The January issue of Fortune Magazine features the “100 Best Companies to Work For”, and after reading it, I was intrigued by the key facts associated with the businesses chosen for the list. The magazine’s writers noted that “You have to be pretty darn strange to make this list. We mean that in a good way of course.”

The list was first created in 1998 and only twenty businesses have received the honors each year since then.

It’s also interesting that Georgia has been home to several honorees. HomeBanc Mortgage, Alston & Bird, AFLAC, Synovus, Memorial Health and Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta. Kudos to those folks!

So, what can be simply said about the 100 winners of this prestigious title? None of them are striving to be normal. “How’s that?”, you ask. Here’s what jumped out at me about these “employee friendly” firms.

• 14 of them pay 100 percent of health care benefit premiums
• one-third offer on-site child care for as low as $300 per month.
• balanced personal and work life encouraged.
• The top 25 highest paying averaged $125,759.52 per salaried employee with a high of $574,373 (Russell Investment Group) and low of $101,800 (Publix Supermarkets) and for hourly paid staff an average annual earnings of $60,124.68, with a high of $67,800 (law firm Morrison & Foerster) and low of $51,021 (PriceWaterhouseCoopers).
• 79% allow some measure of telecommuting with the top five who offer this having 60%, 37%, 33%, 30%, and 23% of their workforces doing so.
• 25 offer fully paid employee sabbaticals.

Quirky Perks

• Timberland employees receive a $3,000 subsidy to buy a hybrid automobile.
• S.C. Johnson & Son retirees get a lifetime membership at the company fitness center.
• Employees of David Weekley Homes get 10 percent off the purchase of a new DW home.
• Pregnant employees at Eli Lilly can take a paid month off before their due date – and not considered a part of their Family Medical Leave Act time allocation.
• Worthington Industries offers onsite haircuts for just $4.
• J.M Smucker has 100% tuition reimbursement, with no limit!
• Amgen employees receive 16 paid holidays each year, nearly double the national norm.

These companies also have incredibly low turnover rates in relation to others in their respective industries some between 2%-5%, which saves them countless tens of thousands of dollars. They also enjoy having huge applicant pools, receiving four to ten times as many applications as their competitors.

Starbucks, who currently employs over 91,000 people, claims it received more than 1.5 million applications and will experience 26% employee growth in 2006, or an additional 3,067 new “partners”, as employees are called.

Those companies on the list work hard at making new employees welcome, because they know that the first year of employment can be daunting, frustrating and somewhat shaky. Many offer assimilation coaching or “onboarding”, a coaching service I offer and which I wrote about for the Citizen last April (posted on my weblog). They may also choose to assign a “buddy” or mentor to new hires because typically their orientations take 90 days to a year.

When new hires arrive, these employers don’t hand them a bunch of forms to fill out. The “recently acquired” are escorted to their offices, cubicles or other assigned work areas, given their computer, active telephone, email addresses, logins, and appointment and training schedules for the first week, and maybe beyond. They are never, ever “dropped over the wall” and told, “Someone will be here shortly”.

On average, the Top 100 offers over 52 hours of training per year for each employee with the highest being 250 hours (Quicken Loans).

What may be the most interesting facts I’ve not covered are the financials of these companies. There is no doubt that those on the list are innovative at providing extraordinary work climates for their staff, but how are they performing with their shareholders?

“Best Companies” outperformed the S&P 500 by nearly double last year, and about the same over the last ten years.

Well, Timberland, one of those who has made this list every year, since then has seen it’s sales rise 75 percent, net profit which has nearly tripled, and its stock is up over 300 percent! And they aren’t an exception to the others on the list.

Another factoid I’ll mention — and pay particular attention here – 42 of the 100 companies have a majority of female employees! Some in healthcare have female to male ratios of more than 4 to 1, or higher than two out of three at AFLAC.

Okay, so you want to know what the coaching angle is here. It’s just this – you’ve got to be better than your competitors in many areas, not just one or two, to excel as a leader in national or global business . . . more than simply price, quality or service, because people are your greatest asset, whether they are employees, customers, suppliers or shareholders.

Is there anyone out there thinking they’ve got a long way to go? A famous 18th century Irish-born, English statesman, Edmund Burke said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little”. Those are good words for self-motivation. And if you’re interested in doing a little or a lot, give me a call. I’d love to show you that your company can have unique attributes, or even some of the same, that might put you in the same league as Fortune’s “Best Companies”.

Of course, if you’re not interested in higher shareholder value and happier more productive employees, you won’t call.