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CAREER CORNER

Good companies know how to make work a better place [by Michael Kinsman] If creating great places to work was rocket science, there would be many more inspired workplaces.

But it isn’t rocket science. It’s much more complicated.

solution,” Owens says. “But we know from

lives while they’re working, it makes them ap-

surveys how highly our workers value that

preciate the job a little more,” Whiteley says.

benefit so we look for other ways to save money.”

Intuit also allows workers 32 hours of paid time off each year to contribute to community

That’s the thing every well-intentioned company learns when it sets out to create an en-

It is the attention to survey results and the

groups or causes they believe in. Whiteley

vironment that motivates workers to perform

later follow-up that help Qualcomm and oth-

says allowing individuals to choose the cause

at their highest levels and to entice others to

ers on the Fortune list stand apart. But no two

enhances the value of the benefit.

work there.

corporate strategies are alike.

There is no magic formula, no equation that

“We’re always looking for ‘differentiators,’‚“

can’t give them everything they want,” White-

logically computes success.

says Owens. “We look for the things we can do

ley says. “At our corporate office, we have a

that differentiates our company from others.”

farmers market twice a month. Our employees

“Sometimes you listen to the employees but

like it so much they want it here every day, but

“We put a lot of energy around the employee

that’s just not possible.”

experience and how we can improve it,” says

Sometimes, those can be surprising. Qual-

Ann Owens, a vice president at Qualcomm,

comm, long a proponent of carpooling, has a

which ranked No. 23 this year on Fortune

fleet of vehicles available during the day for

What successful companies seem to know

magazine’s annual list of “100 Best Compa-

carpool workers who need to run errands on

is that being attuned to employee wants and

nies to Work For.”

their lunch hours. The borrowed car program

desires is more effective than just throwing

gets high marks in employee surveys.

money into the benefit pool. Both Qualcomm and Intuit say that some benefits cost very

“Even with that effort, you’re never quite sure what will work,” she said.

Intuit, which has 1,000 employees in San Di-

little but have a big impact; neither company

ego, was No. 43 on Fortune’s 2006 list. Execs

revealed how much they spend.

San Diego-based Qualcomm has made

at the tax software company also say they pay

Fortune’s list before, as well as other similar

particular attention to employee surveys.

Even small benefits can make a difference.

compilations. “There’s a lot of two-way communication in

The environmentally sensitive shoe company

The wireless technology developer under-

our company, and we encourage that at all

Timberland offers workers a $3,000 subsidy

stands that it needs creativity to thrive and

levels,” says Sherry Whiteley, Intuit’s senior

if they buy a gas-electric hybrid car; drug

to do that it needs a workplace that inspires

vice president for human resources. “Our

giant Eli Lilly offers a month of paid vacation

employees and makes their lives easier and

employees definitely feel comfortable letting

to pregnant workers before they give birth

better.

their voices be heard.”

and Worthington Industries offers $4 on-site

In its Jan. 23 print issue, Fortune identifies

Mountain View, Calif.,-based Intuit often

haircuts. Qualcomm as one of 14 companies on its 2006

responds to what employees want at individual

The secret to a great workplace seems to be

list that provide medical insurance cover-

locations. That’s why the San Diego location

respecting employees and valuing their ideas

age free of charge to employees and their

has access to dry cleaning, car washes and oil

on how to make work a better place.

dependents.

changes on site during the work day - all at discounted rates.

health care, and you immediately think that

“We’ve found that if you can help remove

having employees share in the cost is a good

some of the chores people have to do in their

PAGE 

There’s no science involved, just an attitude that workers matter.

“From time to time, we look at the cost of

© Copley News Service


Good companies know how to make work a better place