What Makes an Employer One of “The Best”?

Every year, I work with organizations to help them tell their stories on the “Working Mother 100 Best Companies” application. Although I have been steeped in the work-life field for nearly all my professional life, I am still frequently surprised and impressed by the smart ways my clients find to support their employees and create cultures where both men and women can thrive.

Of course, I also work with many clients who are still struggling to put together strong work-life-and-related programs and policies, and I understand it is not easy. But each year new companies join the list (which means, of course, that other companies fall off it); this year 10 companies made the list for the first time. For those wanting to try, or those wanting to ensure they remain, it is occasionally instructive to pull back and take a look at what it takes to get on a list like this.

This year, once again, Working Mother Media has published some impressive statistics about the 100 Best companies, including some startling data comparing the 2017 100 Best to all companies nationwide. (Nationwide figures are based on a 2017 report by SHRM, the Society for Human Resources Management). Here are some highlights:

Parental Leave

In order to be eligible to even apply for the Working Mother 100 Best Companies list, employers need to offer a minimum of at least one week fully paid maternity leave. Keeping in mind that data from SHRM doesn’t distinguish between full and partial pay, here’s how the 100 Best Companies stack up against all U.S. companies:

  • Per requirements, 100% of companies on the Working Mother list offer at least one week of fully-paid maternity leave, but most offer much more. The average length of available paid leave among these organizations is a full 10 weeks. In addition, 98% of these companies offer fully paid adoption leave (averaging 6 weeks) and 97% offer fully paid paternity leave (averaging 4 weeks).
  • In contrast, nationwide just 30% of U.S. companies offer any partially or fully paid maternity leave; 23% offer partially or fully paid adoption leave, and 24% offer partially or fully paid paternity leave.
  • While I don’t have hard data on how many employees actually use their allotted leave nationwide, evidence suggests usage is low, especially for paternity leave. Not so among Working Mother 100 Best companies, though, where employees used, on average, 9 weeks of maternity leave, 5 weeks of adoption leave, and 3 weeks of paternity leave.

Flexible Ways of Working

Another eligibility requirement for the Working Mother 100 Best list is that the organization offer at least some form of flex work.  But once again, winning companies tend to go way beyond this basic minimum:

  • In my experience, many companies consider “flex work” and “telecommuting” to mean the same thing, so it’s not surprising that, nationwide, more companies (62%) offer telecommuting than any other flextime option. But that percentage still pales next to the 99% of 100 Best companies offering telecommuting.
  • Every single company on the 100 Best list offers flextime, while not much more than half (57%) of U.S. companies allow it. An impressively high 88% of Working Mother companies offer the option to work a compressed work week; 29% of all U.S. companies do.
  • 79% of 100 Best companies offer job sharing; just 11% of all U.S. companies offer it. But these numbers may not be that significant. I’m willing to bet actual usage of this option remains in the fraction-of-a-percentage point range, even for companies on the 100 Best list.

So Many Other Ways to Support Employees

100 Best companies tend to be way out ahead of the crowd with numerous other employee programs and policies, too. For example:

  • 99% have elder care referral services, and 42% offer in-home consultations for elder dependents, versus just 13% and 1% of companies nationwide.
  • 60% support employees with dry cleaning services, and more than half—52%—have concierge services. This compares to 8% and 3%, respectively, of all U.S. companies.
  • 94% make legal services available, versus 26% nationwide, and 39% offer mortgage assistance, as compared to just 2% nationwide.

The application to be a “100 Best” company contains hundreds of questions, and applicants’ responses reveal plenty more ways these organizations support their employees. For example:

  • 92% of winning companies provide a back-up dependent care service, which is in many ways much more useful and equitable than on-site child care. Nonetheless, 42% of winning companies do have at least one on-site center.
  • 100% of 100 Best companies offer management or leadership training, 95% have formal mentoring, 92% offer career counseling and 96% have programs aimed at identifying hi-potential women.
  • 86% of companies provide a phase-back period for women returning to work following maternity leave; at 38% of companies women receive full pay during this period.

Working Mother media doesn’t provide comparison data for these and many other of its findings,  but my experience tells me most of the above programs and policies are still quite rare among U.S. employers.  (If you have any data, do let me know!)

All these numbers are just numbers, of course. Companies can be great places to work for all sorts of reasons, including many that are hard to quantify. But it is always good to back up a strong culture with tangible programs and policies that make a difference in employees’ lives. Kudos to all the companies that are working to make this happen—whether or not they have yet made it to this particular list.

Think your company may have what it takes to be a 100 Best Company? Let me help you tell your story on the Working Mother 100 Best new combined application!

Want to continue getting intelligent content about great workplaces, delivered right to your virtual door? Sign up to follow my blog.


Leave a Comment


APEX-2016-Winner 2015-Winner2014_winner-Apex-logo20132012