January 23, 2009

Vanderbilt ranked among top workplaces in U.S.

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Vanderbilt ranked among top workplaces in U.S.

For the first time, Vanderbilt has been named one of the top 100 best places to work in the United States in Fortune magazine's annual survey, and it is the first educational institution to ever be named to the list.

The ranking released Thursday encompasses approximately 21,000 employees at Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt Medical Center.

“Every day a small army of skilled Vanderbilt employees care for the sick, educate tomorrow's leaders, strive for scientific breakthroughs and keep this campus buzzing with activity,” said Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos.

“I am proud and humbled that my colleagues are content and happy to be here. It is a great compliment to the employees at both the University and Medical Center to be the first educational institution to be ranked on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list.”

The rankings are determined through an extensive survey process. More than 81,000 employees from 353 companies responded to the survey nationwide, and a wealth of further information is submitted by management. The survey was conducted by Fortune in conjunction with the Great Place to Work Institute, based in San Francisco.

“Being in the company of some of the nation's greatest businesses is a remarkable achievement. This has long been a goal of ours and reflects the value of the work we do, our commitment to the people we serve and, most importantly, a commitment to and belief in each other,” said Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs, “I am honored to work in this great University family and proud to be associated with the 16,000 people who work at the Medical Center, who come here every day and work wonders.”

To be eligible for the ranking, companies must have more than 1,000 U.S. employees and be at least seven years old. The rankings are based on levels of credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie in the workforce.

Since 2002, Fortune has approved Vanderbilt's nomination for the recognition, but the University had not advanced until this year. Members of the Quality of Work Life task force have made inclusion on the prestigious list a top priority over the years. The task force is co-chaired by Susie Lyons, manager of employee programs for the Medical Center, and Marilyn Holmes, manager of Health Plus, Vanderbilt's wellness program.

“No matter what happens with the economy, the demand for talent will remain,” said Andy Serwer, managing editor of Fortune. “Great companies know that super-motivated, happy, world-class employees are an incredible competitive advantage.”

The full list will be published in Fortune's Feb. 2 issue and will begin appearing on newsstands the week of Jan. 26. It can also be accessed along with additional information at the Great Place to Work Web site at www.greatplacetowork.com.

Making the list no easy feat

by Paul Govern

For employers, making Fortune's 'Best Places to Work' list requires some painstaking work of its own.

To be considered, employers undergo an employee satisfaction survey, which is simple enough. Responding to the accompanying organizational culture audit, however, is another matter.

The audit delves into compensation, benefits, training, work-family issues and many other aspects of employment. It concludes with 10 probing, open-ended questions, such as “How do you inspire employees to feel that their work has more meaning than being just a job?” and “What are the distinctive ways in which management, especially senior management, shares information — including disappointing or bad news — with employees?”

Vanderbilt's annual attempts to make the list began seven years ago, when members of the institution's newly formed Quality of Work Life Group recommended that the University apply. Ever since, that group has ushered the University through each year's application process. Leading the charge in recent years have been Susie Lyons, manager of employee programs with Medical Center Communications, Marilyn Holmes, manager of HealthPlus, and Ginny McLean, coordinator of benefits marketing. They enlisted managers from across Vanderbilt to help form the University's response to the audit. This year, Vanderbilt took up 40 pages just answering the audit's 10 concluding questions.

When Fortune telephoned Wednesday to say that the University had made it onto the 2009 list, Lyons took the call.

“Unlike previous years, this time the magazine had come back to us repeatedly for extra information about the University, and that gave us some inkling that this may be our year to finally make the list,” she said.

“To me, making the list is confirmation of what I've known all along — that Vanderbilt is a great place to work.”

The culture audit counts for one-third of an employer's score, and the satisfaction survey counts for two-thirds. The survey is mailed to 400 randomly selected Vanderbilt employees in mid summer. (Vanderbilt won't receive its 2008 survey scores until later this month.) The survey's 53 questions fall under five topics: respect, credibility, fairness, pride and camaraderie.