Usual Suspects Permeate 2017 Top Employer Rankings

Prominent inclusion of Uber raises eyebrows

By Roy Maurer Jul 7, 2017
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It has become something of an aspirational refrain in the business world: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google. The ubiquitous tech juggernauts dominate the rankings of the most attractive companies for job seekers.

The top 10 spots on LinkedIn's Top Companies of 2017 index include some of the most lauded brands because of their mission to impact the world, their innovative workplace cultures and their cutting-edge products. LinkedIn and its parent, Microsoft, were excluded from consideration, or they likely would have ended up somewhere on the list, too.

The rankings—compiled from an analysis of billions of actions taken by the site's 500 million members from February 2016 to February 2017—included only companies with more than 500 employees. The blended score leveraged metrics such as:

  • How many people viewed and applied to job postings featured on the site.
  • How many people connected with or engaged with an employer's career page and its employees.
  • How long people stayed at a company during the timeframe of the study.

The top 10 companies in the U.S., are, in order:

  • Alphabet (the parent company of Google).
  • Amazon.
  • Facebook.
  • Salesforce.
  • Uber.
  • Tesla.
  • Apple.
  • Time Warner.
  • The Walt Disney Company.
  • Comcast NBCUniversal.

Technology companies appear throughout the list, from disruptors Airbnb (No. 11) and Netflix (No. 12) to Twitter (No. 17) and Adobe (No. 24). 

After tech, entertainment companies are most represented on the list, followed by a mixture of finance, consulting and real estate brands. The only retailers in the top 50 are Under Armour (No. 16), Starbucks (No. 46) and Nordstrom (No. 50).

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The top 50 employers share a high-profile brand as their common denominator. "These are the companies that people know have great opportunities for advancement or workplace culture and will also look good on your resume," said Laura Lorenzetti, LinkedIn list editor. "These companies are also major hiring powerhouses across a broad range of skills," she added.

Talent consultant and job search expert J.T. O'Donnell says that the main thing the top-ranked companies have in common is the means to invest in branding, along with a critical mass of employees who can generate plenty of online activity.

Some may find it problematic that companies with notoriously intense cultures like Amazon and Netflix appear on the list, not to mention Uber's high ranking as it undergoes widely reported HR struggles, but the list doesn't purport to measure culture, noted China Gorman, an industry thought leader, HR executive and former CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute.

The list primarily measures job seeker activity on LinkedIn, not workplace culture or employee satisfaction.

"Sheer volume can outweigh" any negative sentiment some employees may feel, said O'Donnell, the founder and CEO of WorkItDaily.com, a career management site based in Hampton, N.H. "You're not going to see scrappy startups on there, even though their employee satisfaction scores would be authentically through the roof."

The rankings are testament to "employer brand strength at best, and perceived 'resume value' at worst," Gorman added.

Experts agree that brand prestige is a powerful driver of job seeker activity. "A lot of the candidates that apply are also fans, customers and brand advocates," said Nick Murphy, founder and CEO of Mid-America Careers, a job site dedicated to connecting people and employers in the Midwest. "Aligning your work with a brand that you understand and like is appealing for many professionals."

But brand alone doesn't fully explain which companies made the list and which didn't. Well-known titans like ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart don't make lists like these because they are not "socially acceptable," said best-selling author Dan Schawbel, referring to ideology around climate change and labor issues. "There is a social-proof element, especially for younger job seekers," said Schawbel, a partner and research director at Future Workplace, an executive development firm based in New York City. "Technology is the industry that people most want to work in because it's seen as 'cool' and because of its impact."

Murphy views the companies on the list as mission-driven, an important value for many job seekers. "Employees more and more want to feel that they're a part of something important and larger than they are," he said. "Who wants to punch a clock when you can change the world?" 

The top-ranked companies are leaders in their respective industries, said Angela Copeland, an author, TEDx speaker and the CEO of Copeland Coaching, a career coaching service in Memphis, Tenn. "They're changing the way we think of business, and employees want to be a part of that technology and growth. Amazon currently has over 20,000 open jobs posted on their website and just announced the acquisition of Whole Foods."

The opportunity to grow fast and expand your skill set is very attractive in today's work environment, where the necessary skills for advancement keep changing, Lorenzetti added. "Being at a disruptor gives workers the opportunity to keep evolving and adapting to these new cutting-edge skills before they start becoming the industry norm."

In addition to being innovative, many of the organizations listed are aligning to the personal values of their employees, Copeland said. "They are providing more vacation, more parental leave, and help with student loans. Adobe provides employees with a break that's much like a sabbatical. These companies pay well and invest in their people. Job seekers know that, and they want to be part of it."

When Does Hard-Driving Become Toxic?

Gorman explained that there have long been "big companies with big corporate brands whose employee experiences were beyond awful." And yet those brands were so strong that working there was a badge of honor.

"If you can take it for 24 months at one of the many famous Silicon Valley big brands known for their horrific cultures, you can make it anywhere," she said. "That's resume value. We all know people who sucked it up to work for a marquee corporate brand just to get that organization on their resume."

But some people actually thrive in those hard-driving work cultures, O'Donnell said. "They feel successful in that kind of culture, and they want to stand shoulder to shoulder with other people who feel that way. And if you don't agree with that type of culture, no one is holding you hostage to work there. There are plenty of companies on the list that are all about work/life balance."

O'Donnell, however, does view Uber's prominent inclusion on the list amid allegations of a "culture of sexual harassment" as a challenge.
"Uber can make a list like that, but if you go over to Glassdoor, you can clearly see the problems [Uber is] having. It's a pretty big scandal."

Gorman noted that "Uber's culture issues and lack of warmth for female employees has been well-known for some time. It might drop a place or two next year because of the broader publicity about its treatment of employees, but that probably won't move the needle much on this list. Job seekers will still explore Uber as a place to work because of its reputation for creating a new category and its apparent fearlessness in taking on competitors."

Schawbel agreed that it's ultimately about the utility of the company. "If you love using Uber, even if they get bad press, you're still going to use [and apply to] Uber," he said. "Long-term, if it gets worse and worse, that could be different."

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