Editor's Note: Great Places to Work in Not-So-Great Times
If you’ve been a Book Business reader for several years, you’ll recognize the feature in this issue highlighting the “Best Book Publishing Companies to Work For.” This is the third year we’ve conducted this study not only to recognize those companies that have gone the extra mile to create places where employees thrive, but also to share the characteristics of positive work environments to help others striving to improve their workplace culture.
This year, however, was a difficult one for the book publishing industry, like many industries. The economic recession and the ensuing trail of publishing companies announcing layoffs and cutbacks added to the discontent of those unhappily employed, and it strained many companies that otherwise were pretty good places to work, as employees questioned the stability of their companies and jobs.
The corner office faced a particularly grueling challenge, evaluating where cuts could be made and how to keep as much of their workforces in tact as possible, while meeting the demands of the difficult financial environment.
Staffs were challenged with doing more and more with fewer resources, and I think it’s safe to say that morale at many companies dipped to an all-time low.
The good news is that many steps can be taken to help create a more positive work environment without necessarily increasing spending, as many of the companies on this year’s list of “Best Companies” prove.
Common among most of the “Best Companies” is an effort to not only ask employees for their opinions and suggestions, but to also actually utilize those suggestions. And this can directly benefit a company. Prestwick House (no. 10 on the list) believes that there cannot be true customer satisfaction in the absence of employee satisfaction—a concept that many companies unfortunately just don’t get. F.A. Davis’ efforts to develop a place where its employees feel valued have paid off in employee retention. And, creating a great workplace can help to lure talented executives from other companies.
In fact, employees seem to place a higher priority on being valued than on extensive benefits. (Ninety percent of employees at all companies surveyed, including those that didn’t make the “Best Companies” list, were happy with their companies’ benefits packages.)
That said, companies that understand the value of a happy employee culture also seem to go the extra mile in offering benefits that help employees balance work with their personal lives.
Here’s a look at what else the “Best Book Publishing Companies to Work For” offer:
• 80% offer performance bonuses/incentives to all employees
• 90% offer telecommuting options
• 40% offer the option to work compressed work weeks
• 20% pay all or part of employees’ childcare costs
• 30% pay all or part of employees’ costs for health-club memberships or fitness programs
• 40% have on-site facilities that promote fitness and exercise, and 50% have on-site fitness/wellness programs
• 60% provide adoption assistance
• 70% provide domestic partner benefits
• 100% offer tuition-reimbursement programs
• 60% allow paid time off for community service
• 83% have “green” components of their manufacturing processes
After three years of conducting this study and analyzing the top-ranking companies carefully, the following have emerged as common among what “best companies” offer: good-to-great benefits, respect for employees, recognition of employees’ hard work and accomplishments, an open management style, and a sense of camaraderie and shared achievement.
There is one thing, however, that seems to differentiate the great companies from the good ones. Great companies seem to not only treat employees with the utmost respect, but they almost always have a great sense of humor and put a priority on fun. Their philosophy: Employees work hard, and appreciate and deserve a good laugh, whether it’s during competitive events (like F.A. Davis’ “book toss”) or in pictures hung on the walls (like F.A. Davis’ Photoshopped photo of former President Irene Craven Davis in Edwardian garb, complete with an iPod and earbuds). The best companies take their work seriously, but they take their fun seriously, too.