13th Annual Report: 100 Best Places to Work in IT 2006

Technologists at these companies are recognized as both creators and co-workers. When they propose ideas, their companies listen -- and act.

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Giving Life to Good Ideas

The counterpart to all that investment is reaping what you sow, and that's another thing Best Places are good at: harvesting the good ideas that flow from their employee base. Even better, many of these companies actively encourage new ideas to take shape.

For instance, MasterCard formed a group recently to read and discuss the book The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. "We wanted them to take the concept of globalization and discuss how that applies to our business," Reeg says.

Northwestern offers financial rewards to employees who implement new ideas, based on the amount of money the idea saves, says David Granger, an IS human resources consultant at the company.

For Marriott, innovation comes down to a common theme, Foster says: Success is never final. For instance, the IT group continually finds ways to change and simplify the experience of hotel guests, he says. The company recently piloted two new check-in/check-out processes involving kiosk and wireless Pocket PC technologies. For internal users, Marriott followed up on a project to centralize financial systems by Web-enabling them, and it's extending access to the system internationally. "We're constantly striving to improve," Foster says.

And that is how IT people like it. "People like to rise to a challenge -- especially IT people," Niederst says. "Once you achieve a goal, you're part of a winning team, and then you gain confidence, which breeds more success."

After all, says Glen, "a Best Place to Work is not where you put your feet up and eat Twinkies." Rather, he says, it's where employees are given the opportunity to fully engage with the work they get up in the morning to do.

You Want Perks? They’ve Got Perks

At Kennametal, IT employees attend a summer meeting at the Latrobe Country Club, home course of golf legend Arnold Palmer. In addition to the meeting, they enjoy a day of golf, entertainment by magicians, comedians or mind readers, and an opportunity to meet Palmer.

At Allstate Insurance, new parents -- including those whom Allstate has helped financially to adopt children -- get free car seats as part of the company’s Buckle Up Baby program.

Salaried employees at L.L. Bean get up to five paid days to participate in activities its products are designed for, such as hunting, fishing, kayaking and cycling.

Northwestern Mutual sponsors 31 employee clubs that offer activities such as running, skiing, biking, gardening, fishing and bowling. The company subsidizes the clubs with $300,000 in annual funding.

MasterCard recently built a new physical fitness center on its campus in St. Louis, which also houses a wellness center, a company store, a carwash and a beauty salon.

Marriott International recognizes above-and-beyond performance levels with free stays at one of its hotels anywhere in the country.

See the full list of 100 Best Places to Work in IT.

Brandel is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at marybrandel@verizon.net.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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