In Search of the Best Workplace in Germany | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 28.01.2003
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In Search of the Best Workplace in Germany

Microsoft tops the list, according to a new survey inspired by similar undertakings in the United States. In March, researchers expect to release a list of the top 100 employers in Europe.


Microsoft: "Workers love the company"

"A great workplace is one where you trust the people you're working for, proud of what you're doing and where you like your co-workers." At least that's how Robert Levering, founder of the Great Place to Work Institute in San Francisco, defines the perfect workplace.

Since 1998, the institute has compiled detailed lists of the 100 best employers in the United States. And now the idea of trying to improve workplace standards through competition has crossed the Atlantic.

In March, the European Commission plans to release a list of the 100 best employers in the European Union. Prior to that, ranking lists are being prepared in each of the 15 member countries.

Microsoft was clear winner

In Germany, Microsoft was the clear winner, according to the Cologne-based market-research company Psychonomics which compiled the data.

"It seems as if the workers love the company," said Frank Hauser, director of the German study.

In second and third place were construction product manufacturer Siegenia-Aubi and the information technology consulting firm Skytec. The workers praised the open and relatively flat management structure in the companies.

"Good pay is not unimportant," said Hauser. "But the decisive factor was whether the employee has the feeling that management takes a real interest in employees instead of seeing them simply as workers."

Open-door policy

For Microsoft executive Doris Schweikl, the results of the study mirror reality. "The boss' door is always open here," she told DW-WORLD. Regular meetings and emails from managers create trust.

Twice a year all 1,500 German employees gather for a two-day company meeting. Last year, Microsoft Germany rented the soccer stadium in Stuttgart for that purpose.

Software service company sd&m, which came in No. 4, also has a good reputation among employees. Besides a casual work atmosphere, personnel director Dirk Taubner said that oversight is especially important.

The company divides its 900 employees into work groups of 50 or 60 people. "By doing that we've held onto some of the advantages of a small company," Taubner said.

Traditional manufacturers join high-tech firms

A remarkable number of companies on the best list are in the high-tech industry. But still, more traditional manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble (No. 8) and Ford (No. 12) also scored well.

Procter & Gamble employees, for example, are allowed to work one day a week from home. "This makes is easier for women with children to keep working," said a company spokeswoman.

Questionnaires were sent to more than 3,000 German companies, where employees were supposed to discuss issues such as team spirit, fairness, salaries and management.

In the end, just 118 companies participated in the survey. But Hauser said he was pleased with the outcome. "The participation is highest in Germany," Hauser said. "Naturally, only companies that know they have progressive policies participated."

If the general economic climate had been better, Hauser said he is certain that more companies would have participated.

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