Visualizing the best companies and industries to work for (infographic)

Knowing the difference between a good company to work for and a bad one is something that can save you a lot of wasted time and frustration, but what is the best way to see which companies you should target and which you should avoid? One option is to keep an eye on the various ‘best places to work’ lists and awards to see which companies are regularly nominated and celebrated, but with so many of these, especially if you factor in national and multinational lists, how can you keep up?

Luckily there is a solution from labor research organization Great Place to Work, which curates an annual list of companies that have been recognized across the globe for their outstanding culture. To qualify, companies must have been named to at least five other best workplace lists and have at least 5,000 employees, at least 40% of which are based outside of its home country.

To see how these annual lists have evolved over the last decade, here’s the top 25 companies to work for from 2011 to 2019:

The best companies to work for

The road to becoming ‘the best workplace in the world’ isn’t always a smooth one - with countless casualties and newcomers over the last decade. Nevertheless, these top-ranked companies are the bar-setters when it comes to enviable office perks, employee satisfaction, healthy company culture and diversity & inclusion. Using Great Place to Work's annual list, this graphic charts the world's top 25 companies to work for from 2011-2019:

As you can see from the visualization, for four years in a row, there was no competing with Google, and it was no surprise. Having constructed the impressive Googleplex headquarters for its staff - as well as ultracool offices around the world - the search engine giant ensured that it stayed ahead of the rest when it came to attracting talent by offering all kinds of incredible perks.

These included free meals at the office, cooking classes, free on-site gyms and workout classes, celebrity speakers, massage therapists, free shuttles to and from work, education subsidies, culture discounts and community project participation. So between 2013 and 2016, Google was at the top of the Great Place to Work list, rising from fourth in 2011 and second in 2012.

But then it dropped out of the Top 25 in 2017 and hasn’t made it back in since then. Does that mean it’s suddenly become a bad place to work? Probably not, but it’s certainly a sign that the Google bosses need to start thinking up new perks. It was replaced at the top by Salesforce, which held onto its position for another year before being usurped by Cisco in 2019, which had leapt up from eighth the previous year.

Google isn’t the only tech giant to go missing from the lists. Microsoft started off the decade well, finishing first in 2011 but drifted down to seventh by 2015 and then disappeared and hasn’t returned since. Not many companies have appeared in the top 25 every year, with SAS the most consistent, featuring in the top three from 2011 to 2017 and still sticking in the top 10 by 2019.

Those companies that have dropped out of the lists can at least take some heart in the stories of those that have rebounded back in again. McDonalds may not seem to some as an aspirational employer, but are clearly doing something right because they were the eighth best place in the world to work in 2011. Over the next two years they dropped down to 23rd before falling out of the top 25 altogether, but in 2019 Ronald and Co rose back up to 23rd, showing that comebacks are possible.

For a real supersized comeback, you have to look at the first and last years of the lists to find Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, which began the decade in 21st place, then fell out of the top 25 altogether, failing to get back in for the next seven lists. But in 2019 it jumped back in again, rising up to 12th, the highest placed new entry of the year.

The best industries to work in

Taking a look at the color-coded visualization of the lists makes one thing clear. The technology industry is very good at being great places to work, with the top company on the list every single year coming from the tech world. Across all the lists from the decade, 60 companies have made an appearance and 16 of these are from the technology industry, twice as many as any other, but why is this?

One likely reason is that tech is an industry that has a highly specialized and competitive jobs market, with the top talent able to pick and choose their opportunities. This means that to attract the best of the best in order to stay competitive, the likes of Google need to do as much as they can to appeal to new employees. This is why they have all of those perks, but it seems even they haven’t been enough to keep Google in the top 25.

The second best industry according to these lists is the financial services one, which has historically been a very rewarding sector to work in, and the likes of American Express, Daimler Financial Services and Scotiabank are clearly still doing well in competing with Silicon Valley for the best executives and business students. One likely impact lists like these have is inspiring businesses to be even more competitive, so it will be interesting to see if the finance giants can reclaim their dominance over the next ten years.

Other industries to feature in these lists from the last decade are health care, food and drink, retail, shipping, eCommerce and telecommunications, with big names like FedEx, DHL and Hilton all making appearances. Hilton in particular has made great strides, arriving at 9th place in 2017 and rising up to gain and hold second place in 2018 and 2019, one of only two non-tech companies to get into the top two places in the decade, along with The Adecco Group.

So what will the 20s bring for Great Place to Work’s annual lists? The decade has started with the Coronavirus crisis and likely recession to follow, so what impact will that have on how much companies are willing and able to try and appeal to new staff? We could see quite a shake-up by the time the 2020 list is published, but who will make the cut?

Read next: How Rich You'd Be If You'd Invested $1000 in These Companies
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