By terrymckenzie on Mar 03, 2008
OK, I'm going to say what is obvious to anyone who picked up the February 4 Fortune magazine - Sun did not make it on the U.S. 100 Best Places to Work list. And I was soooo disappointed.
Because I think Sun is a great place to work. Unfortunately, some of our randomly selected survey takers didn't agree with me.
For those of you who are not familiar with the coveted Great Places to Work (GPTW because I'm getting tired of typing) list, let me quickly fill you in. You get your face on Fortune Magazine's cover and fabulous publicity if you're chosen as the number one place to work in the United States. That honor has gone to Google for the past two years, curse them. Not that I'm jealous. Anyway, you get on the list -which is incredibly prestigious even if you're number 100 (Joke: What do you call the person who graduates first in class from medical school? Answer: Valedictorian. What do you call the person who graduates last? Answer: Doctor) by going through a grueling application process. Two-thirds of your score is based on a survey that goes to a very small subset of your employee base - something like 400 people this past year. No, we don't get to choose who gets it. No, it's not statistically significant. Yes, those are the rules you must play by for the playing field to be even.
I'm now going to reveal a big corporate secret. Reporters, take note! Are you ready? While our application was fabulous, we were done in by some pretty poor survey results. It seems that doing a series of reductions in force over the past five years has not contributed to warm, cozy feelings on the part of our survey takers. Nor have other cutbacks we've been forced to make to stay in business made our participants feel particularly good. And let's face it. Reductions cause not only insecurity for employees but very valid concerns about career opportunities. So I'm not kidding myself about their impact on employee morale.
As Bob Dylan said, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."
Our wind is apparently darn cold and from the north, based on that survey. (In fairness, I have to tell you that our broad semi-annual employee attitude survey - while pointing out some distinct areas for improvement - was far more positive than the GPTW survey. I don't know if that means that employees are drinking happy juice when completing our corporate survey...)
Here's what's ironic to me - of all the companies that I know of who have gone through extremely hard times, companies who have had to fight for their lives, Sun shines brightly in our determination to be as kind to employees going out as employees coming in. We are, IMHO, a darn nice place to work. And beyond that, we're a place filled with interesting work and smart people.
Our turnaround - fought for by every single employee in this company - is showing results. Analysts have good things to say about us. Customers have good things to say about us. Developers have good things to say about us. Our press coverage has dramatically improved. We've been public about what we're going to accomplish and we've met those commitments. We've stopped changing our strategy and focus on a too-frequent basis and are demonstrating "stick-to-itness."
I'm proud of this company and of our leadership, but mostly I'm proud of our 33,000 employees who have done so much to keep us going.
Building on the momentum of success is easy. Rebounding after six bad years is extremely difficult. I think maybe it's time for a new award. The "Tough as Nails Proud to be Relevant" award (TNPR). Or the "Better than Ever Despite Hard Times" award (BEDHT). Or the "Got Guts, Got Heart" award (GGGH). Somewhere there needs to be recognition for those of us who have marched on a tough trail, teetered near disaster and recovered strongly albeit battle-scarred.
I miss so many great people who used to be a part of us. Who through no fault of their own are no longer here. So this award is for you, too.
Oh, and one last thought. How many companies would let you - never mind encourage you - to say what's on your mind about sensitive subjects like getting dinged by your employees? As my friend and colleague Betty Verstegen said, "You don't have to get on a list to be a great place to work."