What Makes a Company One of the "Best"?

Every year, I work with companies to help them tell their stories on the Working Mother 100 Best Companies application, among others. Although I have been steeped in the work-life field for nearly all my professional life, I am still frequently surprised and impressed by the smart ways my clients find to support their employees and create cultures where both men and women can thrive.

Of course, I also work with many clients who are still struggling to put together strong work-life-and-related programs and policies, and I understand it is not easy. But it is occasionally instructive to pull back and take on an even bigger perspective on what it really takes to get on a list like this. Working Mother Media has published some numbers that provide a fascinating comparison between those companies on the most recent  (2016) “100 Best Companies” list and all companies nationwide, based on a 2016 report by the Society for Human Resources Management. The differences are striking:

Parental Leave

  • Note that in order even to be eligible to apply for the Working Mother list, companies must meet a minimum policy threshold, including offering at least one week fully-paid maternity leave. This compares to just 26% of companies nationwide offering either partially or fully-paid maternity leave. While there is no similar baseline requirement for other forms of family leave, 96% of listed companies offer paid paternity leave, compared to 21% nationwide; and 97% offer paid adoption leave, compared to 20% nationwide.
  • The amount of paid leave time winning companies offer has risen steadily over the years, with the current average for maternity leave being 9 weeks at full pay and 6 weeks at partial pay. (The Working Mother 100 Best list is not ranked, but it does designate a “Top Ten,” and among these companies the average length of fully-paid leave is 11 weeks.) I don’t have comparative numbers at hand for this, but these leave times are certainly well-above average.


  • The second minimal requirement for applying to the list is offering some form of flex work, so, not surprisingly, 100% of Working Mother companies offer flextime and telecommuting, compared to just 54% and 60%, respectively, of all U.S. companies.
  • In addition, 91% offer compressed work weeks, while 82% offer job sharing, vs. 29% and 10% of companies nationwide.


Other than paid maternity leave and flexibility, there are no other minimum policy requirements for applying to the list; nonetheless:

  • 93% of Working Mother 100 Best companies reimburse employees for some of the costs associated with adoption—as opposed to just 9% of companies nationwide.
  • 93% also offer dependent care resource and referral services, to help employees find and make educated choices about care for children and other dependents—compared to a surprisingly meager 16% nationwide. (In truth, I thought resource and referral was almost standard these days—apparently not! And its already-limited prevalence may be decreasing—the nationwide percentage of companies that offer it is down a point from last year.)
  • Whereas 88% of 100 Best companies offer a back-up dependent care program, this incredibly valuable service is available at only 3% of companies nationwide.

Programs that promote career advancement, especially for women

  • 95% of 100 Best companies offer mentoring programs, vs. 21% nationwide.
  • 91% provide employees with career counseling, vs. 16% nationwide.


  • 83% of companies on the list have at least one on-site fitness center, and 55% have an on-site medical clinic, as opposed to 26% and 10%, respectively.
  • 99% offer stress-reduction programs; on-site flu vaccinations are available at 96%. Nationwide, only 6% of U.S. companies offer any kind of stress-reduction, and just more than half—54%—offer flu vaccines.


Companies on the 100 Best list tend to offer all kinds of other services to help alleviate the stress of work-life conflicts. For example:

  • 59% provide dry-cleaning pick-up and delivery, and 42% provide take-out meals for busy employees—only 8 and 3% of all companies nationwide offer these on-site services.
  • A full 93% offer legal assistance services (vs. 25% of all companies). A quarter even offer personal tax services (vs. 2% of all companies) and employees at 22% of recognized companies can avail themselves of an on-site haircut (vs. at 1% of companies nationwide).

While I don’t have comparative numbers for all data collected about Working Mother 100 Best Companies, it’s worth noting that they tend to be strong in many other, sometimes more subtle areas, as well. For example, they tend to have strong programs and policies to support women’s advancement, and these programs and policies are working—as evidenced by the number of women in leadership positions or moving up the ranks. And in addition to offering numerous options for flexible working, they tend to have high usage of this flexibility—which is of course the main point, but far from a given in many organizations.

All these numbers are just numbers, of course. Companies can be great places to work for all sorts of reasons, including many that are hard to quantify. But it is always good to back up a strong culture with tangible programs and policies that make a difference in employees' lives. Kudos to all the companies that are working to make this happen—whether or not they have yet made it to this particular list.

Robin Hardman is a writer and work-life expert who works with companies to put together the best possible “great place to work” competition entries and creates compelling, easy-to-read benefits, HR, diversity and general-topic employee communications. Find her at www.robinhardman.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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