FRATERNITY RUSH HAS GONE CORPORATE. ON A BRIGHT, SUNNY SATURDAY late last January, Dana Slaughter and II other soon-to-be MBAs gathered in the Marriott-Quorum hotel lobby at the appointed time for brunch. Each of the students had already been offered jobs, but that wasn’t enough. Frito-Lay’s marketing department wanted to distinguish itself from its competitors.
The Piano-based company had created an event called “The Big Weekend” and flown the job candidates and their spouses in from around the country for two days of heavy wooing. Slaughter, who was attending SMU’s Cox School of Business, didn’t have far to travel, but along with everyone else, she boarded the bus without knowing where it was going. The small group chatted idly and started getting to know each other. But the idle chatter turned to surprise when the bus stopped outside Texas Stadium. Entering through the players’ entrance, they walked out onto the bright green artificial turf and started looking around. There on the 50-yard line, where the huge blue and white Cowboys logo sits directly beneath the hole in the roof through which God watches his favorite team, they saw a long table loaded with food. Fifty or so Frito-Lay employees were waiting to welcome the newcomers, and while they didn’t applaud the job candidates’ entrance onto the stadium floor-that would have been a little too over the top-they did greet them warmly as they introduced themselves. During brunch on the sun-drenched field, (he marketing employees pitched their company and answered questions about what it’s like to work there.
After a few (lag football games on the stadium turf, everyone headed for what the recruits supposed was a tour of the Cowboys’ locker room. Once inside. Slaughter found herself standing by offensive lineman Larry Allen’s locker, where an authentic Cowboys jersey was hanging, emblazoned with the number one and her name sewn on the back. As she and the others donned the jerseys, they were marshaled In the center of the locker room .where a FritoLay executive told them he wanted them on his team.
“It was just really overwhelming,” Slaughter says. “1 knew by the end of the weekend that I was going to accept the offer.” Frito-Lay’s gambit culminated several weeks of romancing that included dinners at the homes of company executives, social outings, and plenty of time to meet with potential colleagues and bosses and really get to know the company.
The weekend illustrates the lengths to which companies will go to attract top talent in today’s light labor market. “Everybody is getting more creative with the way they put their offers out there and what they’re willing to do to get talented people.” says Slaughter, who says one out-of-state company even offered her husband a job sight unseen in order to recruit her.
Slaughter’s is just one of many similar stories around Dallas. A recent Manpower Inc. survey predicts the current seller’s market will continue well into this year, and it’s not just MB As who are cashing in on it. While Dallas’ unemployment rate officially hovers around 3 percent or so, in many fields the rate is virtually zero. You know it’s an Alice in Wonderland world where up is down and down is up when waiters and waitresses gel $500 signing bonuses.
Companies are going to remarkable lengths to keep the people they have, too. By the time headhunters’ costs, recruiting, and training are added up, a company can spend up to two years’ salary to replace someone who leaves, never mind the psychological effect on the people who have to work harder to pick up the slack until the position is filled.
The menu of benefits and perks seems to grow longer with each passing day, (See chart.) Medical, dental, and vision insurance,401 (k) plan’s.,stock options, discounted stock purchase plans, child-care subsidies or on-site day-care centers, unmarried domestic partner insurance, maternity and paternity leaves, on-site fitness centers and chair massages, private rooms for nursing mothers-all have become commonplace, and one company’s plan is hard to distinguish from another’s. Consider this sampling of the more esoteric benefits offered by some companies around Dallas:
■ Piano software maker MelaSoly has two indoor racquetball courts, a lighted outdoor basketball court, a break area with a ping pong table, and a beanbag room for casual brainstorming.
Internet marketing firm IMC2’s office has a rock-climbing wall,a life-size chess set,and a rock garden with soothing waterfal
Bristol Hotels offers five-week paid sabbaticals after seven years employment.
7-Eleven offers pet insurance, pre-paid legal services, and group homeowners and automobile insurance.
Texas Instruments has an on-site 11-week summer day camp for kids, an online parents network for information sharing, and a free concierge service.
Le Madeleine sends general managers on a French culture trip after one year’s employment.
Ericsson, many of whose employees are from other countries . puts on employee awareness fairs to familiarize workers with the company, the community, and the programs it offers.
Ernst & Young sets up free video conferencing for families separated by work-related travel.
What’s driving this phenomenon? Certainly a red-hot economy and shortages of qualified people in various fields, especially high technology. But it’s also being driven by the dot-com companies, who keep setting the standards ever higher. The guys who are creating the new economy want their companies to be cool places where they would want to work. The benefits they offer carry that theme even further, and they house all this in workplaces that sometimes resemble college-dorm rec rooms with fraternity house atmospheres. The bottom line to them: Work should be fun. and if it is, great people will want to be there and stay there.
At the same time, they’re making an assumption that people will behave as adults and not take advantage of them. There’s no clock-punching, and no one’s looking over shoulders just to make sure everyone is on task all eight working hours. Keeping employees happy-or at least satisfied-shows up on the business’ bottom line in the form of higher productivity and profitability. There’s less absenteeism, and talented people tend to stick around longer.
To compete, the larger, more established companies are reinventing their compensation packages as well, adding perks and workplace enhancements that were unheard of even a few years ago. These companies have found that they can no longer afford to be paternalistic surrogates, mainly because their kids probably aren’t there for life. Employment free agency is the new fact of life, with signing bonuses for top talent rivaling those you read about on the sports pages. While some companies are downsizing employees in one area to beef up in another, as Texas Instruments did recently and EDS is doing right now, they are often encountering a rude shock: The employees they want to keep are leaving to grab hold of the next great start- up. chasing stock options that could turn to gold and platinum.
“There’s a whole new philosophy of the broken contract,” says Ernst & Young’s John Hamm, who advises companies on human resources issues. “The lifetime employment contract was broken, and in exchange employees are saying, LYou work on my résumé. You help me improve my résumé.’
The new contract is, ’We can’t assure you’ll be working here tomorrow, but we will work with you while you’re here.” People are demanding more training because where they are now isn’t where they will wind up.”
Just what makes a company a great place to work?
A lot of things, really, and what’s a great place for you might not be the same for your next-door neighbor. Take Southwest Airlines, which consistently shows up in national lists of great places to work and which came up number two on our own local survey. Who wouldn’t want to work for a flamboyant, whiskey-swilling, chain-smoking business icon like Southwest Airlines chairman, president, and CEO Herb Kelleher? Southwest’s employees seem to be having fun. and it’s infectious. But that’s not for everyone. Do you want to be on an airplane five days out of seven,helping Herb open his next dozen destinations?
“The companies that are the most gimmicky set the trends.” says Charles Wheeler, a human resources consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Dallas office. “It’s a very competitive market, and our perspective on attracting and retaining people is to try to clearly identify the path to an individual’s job satisfaction. There’s an inherent efficiency in keeping employees satisfied.”
For a company, that efficiency comes from stemming the talent drain of all those people who know the business, know the company, and know the clients and customers. “The cost of an employee isn’t just the hard dollars,” says Wheeler. “What you end up losing is your ability to play on their knowledge and create ideas that you can bill to your clients. It’s tough to replace ideas.”
As we sun-eyed Dallas-Fort Worth business owners, human resources directors, and consultants about what it takes to create a great place to work, keeping people satisfied was a recurring theme, Unhappy, dissatisfied people are more likely to answer the phone when a headhunter calls. And when people leave, others begin to question why. especially those who have to pick up the slack through increased workloads.
“Most people, if they’re happy, won’t take the call,” says Julie Black, human resources director for MetaSolv. whose software writers and engineers are in big demand. “But if something has happened to make it a bad day, that’s when they’ll take the call. People don’t leave for money. People don’t leave for benefits. They leave because something made them unhappy the day that they took the call.”
But each company has to determine what makes its own people happy, not try to add a perk because someone else is offering it. Wheeler cites the example of allowing people to bring their dogs to work with them. In a start-up culture, it makes sense because people working 18-hour days to bring a product to market quickly don’t need to worry about whether their dogs are hungry or tearing up the house. Too often companies try to duplicate gimmicks like this without fully understanding why they’re offered in the first place. “They think that to be the best employer, they just need to go out and pick the best practices off the tree and apply them.” Wheeler says. “And they think you win because you have them, not because they’re integrated with what you are and what you’re trying to achieve. The worst thing an employer can do is to turn its package into a commodity. If we are no better than the employers down the street because we all have die same thing, then you’ve helped erode the connections that kept employees with you in the past. You have to let employees link in with you and let them feel they ’re part of it, that you really care about them, and that you’re doing the things that really lead to job satisfaction.”
Sometimes job satisfaction starts with bricks and mortar, designing unique and comfortable environments that allow people to be productive, while providing opportunities to break away and simply blow off steam. Sometimes money talks and the potential to make even more with a successful public offering. Benefits and perks also fit into the equation. But usually, employee satisfaction is about more than money.
“Good companies to work for are those that understand that one’s professional life is an exchange relationship,” says author Robin Pinkley, a professor at SMU’s Cox School of Business. “What the employee brings the company is experience, knowledge, education, insight, and skills, but he expects something in return. And what he expects in return has to do with both his physical well-being and his psychological well-being. More and more of us spend more and more time in our work lives. We look to the professional environment to provide more than a professional relationship.”
The relationship extends to social opportunities, she says, like having someone wish you a happy birthday, bring you a cake-and mean it sincerely. Relationship-building includes facilitating employee gatherings away from the work setting, so people in different departments get to know each other better, often developing long-lasting friendships. We probably know the guy in the adjacent cubicle better than our next-door neighbors.
People can see through superficial gimmicks. Pinkley cautions. It” the company fails to understand you need time off to nurse a sick child, all that other touchy-feely stuff is moot. “If those thoughtful things are part of a consistent pattern, fantastic,” Pinkley says. “If they’re not, they’re likely to get a backlash.”
Making people feel a part of a vibrant, growing company that truly cares about them is critical. “If you can offer a job that allows for personal growth, intellectual development, education, and also money, then people will have a greater ability to manage their lives and take care of their families,” says auto dealer Carl Sewell. Customers are the lifeblood of any business, so how good the employee feels translates to the bottom line. “If the employer is not loyal to you, you’re not going to think about taking great care of his customers,” says Sewell.
Great companies realize that life is complicated and that personal distractions reduce productivity. As a result, many have developed strategies to reduce outside stress: flexible hours, elder-care programs, free massages, concierge services-whatever it takes to keep people focused during the time they’re on the job. Often, it’s as simple as having a nice building to work in. Three Dallas companies in different industries provide examples.
FTMortgage Co. in Irving competes in an industry with a 30 percent annual employee turnover rate. It recently constructed a new headquarters to consolidate five offices brought under one roof due to a series of acquisitions made by its parent company, First Tennessee Bank. Before the first shovelful of dirt was ever turned, Ron Bastek, PTMortgage’s senior vice president for facilities management and design, spent a year asking people what they liked and didn’t like,and how they did their jobs. He worked with an outside contractor to map out how workflow affected people and which groups needed to be adjacent to each other and what they really needed to do their jobs. He also looked at the impact integrating new hires with veteran employees has on the training that takes place regularly.
The result is a two-story open environment with lots of windows and skylights, complemented by indirect lighting and soothing colors. Four strategically placed coffee kiosks allow employees to leave their desks, grab a cup of Java, and quickly return to their tasks. Low-walled cubicles surround open areas with small conference tables and chairs that promote casual meetings. The furniture is economically designed, and employees are being taught how to use it to avoid workplace injuries. Call-takers have headsets so they can walk around without being chained to a desk. A centralized staircase encourages people to use il rather than the more subtly placed elevators. An on-site cafeteria is designed to resemble a bistro, with an outside deck for use when the weather is nice. And a fitness center is equipped with a TV and VCR allowing employees to work out before and after work or during lunch breaks. Few details are overlooked, right down to the automatic flushers in restrooms.
The bottom line: “People are working better together, and productivity is picking up,” Bastek says. “We tried to think of as many things that we have problems with and that employees complain about. We immediately saw a change in people’s attitudes, changes in the way they dress, changes in the way they work. People are more conscientious about keeping the place clean. And the absentee rate is down.” He’s also hoping to see that dreadful turnover rate decrease substantially,
UDV Southwest’s approach at its Sprectrum Building offices at the North Tollway and Beltline Road takes advantage of its unique business. The subsidiary of London-based Diageo PLC is one of six in-market companies operated in the U.S. by United Distillers and Vintners, which produces, imports, and markets such brands as Jose Cuervo Tequila, Smirnoff Vodka. Bailey’s, Gordon’s Gin, Beaulieu Vineyards, and Glen Ellen wines.
You know you’re in a spirits marketing company when you step off the elevator and walk up to the reception area, where the receptionist sits behind a desk that resembles a bar, complete with four stools and a product display area behind it. A bas relief panel off to the right incorporates geometric shapes,bottles, and grapes with indentations designed to display bottles of whatever brand is being promoted. A circular flow gives everyone a window view, and individual cubicles are glass enclosures that avoid any risk of Dilbert syndrome. Each cubicle is spacious enough that small tables can be brought out for impromptu conferences without having to schedule a conference room. Product displays are tastefully scattered throughout, identifying the brand groups and that month’s promotions.
Then there’s the “board room.” a social area complete with 70-inch television, Nintendo game,jukebox (the employees each got to pick one CD for the collection), and bar. Once a week, it’s the scene of a two-hour social that lets everyone gather in a friendly atmosphere while being educated about upcoming promotions. ’’We wanted to create an environment for our people that told diem we’re not the old wine and spirits company. We’re a new breed of company.” says Roni Briggs, vice president for business capabilities, an expanded term for human resources director. “Because we’re in a business that’s about people, we believe that you not only build a brand called Cuervo, you build a brand called UDV thai people want to work for. In Dallas, certainly, it’s about the work environment because you can get a job anywhere and everybody pays well. It’s not any one thing; it’s a lot of things. It’s a total package.”
The situation at Internet marketing firm IMC2 is about as different as it gets. There the focus is on creativity, both in the way it deals with clients (Campbell’s Soup. General Mills, Proctor & Gamble, and Dr Pepper, among others) and in marshaling the creative juices needed to find new ways to approach mass marketing in the new electronic medium.
The company’s converted warehouse at Mockingbird and Stemmons reflects IM2’s personality. Bold purples, blues, and yellows dominate, with exposed steel wall supports and shiny overhead ductwork adding a techno touch. There’s hardly a right angle to be found in the place, as walls jut out at angles that make it seem the carpenters were sniffing too many chemicals. Conference rooms are named for comic book cities, and the break room, called the Hall of Justice, is more like a living room with its large-screen TV and beanbag chairs.
In back of the building, where trucks once drove up to unload, the garage doors are now glass and lead to a large wood deck, where people can drag out bean bag chairs and meet informally. And there’s a hammock for anyone to use for some creative daydreaming. “Everyone has a need to be creative,” says IMC2 president Doug Levy. “Everything about the Internet is new. and IMC2 is defining how to be new and different, not just in its approach to marketing, but in our workspace, too.”
While the workplace says a lot about a company, the way companies treat people goes to the heart of making it agréai place to work. Paying them well doesn’t hurt, and offering generous benefits is good, too. But it doesn’t mean offering one-size-fits-all compensation packages and work schedules that treat young singles the same as employees with families.
“If you throw a ton of money at people, you’re going to create an attitude where people are always looking for more and more money,” says MetaSolv’s Julie Black. “People need to have companies respect them and not just try to lure them with cash.” That means talking about long-term goals,careers, what they really want to do, and how each person can make a difference.
“HR can’t impose most of this.” says Ernst & Young consultant John Hamm. “It has to be the line management agreeing that this is important and that it’s valuable. It’s not just additional costs or we have to do it to be competitive. The top has to see that this translates to revenues.”
Not everything has to cost a lot. of money to he perceived as having value. Encouraging business casual dress costs nothing, but people like it and find it valuable. Discounts on company products, whether wine, airline tickets, clothing, or software, are important. Creating events so people can interact outside the company selling also costs little, but can have great benefits.
Often something as intangible as “company spirit” keeps people satisfied, as MetaSolv technical consultant Chris Landry had to discover for himself. Now 31. Landry was the 24th person hired when he came on board in 1995. Within two years, however, he was unhappy. All the time spent on the road servicing customers was becoming a drag. “When you work for a small company, there’s not a lot of organization, and you have those norma] growing pains,” he says. “The hardest part for me was adjusting to the fact (hat there was no structure.” So when a headbutt ter called, he listened, and left fora large human resources (inn that, offered lots of money, lots of vacation, regular hours, a defined chain of command, and best of all, no travel. But after six months, the monotony got to him. and once again he was unhappy.
At about that time, he crashed a MetaSoIv party to see some of his old friends. “1 ended up with (company president) Jim Janicki in his office for two hours, and we hashed out a lot of stuff,” Landry says. “By the time I left his office, it was pretty much decided that I’d come back.” It’s a good thing he did. too. MetaSoIv went public in November. In first-day trading, the stock rose from its initial offering of $19 to over $55. “I look back on the time when I left, and it’s almost comical. I needed to leave because I needed to be unhappy to realize what I really wanted to do. The travel still sucks, but 1 can’t possibly imagine doing anything else.”
Landry’s experience was an exercise in self-realization that SMU professor Pinkley advises people to go through from time to time as they try to identify what defines a great company for them. “Rather than going for the company that has this high status on paper, or who pays the highest amount, you should sit down and ligure oui who the heck you are, what leads to enhanced performance and enhanced contentment. Given that, what is necessary and what is’ sufficient. And you should understand thai it changes over time.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant Charles Wheeler suggests doing the same thing employers do before deciding to hire you. “Outline what you want out of your job and what you want out of your personal life. Figure out what you’ve identified historically as very satisfying and very dissatisfying. Then draft a set of questions around that.”
And remember, most companies don’t just throw perks around unless they result in better productivity and help (hem keep the right people. “The truth is a business is a business .” says Pinkley. “It’s not Pollyanna time, holding bands,and singing ” Kum Ba Yah.’ Acorn-pany will do what makes good business sense.”
THE BEST COMPANIES
TO WORK FOR
THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM TOP DALLAS RECRUITERS.
To find the best companies in Dallas-FortWorth, we went to the best sources in town. Who knows better than top local head-hunters? After all, in history’s tightest job market, their job is to keep abreast of their clients’ competition, and they don’t get paid if their placements don’t workout.
We asked them which companies were best in benefits, perks, career development, and employee satisfaction. We then ranked the companies according to number of times cited, where they placed in the recruiters’ lists (first or second getting bonus points), and the benefits described.
The bias in the survey is toward large companies. Smaller companies don’t use recruiters as often and are, therefore, less well known to our survey respondents. That makes it doubly significant that a few have popped up on enough radar screens to earn a spot on the list (others cited appear on our comparison chart, pages 58-59}. By the same token, if a larger company doesn’t rate at least an honorable mention, it may be worth re-examining that job offer.
Here are the best companies to work for in Dallas-FortWorth.
THE WINNERS WHAT EMPLOYEES LIKE
PIZZA HUT attitude, bonus system, facilities
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES atmosphere, benefits, travel
NORTEL industry, opportunity, attitude
AMERICAN AIRLINES pay, travel, opportunity
TEXAS INSTRUMENTS benefits, training, family friendly
RUNNERS UP: Excel, Frito Lay, Mary Kay Cosmetics
HONORABLE MENTION: Fossil, KMS Software, Network Associates, Nokia. Perot Systems. Southwestern Bell. Sprint CHECKING OUT A COMPANY’S REFERENCES
they’ll check out yours, use the internet to check out theirs.
Maybe you’ve received a phone call from someone, a friend or a recruiter, about a job opening, and you want to see if the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. Or you’ve already filled out the job application and been through a first interview. When you start to get serious about a job, or a company starts to get serious about you, you can bet you’re about to be put under a microscope. Your work performance and job history will be carefully scrutinized by the prospectiveemployer. But how do you scrutinize the employer? Until the advent of the Internet, a candidate depended on word-of-mouth from friends and friends-of-friends. But what if your friends are cheerleaders, or the friends-of-friends hate the place because they couldn’t measure up? Now you can widen your net by using the Net.
Sure, you may know that you are going to the most successful firm in your industry. But does that success come at the expense of the firm’s employees? What is turnover really like? How quickly can you expect a promotion? Are the benefits as good as they sound?The Internet is becoming a vehicle for getting an uncen-sored view of the nuts-and-bolts of a new workplace.
Like most facets of the Web, sites rating employers are in their rudimentary stages, Smaller companies are difficult simply because there aren’t enough employees. And much of what is out there needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In other words, you can learn a lot, but Caveat Surfer.
VAULT REPORTS (vault.com>)The killer ape of the workplace rating industry. Van 11 Reports is a complete career development site, including job listings and résumé postings. But where the site really shines is In its candid analysis of several thousand companies. With a free membership, a user can explore an overview of conditions in more than 30 industries or read a candid corporate summary of his employer-to-be.
Complete reports based on interviews with “insiders” (past and current employees) can be ordered online for $25, but the free summaries provide plenty of information. The summary on American Airlines, for instance, talks about the recent change to business casual attire at company headquarters and reports that profit sharing bonuses in recent years have equaled up to 12 percent of base.
Each company analysis also links to an uncensored message board, where employees and other interested parties can post questions, information, and opinions on a company. Several users posting about Halliburton, for instance, complain thai smokers who join their bosses for outside cigarette breaks get promoted more regularly than other employees. And the truckers who deliver Frito-Lay products to the stores do not appear to be a happy group.These message boards have become a favorite of disgruntled workers, job seeking hopefuls, and day traders trolling for insider tips.
STRENGTHS The largest repository of employee satisfaction information online. Since it is uncensored and very popular, this one should keep human resource managers and PR flaks on their toes. With good momentum, Vault continuously updates and adds new companies.
WEAKNESSES Information on smaller companies (and some larger ones) doesn’t exist. Analysis of bigger companies is very headquarters-centric, so you won’t learn much about the branch offices, At Vault Reports, uncensored also means nonattributed. Information on a message board could be legitimate or it could be the fiction of a mischief-maker. If a posting doesn’t jive with the overall picture painted in the Vault analysis, ignore it.
EXPERIENCE ONLINE (experienceonline.com) A pretender to the Vault Reports throne. Experience Online purports to offer the same kind of analysis services, save for the message boards It is a slick-looking site that doesn’t deliver the goods.
STRENGTHS Point-by-point analysis style is easy to follow. An “interview cheat-sheet” section gives specific tips for getting hired.
WEAKNESSES Only 3(H) companies are profiled, and 80 percent of the information is general to the Industry rather than specific to the individual company.
MONSTER FORUMS (monsre/.com)The king of job and résumé posting sites. Monster offers a “Communicate” area with chats and forums. Chats will be hit-or-miss for information on specific companies, but the searchable forum will provide a wealth of uncensored feedback on countless companies. (To get real scoop, stick to the one unmoderated forum.) And, if there is nothing written on your prospect, post a request for information.
STRENGTHS With nearly 800 postings a day. chances are that you will find someone with some information on your prospect.
WEAKNESSES Like all message boards, there is no way of judging the accuracy of the information you get, Most users are actively looking for jobs, and since people already employed don’t have much reason to troll, there are often more questions than answers.
WET FEET (wetfeel.com <%7bwetfeel.com> or careers, yahoo.comiemployment/company research) A site affiliated with both Monster Board and Yahoo (for some reason the Yahoo version is better organized and quicker to load), Wet Feet of fers company profiles on numerous firms, large and small. Most of the entries cover what the employer is looking for rather than the workplace experience. The entries done by Wet Feet do ask the tough questions, but they are answered by official s from the company profiled. Many company profiles are only links to Hoover’s Online, where it’s just the facts, ma’am.
STRENGTHS Affiliation with Monster and Yahoo could mean a lot of exposure for the site.
WEAKNESSES Not much insider scoop is available, and you have no way of knowing what you’re getting if you buy one of Wet Feet’s printed reports, The search engine is awkward unless you get the name word-for-word, so in a lot of cases, you’re going to have to browse to find the company you are considering.
BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU ONLINE (bbb.org)The Better Business Bureau rates companies for consumers, not employees. But if a company has a lot of disgruntled customers (hello there, CompUSA), chances are the employees aren’t treated much better.
STRENGTHS A large number of companies are covered.
WEAKNESSES Ratings are vague, with as much disclaimer as critique. Many local chapters don’t have their data online yet-and that, unfortunately, includes Dallas and Fort Worth-so information seekers still have to use the phone. Good luck.
FORTUNE MAGAZINE’S BEST PLACES TO WORK (pathfinder.com/fortune/best comppanies) Complete online listing for Fortune’s annual survey. The site links to a job-listing center co-branded with Career Mosaic. Company profiles come straight from corporate websites. A message board allows users to comment on the Fortune survey and add their suggestions for best and worst companies.
STRENGTHS Moderated message board keeps posting on-topic.
WEAKNESSES Lack of organization and search capability on the board moans you’ll be doing some aimless scrolling (but not too much, since the postings are scant).
FORBES MAGAZINE BEST 200 SMAL COMPANIES (forbes.com/tool/toolbox/200best/) This site won’t provide any analysis on the workplace, but if your prospect made this list, you can be reasonably sure that your paycheck will clear.
COPERNIC WEB SEARCH (copernic.com) If all else fails, a general Internet search on a company may help you trip into an employee website or an article on conditions at a given company. This works best with lesser-known companies with unusual names. “Copernic 99” is free, downloadable software thai will scan all the major search engines in one query and then rank results.-Mike Orren
HOW TO GET PAID WHAT YOU’RE WORTH
YOU THINK YOU’VE FOUND THE BEST COMPANY FOR YOU. HERE’S WHAT TO DO NEXT.
TOP TEN THINGS TO DO
NEGOTIATE. There are few costs and many benefits to negotiating an offer. Remember that those who negotiate are likely to make several million dollars more over a lifetime than those who accept an offer without negotiating. Consequently, the question is not if you should negotiate, but how you should negotiate.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Gel as much information as possible about the currentjob market and your value in it, Use every resource available to you, including your network of family, friends, and coworkers, University placement centers, the library, and the Internet, The more you know, the more you will be able to set your expectations accurately and explain your worth.
Create a preference sheet, which will force you to determine what you want, why you want it, and how much you want it. It will also help you compare one offer to another, propose counter offers, and track movement on the part of the employer.
Identify your alternatives. Having more than one offer will enhance your negotiating power and help you to negotiate a more attractive offer for two reasons. First, it will decrease your tendency to think that you need the job more than the job needs you. Second, it will enhance the employer’s confidence in you and perception of your worth, confirming the wisdom in hiring you.
ORDER YOUR INTERVIEWS. Early interviews provide a good opportunity to practice your technique, so schedule low priority interviews very early on, These practice sessions should be immediately followed by your highest priority interviews so that you can avoid the dilemma associated with an early exploding offer, one that conies with a deadline and forces you to make a decision before you’re ready. If you are unable to avoid one of these bombs despite your best efforts, duck and run for cover.
EHLIST THE OTHER SIDE’S ASSISTANCE. Negotiation does not need to be an adversarial process. Break the ice with your prospective employers by thanking them for considering you. Create some professional investment on their side by highlighting the unique value that you bring to the job. Remember: You want them to be committed to hiring you before they even know what it will cost them. If you can find a personal connection to the other side, they will see you as someone they can trust and someone they would like to hire. Maximize your overall value by maintaining goodwill, even with employers whose offers you reject.
RESPOND TO Ml OFFER WITH QUESTIONS. The best response to an offer is a question. Use your questions to educate yourself about the employer’s preferences and limitations by asking who, why, why not, when, and how. Countering an offer before such questions are answered is like shooting an arrow without a clear target. Wasted arrows are difficult to retrieve, so use questions to help you aim before you fire. You can also use questions to help signal your interest in issues that are not yet on the table.
PREPARE YOUR COUNTER OFFER CAREFULLY. Your counter offer provides an important opportunity to anchor the employer, so lead with your target. Be sure to justify your counter offer with an account that both explains and supports the validity of your request. Create contingencies that align your interests with those of employers and reduce their risk by ensuring them a return on the requested investment in you.
EXPAND THE PIE IN ORDER TO CLAIM VALUE. When you expand the pie.
you make it easier to claim more value for yourself, and you make it easier to give the other side enough value for them to say “Yes!” to what you want. Often, we are so sure that a negotiation is going to be a “tug-of-war” that we tail to recognize opportunities to expand the pre. Be on the lookout for compatible issues, and opportunities to make trade-offs that help both sides, or help one side at no cost to the other. Adding and fractioning issues often provide important opportunities to expand the pie. Proposing multiple packages can also help you identify settlement options that do more to satisfy both sides’ interests.
8. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE. Your goal should be to obtain an attractive salary and compensation package while improving your relationship with your future employer. Always maintain your commitment to obtaining your underlying interests, but remain flexible as to “how” you obtain them.
9. GET IT IN WRITING. Experience has taught us that most people are honorable and well intentioned. While most verbal offers are likely to be honored, there’s no harm in requesting your offer in writing. Having done so, be sure to review the written offer carefully before accepting it.
10. KNOW WHEN TO WALK AWAY. It is important to recognize when to just say no in a negotiation.Try to make them play their last card before you walk away. If you do decide to walk away, always take care to exit the interview and negotiation process as construc tively and professionally as you entered it. The interview process provides a marvelous opportunity to network with people you might otherwise be unable to meet.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
■ Your goal is the compensation package that offers you the most valu
■ Don’t get fixated on any single issue. Remember that this is not a “salary” negotiation. This is a negotiation about everything that comes with accepting a job. When you add up the value that an offer provides you. don’t forget about the company’s prospects and your opportunities for promotion, the cost of living, your lifestyle in the city where you’d work, and the quality of your coworker
Even if you have to “walk away” to get what you want, do it in a calm, professional, and even friendly manner, You may want a job from that employer in the future, so you’ll want a favorable impression of you to be the first impression that comes to mind next time.
Remember: Your goal in this negotiation is to get the best package you can-but not “at any cost.” These costs-including your reputation among employers-are also part of the overall value you negotiate.
■ What if they won’t play? Negotiation is about meeting your goals. You can meet your goals and still help employers meet theirs as well. There are always opportunities to help both sides achieve their goals.
But what if employers don’t know this? What if employers think negotiation is a tug-of-war? You need to know the employers’ interests to find all the value that is available. If they think the idea is to beat you, you ha veto give them enough or frame them enough so that they think they did.
If you’ve done your homework and if you ask a lot of questions, you can do that. It may be difficult and it may take time-but you can do it, And every time you do, the next time will be that much easier.
From the book Get Paid What You’re Worth: The Expert Negotiator’s Guide to Negotiating Salary & Compensation to be published m March. Copyright. 2000 by Robin L Pinkley and Gregory B. Northcraft. Reprinted by arrangement with St. Martin’s Press, New York.