North Bay Business Journal

Monday, September 24, 2012, 6:35 am

2012 Best Places to Work: A year of milestones

Background, methodology, facts & figures


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    Brad Bollinger, Business Journal Editor in ChiefWelcome to the Business Journal’s seventh Best Places to Work in the North Bay. This was a year of firsts.

    It was a year with a record number of winners, 73. It was a year when a record 6,400 employees participated in the anonymous online work satisfaction survey. And for the first time, a Solano County company was selected, NorthBay Healthcare.

    The 73 winners selected this year and featured on these pages are inspirational and instructional, providing the North Bay with key benchmarks for what makes a company a great place to work, especially in these challenging and fast-changing times.

    We are especially pleased to welcome an impressive group of 12 new winners. And eight truly exceptional companies out of 24 winners at the start of the awards in 2006 have returned as honorees for a seventh consecutive year.

    The winners, representing a broad range of industries, including banking, engineering, technology, health care, insurance, accounting, consulting, entertainment, food manufacturing, automotive, landscaping and building, were feted at an awards reception earlier this month.

    People frequently ask how organizations are selected as among the Best Places to Work in the North Bay. The simple answer is that their employees choose them.

    When a company is a great place to work it comes through loud and clear on the employee measurements of the organization’s credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie. We also ask for written responses to what makes your company great and how it could improve. Every survey is reviewed and re-reviewed.

    For many companies, the Best Places to Work competition has become an annual measurement of where their organization stands with employees, what they are doing right and areas for improvement. Many companies use the recognition to build morale, improve retention and to attract talent who want to be part of a great place to work.

    Yes, we have grown from 24 winners in 2006 to 73 in 2012. But it is not because we have made it any easier. In fact, the average company score over those seven years to date has varied by just about one-10th of one point. We haven’t made it any easier. Rather, our recipients — both newcomers and repeat winners — have stepped up and met the challenge.

    Once again, congratulations to our winners. They have shown exceptional character over a long and challenging period for business. We hope you gain insight from reading these company stories as much as we did finding and telling them.

    How the winners were chosen

    Companies selected as Best Places to Work in the North Bay were analyzed by the editorial staff of the Business Journal on the basis of several criteria, including the employer application, the survey ratings by employees, the number of responses, size of the company, the breakdown of responses from management and non-management as well as written comments by employees.

    In all, 73 winners emerged from Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Solano counties.

    Winners are grouped by size so that employee scores are comparable.

    Nominations for Best Places to Work in the North Bay were sought starting in March. Anyone within a company can nominate their business by completing a simple form. A minimum of 20 employees was required.

    Nominated companies were then contacted by the Business Journal and invited to submit a company application and to ask employees to complete an online survey.

    The survey was set up through Zoomerang, a widely used online polling service. Companies had four weeks in June and July to complete the application and survey, for which a minimum number of responses was required, depending on company size.

    After an analysis of the employer application and online responses, the winners were selected and announced Aug. 2. Winners were honored at a reception Sept. 11.

    Facts and Figures

    Contest benchmark dates

    • Call for nominations: March 12
    • Deadline for nominations:  April 27
    • Employee and company survey period: mid-June–mid-July
    • Winners selected, notified: Aug. 2
    • Winners reception: Sept. 11
      2012 2011  2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
    Online survey responses (approx.) 6,483 4,974 4,800 4,500 5,000 3,800 3,400
    Winners 73 67 55 55 57 43 24
    Winner geographic distribution
    Sonoma 51 47 36 39 43 30 18
    Marin 17 15 13 12 11 11 4
    Napa 4 5 7 5 3 2 2
    Solano 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Size distribution
    20 to 50 33 33 27 25 26 21 12
    51 to 100 18 16 16 12 14 9 5
    101 to 500 17 16 11 17 15 9 5
    More than 500 5 2 1 1 2 4 2
    Repeat winners
    Seven-time 8            
    Six-time 10 7          
    Five-time 10 10 8 na na na na
    Four-time 7 13 11 10 na na na
    Three-time 10 10 11 14 13 na na
    Two-time 16 12 10 13 18 17 na
    First-time 12 15 15 18 26 26 24

    Top-scoring companies per size category

    • 20 to 50: O’Brien Watters & Davis, LLP, Santa Rosa
    • 51 to 100: Golden LivingCenter of Petaluma, Petaluma
    • 101 to 250: Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley, Napa
    • 251 to 500: Bradley Real Estate, San Rafael
    • 501 to 1,000 Wells Fargo
    • More than 1,000: Agilent Technologies, Santa Rosa

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