The 100 Best heroes

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Archives - March 2009
Sunday, March 01, 2009
MARCH 2009: FROM THE EDITOR
The 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon project turns 16 this year. Looking back over the past issues of the magazine, one thing is constant: change. Over the years, companies that have made the list have thrived and dived. Dozens that were on the list even in recent years have been acquired, merged, sold or closed.


This year’s volatility is more than the past 15 rolled all together. Last March when we named the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon, the economy was trembling, but still standing. But a year later, Wall Street has imploded, stalwart industries have collapsed and many businesses are faltering. Layoffs are a common daily story and Oregon’s economy is hurting.

s_Robin Robin Doussard, Editor

Even some companies on this year’s 100 Best list find themselves caught in the turmoil. Qualcomm has announced that it will have to shut its Oregon office; Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo late last year; and Rose City Mortgage Specialists, the No. 1 Small Company, had to move back to the CEO’s home. These are just a few examples; many more companies on the list are trimming and tucking. These are hard things but they don’t negate the great environment that got these companies on the list in the first place.

Despite it all, there still is much to celebrate. A record 372 companies entered the survey this year. And let’s face it: Even when the survey went out in late summer, cracks in the economy were already widening. But the companies that entered wanted to not only compete for a 100 Best honor, they also wanted credible, useful information about what their employees think and how they can improve their workplace. Even in down times — especially in down times — being a great place to work gives you a competitive edge. It retains the best people, motivates excellence and makes employees want to give their all to their company. That’s good for employees, and good for the company.

A bad economy shouldn’t keep workplaces from being great. We believe so deeply in promoting best practices and those companies that embrace them that we will launch two new 100 Best projects this year. In June, we’ll reveal the 100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon, based on sustainability questions that were asked in the 100 Best Companies survey last year. That ranking is based on employer practices and what employees think about their company’s performance in sustainable practices. And in October, we will unveil the 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon. Watch our website Oregon100Best.com for details in the coming weeks.

The 2009 100 Best Companies work every day at being great places to work by putting a premium on treating employees with respect, openness and trust. They look at their budgets and find ways to fund the best benefits they can. And in many ways this year, just keeping the doors open and keeping people working makes them heroes.

 

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

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