Are the "Best Companies to Work For" really the best companies to work for?

The other day I noticed that the application deadline to be considered for the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list is this week. My company is too small to be considered for this honor (you must have at least 1000 employees), but I always pay close attention when the rankings come out, and I’m sure many of you do as well. On the 2011 list, the #1 company was SAS, followed by Boston Consulting Group and Wegmans (see all 100 here).

The organization that does the ranking, The Great Place to Work Institute, has been running this competition for years and has a rigorous process for selecting the final list.

Yet when I read the articles written about the top companies or browse the list in Fortune, I always feel like something is missing. I finally put my finger on it:
I believe the evaluation process is benefit-heavy and mission-light.

What do I mean? When I read about the top companies, most of the emphasis seems to be on the salary and benefits offered to employees; which companies pay the most and have the best or most unusual employee perks (life coaches, wine bars, or Botox anyone?).

But the section of the report I want to see is nowhere to be found:

Which companies are doing things that matter?

You see, I’m not someone who would find a company a great place to work because it offers a big paycheck and fantastic benefits. I need my work to be personally fulfilling. I need to feel like I have a chance to make a difference, to do something great.

I don’t think I’m alone.

Previously, I’ve written about something I call cultural fool’s gold, my term for an organizational culture built exclusively on entitlements.

If you want to test whether you work in an entitlement-driven culture, just ask a few people what they like most about working at your company. If they immediately jump to things like free snacks and drinks, the work-from-home policy, or the employee game room, you may have a culture made of fool’s gold, an entitlement-driven culture.

If instead they say things like these:

you probably work in the only type of organization I’d personally ever consider—a mission-driven organization.

So the big question I’d pose to the folks at the Great Place to Work Institute:

Should there be a “best places” list for those of us who not only want to work someplace great, but want to do something great?

Maybe the Institute should consider a new list for those of us who demand more from our workplaces than big salaries, comfortable benefits, and free Botox injections?

Perhaps it could be called Best Places To Do Great Work or Workplaces with Purpose for People With Purpose or something like that?

The world has changed. I think many of the people graduating for our universities today will demand more than just great benefits from their employers. They’ll want to do meaningful work and be a part of a community of others looking for the same.

Personally, I hope to see the way we rate “the best places to work” in the future change to accommodate people like me.

What do you think?

[This post originally appeared on opensource.com]

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