consider this: In 2010, the number of Americans who voluntarily left their jobs totaled 21.3 million, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Last year, it was 40.1 million workers. That’s more than 40 million people who gave their two weeks’ notice and walked out the door in search of something different or better.

To answer the question of what makes a good workplace, the Tribune went to the people who would know the best: the employees. On behalf of the Tribune, Energage of Exton, Pa., a workplace survey and improvement specialist, conducted an engagement survey of Chicago-area employers with at least 100 employees.

To determine the winners, Energage undertook the scientific survey for its research purposes. The Tribune did not pay Energage.

To find organizations most likely to participate in the survey, the Tribune used advertising to seek nominations. In total, 3,095 companies were invited to participate, compared with 2,612 in 2018.

Of those, 255 companies completed the survey (241 last year), allowing Energage to identify the top organizations, divided into three categories: small (fewer than 250 employees), midsize (250-999) and large (1,000 or more), the same divisions as previous surveys. The surveyed companies collectively employ 154,001 people in the Chicago area, of which 121,681 received surveys and 75,131 responded.

Energage delivered the top results to the Tribune. The list of companies not designated a Top Workplace was kept confidential by Energage. The firm questioned employees using paper and online surveys.

Employees responded to a set of statements about their feelings toward their workplace, using a seven-point scale. The statements focused on issues such as leadership of the company, execution and connection. A numerical value was attached to each statement, allowing Energage to create an overall score for each company.

Afterward, Energage ran a series of statistical tests to look for any questionable results. The firm said it sometimes disqualifies a small number of employers based on these tests. The list is categorized by size because smaller employers tend to score higher than midsize employers, and midsize employers tend to score higher than large employers.

While there have been many repeat winners on the lists over the years, only nine employers have been on our list all 10 years. They are Abt electronics, Accenture, Coyote Logistics, Discover Financial Services, Edward Jones, Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria, National Futures Association, West Monroe Partners and William Blair.

— Mary Ellen Podmolik,

director of content


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