When the job market favors employees as it has for the past year, what’s an employer to do? To start, consider the wants and needs of today’s workers. Through more than 100 consecutive months of job gains, quite a few midsize companies have proved that they’re up to the challenge.
Forbes partnered with market research company Statista to identify the companies liked best by employees in our annual ranking of America’s best employers. The ranking is divided into two lists: one for the top large companies with more than 5,000 U.S. employees, and another for the top midsize companies with 1,000 to 5,000. This article focuses on the latter.
Climbing nine spots to claim the No. 1 position on this year’s list is TripAdvisor. Since making its top-10 debut last year, the Needham, Massachusetts-based company has become one of just two to return to the ranking’s upper echelon, the other being Penguin Random House, the former reigning best midsize employer, this year No. 2. One of the youngest businesses to make the list, 19-year-old TripAdvisor has quickly earned consumers’ trust, attracting an average 490 million monthly users to its platform, where they can customize travel itineraries based on their unique wants and needs. Just as personalization is central to the company’s product, it is core to the corporate culture, and that has made all the difference. “Planning travel, it’s a very personal experience. We try to give that same care and experience to all of our employees around the globe,” says Beth Grous, chief people officer at TripAdvisor. “For any employer to really win the talent war, you have to have a good employee experience and a workplace that is tightly integrated with your brand.”
The employee experience is evident even in the interview process, and while candidates only get a taste of what it might be like to work for TripAdvisor, it’s enough to make a positive impression, whether or not an offer follows. “I was out the other night and ran into someone who was interviewing for a job here and was not hired. She said, ‘The experience I had as a candidate at TripAdvisor was exceptional, and even though I didn’t get the job, I’d recommend the company to anyone, because if you show me that much care as a candidate, I have to believe that the employee experience is going to be even better,’” Grous says. “That’s a true story, and it’s not uncommon.”
The company’s primary talent pipeline—referrals, by a wide margin—is evidence that TripAdvisor has succeeded in cultivating a good employee experience. By the looks of its corporate headquarters, it’s not hard to see how. Designed with TripAdvisor’s workforce in mind, the campus is open and bright, with spaces meant to cultivate collaboration and creativity. Cafeterias serve free lunch, exercise equipment offer a midday endorphin boost and most buildings are dog-friendly. And while the on-site pubs, massages and dry-cleaning services do come at a cost, the convenience of having such amenities at one’s fingertips might just be worth the price tag. They alone would attract the attention of many job seekers, but what keeps employees engaged at TripAdvisor cannot be found in free food or a freshly laundered wardrobe. “All of that stuff is great, but I think part of why people come and stay is because we’re very focused on developing people and helping them build careers here, versus looking at this as something that’s transactional, just filling a job,” Grous says. “All of those things are our secret sauce.”
TripAdvisor’s commitment to career development isn’t just talk—it’s written in stone, or rather, the company’s core values. “We have a set of six core values, one of which is ‘We never stop learning,’” Grous says. “We build off of that value by creating very rich development experiences, technical and skills-based, as well as leadership and managerial capabilities, structured performance feedback and 360 reviews. We really invest in folks here.” Part of that investment involves helping employees find what they’re looking for, no matter where in the organization that may be. Since coming onboard in 2015, Grous has taken into her department people from everywhere from marketing to product development, while giving her own staffers the opportunity to pursue positions elsewhere in the business. “Many organizations look at career progression as a vertical or linear path,” she says. “That’s absolutely true for a subset of people at TripAdvisor, but we try to open the aperture and look at where we have great people with transferable skills and how we can leverage those capabilities throughout the company.”
More important, perhaps, is that no matter what jobs employees might hold, TripAdvisor takes care to ensure that they understand exactly how they fit into the bigger picture. It may sound obvious, something that can be achieved by simply glancing at an organizational chart, but this transparency is about much more than knowing to whom everyone reports. “If you can understand how your role or your team fits in, if what you’re doing makes a meaningful difference, it really cements the relationship you have with your employer,” Grous says. “People feel like they are making a difference every day.”
For the full list of America’s Best Midsize Employers, click here.
To determine the list, Statista surveyed 30,000 Americans working for businesses with at least 1,000 employees. All the surveys were anonymous, allowing participants to openly share their opinions. The respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of zero to 10, how likely they’d be to recommend their employer to others. Statista then asked respondents to nominate organizations in industries outside their own. The final list ranks the 500 large and 500 midsize employers that received the most recommendations.
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