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Insiders’ secrets for making the ‘Best companies’ lists

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in Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

If you leave questions blank on the Working Mother application for the magazine’s “Best Companies” designation, you weaken your chances of making the list.

If you can’t scare up a Latina executive to attend Latina Style’s celebration of its “50 Best Companies,” you’ll raise a bright red flag.

Winning a spot on any of the dozens of coveted “best companies” lists can reap your organization a world of positive publicity and boost your reputation among potential recruits. But to win, you need to know how to play the game.

Compensation & Benefits asked the experts—the people who decide who makes the lists and who doesn’t—to share some tips for placing well on the many “best companies to work for” lists.

Fill in the blanks

Expect to devote between four days and two months of full-time work the first time you apply for a big list, such as Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” or Working Mother’s “100 Best Companies.” The applications not only ask for company information about staffing and programs, but require you to give evidence that the programs are successful.

Advice: If you can’t find the time to fill out the application properly, consider hiring a public relations firm to do it for you. Some specialize in lists.

Don’t leave any blanks.
Some list-keepers assign points to each answer. An answer left blank does not earn any points. Honest estimates are fine, but don’t just guess; someone may contact you to verify the information.

Be truthful. Some magazines, such as Latina Style, send reporters to organizations that make their lists. Make sure you haven’t made a claim the journalist can disprove.

Make the most of metrics

Include specific numbers. The bigger lists rely on comprehensive quantitative information.

Supply evidence of your answers.
For example, if you contend that your organization’s president promotes a work/life benefit in public speeches, send copies of the speeches along with the application.

Keep focus on employees

You’ll typically earn the most points for programs that are available to the largest number of employees at all salary levels.

Judges are more impressed by a few programs that many employees use than by many benefits that few tap.

Give contact information for a few executives who can verify salary, demographic and other information so list analysts can get in touch with the right people if they have questions. (Note that some lists, including Fortune’s, require organizations to allow access to their employees for interviews and surveys.)

Remember, this is about getting better

Treat the process as an internal audit of your organization’s benefits. Learning where your company lags in terms of return-on-investment information or good programs can help strengthen your benefits in those areas.

Once a magazine or organization has named its list for the year, study the articles that showcase the winners. They will reveal which benefits the winners offer that you don’t.

Paint a picture

Err on the side of offering more information rather than less. Most judges consider “soft” evidence as well as numbers, so offer anecdotes and quotes from employees.

Some list applications, like the one for AARP’s “Best Employers for Workers Over 50,” ask for an essay explaining why your organization should make the list. Use it to describe the benefits you offer to the group the magazine represents (e.g., older employees, women or working mothers), and offer anecdotes about how those benefits have helped those employees.

‘Best companies’ lists: Deciding whether to play

Is it worth it to enter one of the many “best companies” competitions? Given the lengthy time commitment required to prepare entries—and the fact that some charge hefty fees—that’s an important question. To make the call, consider how winning might advance your business goals.

  • Recruiting: If you have to compete for the best of the best new employees, making a “best of” list might separate you from other employers, making it easier for top recruits to choose you.
  • Retention: At a time when employees might be feeling economically uncertain or vulnerable, the morale boost of winning could be significant. In a recession, who’s going to leave one of the nation’s best employers?
  • Brand enhancement: Work with counterparts in other departments to determine how placing on a “best of” list might leverage existing sales and marketing, PR or brand-management efforts.

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