Best Workplaces Avoid Layoffs

January 6, 2003 ( - The best company to work for also appears to be the one that doesn't lay workers off, according to an annual ranking by Fortune magazine.

Of course that’s just one of the criteria that the top firms in Fortune’s List of 100 Best Companies to Work For appear to share.   And at least in one situation those jobs were retained with the sacrifice of a pay cut (San Jose-based semiconductor maker Xilinx ) – though the 6% cut absorbed by workers was considerably less than the 20% clip to the pay of the CEO.   The firm’s commitment to a no layoff policy put it at number 4 on the list.

Edward Jones topped the list for the second year in a row, as the St. Louis-based stockbroker managed to avoid handing out pink slips in an industry that has suffered painful layoff pangs this year.   The firm also offers “serious” profit sharing and significant employee ownership (25% of employees hold partnership stakes).   It also spends 3% of payroll and an average of 149 hours per employee per year on training.

Also holding on to last year’s spot was The Container Store , at number 2.   The Dallas, Texas-based retailer reportedly offers one of the highest pay scales in the retail field, but also manages to provide domestic partner benefits, free yoga classes at distribution centers – and chair massages at their headquarters.

The top-rated law firm in the survey was number 3 Alston & Bird , the first law firm to be in the top 10 (it was No. 9 last year). The Atlanta based firm had no layoffs this year.  Adobe , which offers three-week paid sabbaticals every five years, Friday night beer bashes, and an annual holiday black-tie party, nabbed the number 5 position.

Rest of the Best

The rest of the top 10 – and their unique benefit offerings include:

  • American Cast Iron Pipe – on site medical/dental care for employees and family members – for life (perhaps not surprisingly, they had the lowest employee turnover in the survey – just 1.5%).
  • TDIndustries – an employee-owned construction firm where the less you earn, the less you pay for insurance premiums
  • J.M. Smucker – which still offers health care for retirees and their spouses, as well as on-site stop-smoking classes
  • Synovus – on-site child care, state-of-the-art gym, and generous profit-sharing and pension plans
  • Wegmans Food Markets – where employees have mentored more than 1,000 kids, helping them to graduate from high school – and workers get to take off to care for sick pets.

Service Stations?

Of course, happy workplaces can make for good service as well – which may bode well for plan sponsor customers of the following firms that also made the list:

  • American Express (36)
  • SEI Investments (64)
  • MFS Investment Management (75)
  • American Century Investments (81)
  • Vanguard Group (83)
  • Charles Schwab (90)
  • Principal Financial (100)

To select this year’s list, Levering and Moskowitz surveyed a random sample of employees from 269 candidate companies from a sample list of more than 1,000 firms.   A total of 40,713 employees responded to the survey, created by the Great Place to Work Institute, and each company was also asked to fill out a questionnaire describing its HR policies and workplace culture.

The full list and related stories will appear in the January 20, 2003 issue, available on newsstands January 13, and at  on January 7.