If going to work is a grind, you may want to consider checking out Fortunes' 2006 list of the "100 Best Companies to Work For." Better yet, if you love the outdoor and sports worlds, here are four companies that made the list: W.L. Gore, No. 5; REI, No. 9; Timberland, No. 41; and Nike, No. 100.
W.L. Gore made Fortunes' list for the ninth consecutive year, slipping slightly from its No. 2 ranking in 2005. It also took the No. 2 ranking among mid-sized companies on the list. With 4,537 employees in the United States and 2,247 internationally, Gore had revenue in 2004 that hit $1.8 billion. According to Fortune, its greatness stems from several factors: "To encourage innovation at the maker of Gore-Tex fabrics, Elixir guitar strings, and Glide dental floss, there are no bosses, job titles, or organization charts, just sponsors, team members, and leaders."
Also breaking the top 10 was REI at No. 9, up significantly from its 2005 ranking of No. 45. Coming in at No. 5 among the mid-sized companies, REI boasted $888 million in 2005 revenue and employs 7,443 people in the United States. What makes it so great, Fortune wrote: "A shared passion for roughing it unites employees with consumers at this outdoor-goods maker and retailer, which regularly hosts environmental-service projects. Says one worker: 'REI is a way of life.'"
Dropping a bit from its No. 38 rank in 2005, Timberland can still be proud that it came in at No. 45 ahead of notables like Microsoft, Nordstrom and Yahoo. Among small-sized companies, it ranked No. 15. With revenue of $1.5 billion in 2004, it employed 1,978 in the United States and 3,307 internationally. What makes it so great: "Helping to save the world is a big goal at this boot and outdoor gear label. Employees who buy a hybrid car get a $3,000 credit, and the company pays for up to 40 hours per year of volunteer work in the community."
Squeaking in at No. 100 was Nike, which didn't even make the list last year. No. 38 among the large-sized list makers, it raked in $13.7 billion in 2004 and employs more than 23,000 worldwide. What makes it so great: "Responding to criticism from activists, this sports giant now has 90 full-time employees monitoring overseas factory conditions. Perks in the United States include a 50 percent discount on Nike gear and a campus with a pool, climbing walls, and trails."
In case you were wondering, Fortune said it picks the best companies by looking at several factors, including policies and company culture as well as opinions of several hundred randomly selected employees of each company in a survey done by the Great Place to Work Institute in San Francisco. The survey, weighed more than policies, asks about attitudes toward management, job satisfaction and camaraderie. Company demographics also play a part in the score. About 1,500 companies contacted Fortune or were recruited to participate; 466 finished the survey process. (Any company that is at least seven years old with more than 1,000 U.S. employees is eligible.) The deadline for applying for next year's list is March 31, 2006; for an online nomination form, go to www.greatplacetowork.com.
Fortune defines a large company as having more than 10,001 employees, a mid-sized company as having between 2,501 and 10,000, and a small company as having up to 2,500.
Fortune noted the average American business lasts less than 20 years before it fails or gets bought. The 100 companies on its list, on average, are 85 years old. Bottom line: Being a great place to work pays.