Glassdoor Best Places to Work: The Common Elements of Winning Companies

Ever wonder why some companies consistently earn the Employees’ Choice Award for Best Places to Work? Do some award-winning companies surprise you because you’ve never heard of them?


While Glassdoor Best Places to Work lists are based on quantitative measures of employee ratings, it’s often the qualitative traits that influence employees to accept job offers and stay with a company. These “soft” factors like mission, culture, people, and transparency motivate employees to show up to work every day—and their reviews on Glassdoor reflect that.

To uncover the traits every Best Place to Work has in common, we interviewed the winners and our data science team scoured their Glassdoor pages and underlying quantitative ratings, looking for commonalities. The bullet points below each category were the specific items that fell into each of four overarching traits. We hope our distillation and the best practices we uncovered inspire you to work on your company’s mission, culture, people, and transparency in new ways within your organization and on Glassdoor.

Greenhouse won the #1 spot for small to medium sized businesses for 2017, which means that their employees are satisfied. And when your employees are satisfied, not only are they more productive and innovative—they stay with you longer than a quick stint. When employees stick around, you spend a lot less on hiring. And because your company reputation is so positive (employees say so on Glassdoor!), top talent actively seeks a job with you. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that builds on itself. Here’s what—at a high level—every Best Places to Work winner gets right:

Trait #1: Mission

A company’s mission is its reason for being. It gives employees a sense of purpose, and motivates them to come into work every day. Research shows that mission-driven companies have 30% higher levels of innovation and 40% higher levels of retention, and they tend to be first or second in their market segment. Glassdoor Best Places to Work winners use their mission to inform everything they do.

  • Mission/values driven
  • Challenging/exciting work
  • Clear direction

Trait #2: Culture

Culture and engagement are the primary challenges faced by companies around the world, according to a recent survey of business and HR leaders. Creating a strong culture of engaged employees is now seen as essential for attracting and retaining talent as well as enhancing productivity. Glassdoor Best Places to Work companies invest in their culture—and it pays off with happy employees. And, in analyzing Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work winners and what drives employee satisfaction, a common thread is consistently high marks for “Culture & Values.”

  • Unique culture that aligns with mission

  • Great perks and benefits

Trait #3: People

If culture is all about the group mentality that makes an organization great, a focus on people is about empowering the individual employee. A people-focused organization helps its employees grow to become their best. As Josh Bersin wrote in the Deloitte Review article Becoming Irresistible, “the balance of power has shifted from employer to employee, forcing business leaders to learn how to build an organization that engages employees as sensitive, passionate, creative contributors.” Glassdoor Best Places to Work winners make employees their top focus.

  • Smart colleagues

  • Employees feel valued

Trait #4: Transparency

Being on the Best Places to Work list doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. While many factors are considered in Glassdoor’s calculations to determine placement on the list, one of the most important is the company rating according to employees. The average for the Best Places to Work 2017 U.S. Large Employers List is 4.3 on a scale of 5. The average overall rating for Glassdoor companies is 3.3. Best Places to Work companies know that they’re not always going to get it right, and are willing to admit it when they don’t. This transparency is often reflected by their management’s approach, and in the company’s willingness to engage on Glassdoor by completing a robust profile and responding to reviews. Because nearly two-thirds (62%) of Glassdoor users agree that their perception of a company improves after seeing an employer respond to a review, actively joining the conversation and sharing your company’s point of view is becoming essential.

  • Transparent senior leadership

  • Opportunity for advancement

Now it's your turn!

If reading about the common traits of Best Places to Work winners makes you green with envy, take a step forward and claim your Glassdoor Free Employer Account. Glassdoor has also put together a quick-start guide to Getting on the Best Places to Work list, which includes specific details about how to make sure employees are reviewing your company, how to identify trends within those reviews, how to monitor and respond to those reviews, and how to make sure you’re implementing a feedback loop where you make internal changes based on constructive criticism. As every Best Places to Work winner will attest, taking an active approach by focusing on mission, culture, people, and transparency may just be what lands you on the list in years to come!

Marielle Leon

Marielle León is a freelance writer in the Bay Area with experience in topics ranging from brand-building and employer branding to interior design and UX design-thinking. She spends her free time on the trails and soccer fields of Marin county with her two wild boys, a ukulele-playing husband and the world’s best dog.

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