Two years into a pandemic that’s forever transformed the workplace, what makes a good employer? Whether working from home or the office, Americans’ priorities have changed, and with 10.9 million job openings and an unemployment rate of 4%, what makes a top employer has changed, too.
“The employees are in control at this point because there’s such a plethora of openings,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, who is also a contributor to Forbes. “With the number of job openings today and the choices that good candidates have, you have to move swiftly but diligently,” he adds, noting, “A lot of organizations have realized that, through all the retention efforts and through all the resignations, they’ve had to re-recruit their current staff.”
Forbes partnered with market research company Statista to pinpoint the companies liked best by employees in our annual ranking of America’s Best Employers. To determine the list, Statista surveyed 60,000 Americans working for businesses with at least 1,000 employees. All were conducted anonymously, allowing participants to openly share their opinions. The respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of zero to ten, how likely they’d be to recommend their employer. They were also asked to rate their companies on factors such as working conditions, development opportunities and compensation. The final list ranks the 500 large (more than 5,000 employees) and 500 midsize (1,000 to 5,000 employees) employers that received the most recommendations.
Many of the employers who appear on the list are wrestling with what corporate culture looks like for a largely remote or hybrid workforce. Companies like biotech giant Genentech, No. 14 on the ranking of large employers, has replaced on-site benefits such as made-to-order sushi, day care and Friday night parties with virtual “office” hours with executives and “protected time”—blocked calendars between 12 and 2 p.m.—during which employees can take a break or focus on work without interruptions. Similarly, Southern Co., No. 2 among large companies, has democratized working from home. Once a perk reserved for high performers or those whose situations merited it, the utility firm now allows teams to set their own schedules.
Of the many factors that respondents were asked to weigh in on, diversity, equity and inclusion was one, and among midsize employers, Vera Bradley came out on top. The handbag and luggage maker earned high marks for cultivating a workplace that’s inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, and for pay equity and diversity, with 60% of its board of directors being made up of women.
When Barbara Bradley Baekgaard cofounded the company, its sewing, creative and distribution roles were staffed exclusively by women, until operational needs in the warehouse required gender diversification, and she recruited a retired police officer named Bob. To make him feel welcome in the workplace, Vera Bradley hosted an annual “Bob Day.” “We would all dress like Bob—we would put on a cap, tuck in our hair, put on a flannel shirt like he wore, and we would do silly things like ‘bob’ for apples,” Baekgaard tells Forbes. Though it may sound trivial, it’s gestures like these that go a long way toward fostering an inclusive environment.
Though there were some surprises—Huntington Ingalls Industries made the most significant move of any company on the large list, rising from No. 387 last year to No. 11, thanks, in part, to increased brand recognition—much of the ranking is a reflection of the state of the workforce. The restaurant industry, for example, fell the most, with just 11 companies earning spots on the 2022 list, down from 29 in 2021, as pandemic restrictions and labor shortages persisted. In-N-Out Burger, for example, which ranked No. 23 on the large list, was the only one to crack the top 200. As its owner and president, Lynsi Snyder, told Forbes in November 2020, the company has moved ahead with business as usual during the pandemic. “We bend over backwards to try to do as many things behind the scenes to continue business as usual,” Snyder said. “It obviously has not looked like business as usual with masks and nearly empty dining rooms.”
Bucking the trend were institutes of education. It’s been well documented that teachers have experienced high rates of burnout due to the pandemic: 52% of K–12 public school educators report feeling burned out or fatigued due to Covid-19, according to a September survey by the MissionSquare Research. Despite this, education was the most-represented industry on America’s Best Employers, with institutions such as the California Institute of Technology (No. 7) making up 8% of the midsize list and those like Yale (No. 12) and the University of Michigan (No. 16) making up 7% of the large.
Healthcare companies provided a surprise, too. They dominated the ranking of large employers, making up roughly a quarter of the top 50 and half of the top 10. But it was the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) that claimed No. 1, jumping 39 spots year over year. Respondents to Statista’s survey were impressed with the organization’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, as well as its reputation.
The pandemic has, of course, taken a tremendous toll on healthcare workers—since mid-February 2020, 18% of U.S. healthcare workers have quit their jobs due to burnout and poor pay, while another 12% have been laid off, according to an October Morning Consult survey—and Madeline Bell, the president and CEO of CHOP, tells Forbes that her workforce hasn’t been immune. Burnout, she says, is a top concern of employees, and the hospital has introduced a variety of programs to address it.
Despite all this, many of the hospital workers who responded to Statista’s survey said performing purposeful work fulfilled them. Over at Robert Half—which ranked No. 193 on the large employers ranking—McDonald says that sentiment is aligned with what he’s seeing in the job market. “People [are] reevaluating how they want to look at their careers, how they want to look at what they do for a living,” he says. “And it’s caused people to say, ‘What’s important to me? Is my career fulfilling?’”
For the full list of America’s Best Large Employers, click here. For the full list of America’s Best Midsize Employers, click here.