A critical look at the “Great Place to Work” award

These days, the lists of the winners of the “Great Place to Work” award are being announced. I can understand that it is a title that a lot of companies want to lay claim to; after all, it makes them that much more competitive in the hunt for candidates, and it lets them push back on salary demands, arguing that they are, after all, a “Great Place to Work”. I have a problem with the award though. I think it is worthless as anything other than something to used to pat oneself on the back.

The thing about the award is that, not only is it not representative of the labour market, but the participating companies actually pay a fairly hefty price to be considered. In 2013, only 162 of the approximately 514’000 businesses (or 0.031 per cent) in Norway participated, and they each paid somewhere between 50’000 and 100’000 Norwegian Kroner to participate. The businesses have to nominate themselves. Once nominated, which costs money, the employees get a questionnaire to fill out, but no information is available about the response rate.

This year, 176 businesses are participating. With just over 547’000 businesses in Norway, that means that the survey covers 0.032 percent of the businesses in Norway. My opinion is that the award in and of itself is worthless as anything other than a marketing tool. That said, from what I gather, the participating businesses also get a detailed (and I would assume and hope anonymised) report of the responses within their business, which can, and should be used to improve the business, with the goal of becoming a great place to work.

There is nothing inherently wrong with an admission fee, and the end product that the business gets out of it may very well be worth paying the entry cost. In having read through the information on the Great Place to Work website, it seems to me that the cost of entry to evaluation for the award is not that at all, but rather the cost of having GPtW survey your employees and prepare a report that the business can use to identify areas of improvement in the business.

That is all well and good, and I am happy that there are companies like GPtW out there to perform employee surveys. I just wish they would dispense with the whole award. It is inherently flawed, and cannot possibly lay any claim to relevance.





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