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Colborn’s Corner: Who’s the best?

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16th Mar 2006
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Quentin Colborn says ‘so what’ to those businesses ranked in this year’s Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

Who’s in and who’s out? These are the likely questions asked by those who made the list in 2005. Is this a preoccupation shared by HR Directors though? Perhaps not.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never worked for an organisation while it has won this award, but I’m inclined to say ‘so what?’ when hearing that someone has made the top of the list. What practical difference do these awards make other than to give a sense of smugness to those at the helm?

Certainly when it comes to graduate recruitment or another competitive job market, being one of the top 100 has its attractions. But few people join under those circumstances, and in any case how many employers are there? The reality is that there are, of course, many, very good employers who do not feature on these lists.

Perhaps they don’t have the time or inclination to take part in what they see as a beauty parade, perhaps they haven’t even heard of the awards.

Whether or not an organisation features in a list, what does this say about its attractiveness as a place to work? I would suggest very little. People join and leave organisations for very different reasons. When it comes to joining, issues like pay and benefits, change of environment and promotional opportunities all feature fairly highly. But there is a subtle difference in why people leave organisations and why they join others.

When it comes to leaving, one of the main influences is the way in which people feel treated by their managers. Whilst organisational factors have some influence, perhaps 80% of the reason why people leave is related to their manager and how valued they feel.

One of the other issues about surveys of this nature is that while there is a significant input from employees, it may overlook the fact that employee research such as this may have an inherent bias within it.

There are many styles of leadership and ways in which organisations are managed. Some will be highly fluid with much empowerment and employees able to have significant opportunities to make their mark. Others may be more controlling with less opportunity for individual discretion and expression. Now many people may prefer the former style, yet a significant minority may well prefer the latter style. If asked, each may rate their employer highly – but this doesn’t automatically mean that others will see it in the same light.

Why does Quention suggest managers should 'walk the floor' once a week?

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