How The Best Are Selected

The best small businesses to work are selected and ranked by Great Place to Work Institute Inc., a workplace research and consulting firm based in San Francisco. Great Place to Work Institute has conducted pioneering research on the characteristics of great workplaces for over 25 years and since 1998, has been producing Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work for list. The Great Place to Work Model is recognized as the standard for assessing great workplaces and is being used by the Institute to produce "Best Companies to Work for" lists in 40 countries around the world.

Related: Spotlighting the Best Small Workplace Practices

Great Place to Work Institute has created two lists: the 25 best small companies and the 25 best medium-size companies. Small companies must employ between 25 and 250 full- and part-time U.S. employees throughout the selection process. Medium-size companies must employ between 251 and 999 employees.

For this year's competition, 276 companies participated in the entire selection process by distributing a 58-question survey to employees, completing a two-part management questionnaire, and submitting physical materials (annual reports, employee handbooks, videos) for the evaluation process.

Related: Why Your Business Should Be a Great Workplace

The determination of the best 50 companies is guided by a methodology that places the greatest weight on employee opinion. In effect, employees are voting their companies onto the list. The key factor is the score a company achieves as a result of employee responses to the Great Place to Work Trust Index, a survey instrument created by Great Place to Work Institute. The employees' responses to the survey account for two-thirds of a candidate's total score.

The remaining one-third of the score comes from the Institute's evaluation of each company's culture. Companies are scored in five distinct areas: credibility (communication to employees), respect (opportunities and benefits), fairness (compensation, diversity), pride (philanthropy) and camaraderie (welcoming new employees, celebrations).

Related: Three Tips for Building a Great Workplace (Video)

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