What makes a company attractive to potential employees?
Universum, a research firm focused on employer branding, recently asked some 10,000 respondents to rate U.S. companies on their attractiveness as places to work. Tech ended up dominating much of the list: Google and Apple took the first two spots, respectively, followed at No. 5 by Amazon.com and, at No. 7, Microsoft.
Those companies traded places in the top 10 with other major entities such as NASA, the U.S. State Department and Disney. A firm with tens of thousands of employees and decades-long history, it seems, offers a more attractive proposition than smaller startups; indeed, the very conspicuous absence of any hot startups from the list-Facebook isn't present, for example-hints that, in the wake of the past few years' economic upheavals, size and stability are particularly magnetic features for potential employees.
Those tech companies' presence on the list also speaks to the white-hot popularity of products such as the iPad, Google Android smartphones, Kindle e-readers, and the Kinect hands-free controller for Xbox. Who wouldn't want to work for a company dominating the news and consumers' credit-card bills? In addition, companies such as Google are famous for their benefits, which in the search engine giant's case includes a policy of giving engineers time to work on projects that interest them (which sometimes translates into new products, in turn benefitting Google's bottom line).
Other companies pepper the rest of Universum's list, albeit much further down. There's Yahoo ranked No. 23, IBM at 30, Intel at 50, Dell 57. Again, you can assume that these companies' hefty corporate legacies and brand-name equity have propelled them to these slots, despite shakier revenues for both Yahoo and Dell.
AT&T arrives on the list at 59, followed by Cisco Systems at 69 and Hewlett-Packard at 77. Verizon sits at 79.
Over the next year, several of these companies plan to pull the trigger on game-changing strategies. AT&T, for example, recently announced its $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile; if the FCC and the Department of Justice allow that deal to happen, it will make AT&T the largest carrier in the United States. Hewlett-Packard plans to port its recently acquired webOS onto not only smartphones and tablets, but also PCs-a move that will likely irritate partner Microsoft. One question is whether big moves-by coloring a particular firm as a dynamic place to work-increases a company's attractiveness to employees with an urge to leave their mark.
Companies such as Google, Apple, Intel and Saleforce.com have also ranked high in surveys such as Glassdoor.com's "50 Best Places to Work." Maybe it all comes down to the chance to work somewhere cutting-edge. Or maybe it's simply the really good food in the cafeteria.