What makes a good firm better? What makes a firm stand out in the market?
In the third annual Best Firms to Work For survey - a joint effort between Accounting Today and the Best Companies Group in Harrisburg, Pa. - it breaks down to this: transparent two-way communication between employees and management, leadership with a vision that is communicated, and the combination of the work experience provided by the firm and the level of enthusiasm expressed by its employees.
"There are certain things that we feel are present in every Best Place to Work," said Susan Springer, director of workplace assessments for the Best Companies Group. "How they arrive at those things is what is going to be unique to that organization and their company's culture and what their employees value."
Some 100 firms were named to the 2010 roster of Best Firms to Work For, with Johnson Jacobson Wilcox in Las Vegas, Wilkin & Guttenplan in East Brunswick, N.J., and Miami-based Kaufman, Rossin & Co. capturing the No. 1 ranking in the survey's Small, Midsized and Large Categories, respectively.
This year, 45 firms with 15 to 49 employees were named winners in the Small Firms Category; 45 firms with 50 to 249 employees were selected winners in the Midsized Category; and 10 firms with 250 or more employees were named winners in the Large Firm Category.
The Best Firms assessment is a two-part process: the Employer Benefits & Policies Questionnaire, where information about company policies, practices and demographics is submitted, and which comprises 25 percent of a firm's overall score; and the Employee Engagement & Satisfaction Survey, which spotlights leadership and planning, corporate culture and communications, role satisfaction, work environment, relationship with supervisor, training and development, pay and benefits, and overall engagement, and accounts for 75 percent of a firm's score.
According to Springer, this year the employer questionnaire was revamped to include new questions that focus on more current workplace issues. Added this year were questions addressing drug screenings both for pre-hires and at random times for employees (only three firms on the list said they did that), social media policies (14 firms on the list don't have them) and formal intellectual property policies (just 11 haven't created them).
Also new to this year's Best Firms questionnaire was the degree to which firms subsidize employee health care. Sixty-seven percent of the small firm winners pay 100 percent of their employees' health care premiums, as do 42 percent of midsized firms and 10 percent of large firms.
"The last few years we've had a lot of focus on what are you doing to increase sustainability in the environment," Springer said. "Now we are asking what are you doing in this economy to let your employees know you appreciate them, even though you are taking benefits away?"
Accounting firms have obviously caught on to the importance of promoting a more eco-friendly workplace: 98 percent of the small firms that made the list have some sort of green initiative in place, while all of the midsized and large firms that made the list said that they have implemented various environmentally conscious programs.
"The accounting list is always a fun one," Springer said. "It's very competitive and we always get a great response. It really just shows people in this industry are very sensitive to the needs of their employees. There is a lot of creativity within the industry that people don't recognize."
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