The rewards one stands to reap at work—personal and professional growth, happy clients, recognition from a boss or colleague—are sometimes far and few between. But what about those companies where the distance is not so great between the sweat you put into your job and the satisfaction that you get doing it?
Each year, Ad Age seeks to find the best of these workplaces, the companies that are quantifiably ahead of the pack when it comes to factors like benefits, inclusion and employee development.
This year, we present a new-and-improved Ad Age Best Places to Work 2019, designed with our new partner, Latitude Research, to create a process allowing organizations of any size—from companies/agencies with just 10 employees to those with 1,000-plus—an opportunity to compete. Better yet, we built the new foundation on the key factors employees most value today. Most important to employees overall: benefits, like fair pay, health insurance and PTO. Less important: Well, employers who think ping-pong tables and free snacks are their biggest draws should think again. Employees love their fun time, but relative to other essentials, those perks matter less.
Perhaps the most striking takeaway, though, is that out of our top-20 ranked companies—organized by size—14 have an employee pool that's 50 percent female or more. What's bad for the glass ceiling is often good for the bottom line.
|Rank||Company||Business||% Top executive||% Senior leadership||% Employees|
|1||Elite SEM||Digital agency||No||No||20%||0%||60%||24%|
|2||The Community||Advertising agency||No||Yes||59%||59%||54%||81%|
|4||UM||Creative & media
|7||PwC's Digital Services
|8||George P. Johnson
|Event & experiential
|9||McCann Health||Advertising agency||Yes||No||50%||0%||75%||50%|
|11||Havas (NYC)||Creative & media
|12||Carmichael Lynch||Advertising agency||No||No||48%||5%||60%||11%|
|13||Publicis Health Media||Media agency||No||No||60%||18%||62%||13%|
|14||Horizon Media||Media agency||No||N/A||61%||N/A||66%||N/A|
|15||W2O Group||Marketing & PR agency||No||No||60%||10%||55%||19%|
|19||The Marketing Store||Ad tech||Yes||No||28%||14%||49%||35%|
|20||Centerfield Media||Ad tech||No||No||10%||60%||38%||75%|
|21||Klick Health||Advertising agency||No||No||45%||24%||50%||40%|
|24||Weber Shandwick||PR agency||No||No||52%||16%||68%||22%|
|Rank||Company||Business||% Top Executive||% Senior Leadership||% Employees|
|1||Chacka Marketing||Digital agency||Yes||No||50%||17%||56%||30%|
|4||Closed Loop||Digital agency||No||No||43%||0%||58%||11%|
|5||Again Interactive||Digital agency||No||No||33%||0%||55%||9%|
|6||Digital Remedy||Ad tech||No||No||26%||10%||57%||25%|
|8||Hanapin Marketing||Digital agency||No||No||20%||0%||60%||5%|
|12||January Digital||Digital agency||No||No||50%||0%||63%||16%|
|19||Tencue Productions||Event & experiential
|20||Marcus Thomas||Advertising agency||No||No||50%||10%||60%||20%|
|21||Johnson & Sekin||Advertising agency||No||No||50%||20%||50%||30%|
Work life is changing, so Ad Age rebooted its annual Best Places to Work report to better capture what matters most in today's workplace and to explore what makes a great place to work.
Ad Age Best Places to Work 2019—produced in partnership with Latitude Research, a market research firm—identifies 50 workplaces that get the job done: 25 companies with 200 or fewer employees and 25 companies with more than 200 employees.
Winners reflect the highest overall numerical scores based on an analysis of questionnaires submitted by employers and survey responses from thousands of their employees.
The scoring system factored in six key satisfaction areas, an aggregate of each company's ratings in those key areas and a collective workplace rating to arrive at an overall score.
The six key areas: employee benefits, company culture, employee development, company environment, employee engagement and employee perks.
Most of the surveyed employees perceive their workplace positively and give their company high marks.
Not surprisingly, core benefits (fair pay, health insurance, paid time off) are must-haves and highly valued by employees.But benefits (and perks) alone don't translate to a high workplace score. Instead, company culture and environment are most likely to be associated with high workplace ratings.
The factors that most relate to workplace ratings encompass feelings of support, encouragement, empowerment and purpose—areas where top-scoring companies in the survey exceeded expectations.
Employees also desire clear communication and work-life balance—areas where many companies came up short in the employee survey responses.
Also, company size matters. Those with more than 200 employees are just as likely to earn top ratings on benefits and perks as smaller companies but trail on culture, environment and development. And employee survey findings show staffers at larger companies are just as likely to enjoy their colleagues and feel their individual performance is strong but they feel less valued, supported and motivated than employees at smaller companies.
Likewise, employees at smaller companies see more room for advancement for women and minorities, and they feel like hard work results in better pay.
In-depth interviews conducted by Latitude Research with the highest-ranked companies overall show how much thought, planning and work goes into creating a Best Place to Work. These companies tend to craft company culture manifestos and to hire (and fire) carefully for the best culture fit. Having any given client be a good fit is important as well.
"We live and breathe by those core values," says Janel Laravie, CEO of Chacka Marketing, a Tampa, Florida-based digital media agency with the highest overall score among companies with 200 or fewer employees. "We hire against these core values. We have incentive programs internally to recognize individuals that exemplify these values."
As noted, employees place a high degree of importance on fair pay, health coverage and time off, but alone they don't necessarily relate to a high workplace rating. Free food, team bonding, happy hours and the like can translate to a great rating for employee perks, but have lesser impact on overall workplace ratings
The top-ranked organizations have an abundance of strategic and well-thought-out benefits and perks. Management at those companies focused on how they could use benefits and perks to take care of their people and remove barriers that hindered growth and success both personally and professionally.
Whether it's parental leave, the ability to work remotely, unlimited vacation time, free lunches, company retreats or game rooms, everything is about making clear to employees: We want you to succeed in and outside of work, we expect a lot from you and you can expect a lot from us in return.
"There's a misconception about what culture is," says Zach Morrison, president of Elite SEM, a digital marketing agency with the highest overall score among companies with more than 200 employees. "People think that culture is game rooms and free food and happy hours. And we have all of these. But to me, that's not culture, those are perks or benefits.
"To me, culture is how values manifest themselves. … Our culture is around people that are striving for greatness. … There's people really working hard for themselves, working hard for their peers and working hard for their clients … people challenged by their jobs and enjoying being successful at it, enjoying the learning, and people being grateful for each other. That's seeing the values play out themselves."
The experiences of employees at the overall highest-rated companies are better across the board. Survey results show they feel differently about their relationships with their co-workers and management, exude higher morale and believe there are more opportunities for growth.
And Latitude Research found that senior leadership recognizes how investing in employees pays in profits and satisfied clients. Leaders of top-scoring companies make a conscious effort to empower employees to speak up, ask questions and propose ideas. Investments in employee empowerment and development pay dividends in the form of longer and better working relationships with clients.
Top-ranked companies make an effort to show that they care about employees' professional and personal futures. Leaders who put people first ensure that benefits, perks, environment and culture will foster an experience that supports both career and personal growth.