The 100 best workplaces and employers in the UK

09 May 2016 11 min. read

What are the best companies to work for in the UK? According to new, independent research, more than hundred organisations in the country stand out from the crowd when it comes to good employership and having a great company culture. Among the 101 ‘Best Workplaces’ are thirty one firms active in the professional services industry, and twenty five players that specialise in information technology services.

Every year the Great Place to Work Institute performs detailed research into the management and HR policies of organisations, as well as the impact it has on culture and talent. The research consists of two surveys – an employee engagement survey and an assessment of policies that create the conditions that drive engagement. The ‘Great Place to Work’ study in addition evaluates the ‘quality’ of organisational cultures across five key dimensions: credibility, respect, fairness, pride and companionship. The first three shed light on the degree of trust between management and employees. Do professionals have faith in their superiors? Is communication transparent, and does management share a common, consistent vision? And does management treat their employees with respect? And when it comes to honesty on the work floor: are employees treated equally?

The dimension pride measures the perception employees have of an employers’ reputation, as well as their happiness about their job, team and employer in general. Companionship looks at the how much employees are enjoying themselves in their job, but also provides insight in the degree of collaboration and company loyalty. When evaluating the scores of companies, the Trust Index receives a weighting of two thirds, while the Culture Audit account for one third of the total score. The best performing organisations, of those assessed, so-called Best Workplaces, are included in the Great Place to Work ranking.

Differences between Best Workplaces and Average Workplaces

The results of the study show that the UK’s best workplaces “easily outperform” the average organisation. An analysis of the five factors with the largest differences in scores between Best and Average Workplaces shows that the gap can grow to as much as 40 percentage points. 84% of employees that work at a Best Workplace enjoy coming in to work, compared to just 42% for average companies, while 86% at top employers regard their workplace as a fun place to work, compared to 44% at average peers. In addition, belief and trust in management is far higher at Best Workplaces, with a differences of more than 40 percentage points on a range of dimensions studied.

A breakdown by category reveals that Best Workplaces consistently score 20 percentage points or more than Average Workplaces across job roles, from staff to Director, although the difference drops with seniority. The largest gap in scores is visible in leadership trust (+46%) – 86% of staff at great places to work say they have faith in their management, compared to 40% for average staff at workplaces that don’t qualify as ‘great’.

Out of the hundreds of organisations that this year were taken under scrutiny, 101 managed to score above the Great Place to Work threshold, and hereby qualify as a Best Workplace. “For us at the Great Place to Work Institute UK, a great workplace is somewhere where employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with,” comments Tom O'Byrne, chief executive at the institute. Similar to previous years, the researchers distributed the Best Workplaces across three categories: Small Workplaces (20 - 50 employees), Mid-Sized Workplaces (50 - 500 professionals) and Large Workplaces (>500 FTEs).

Best Large Workplaces
Softcat, an IT infrastructure provider with 5 offices in the UK, tops the large category for the first time this year. The fast growing firm – Softcat's annual revenues have grown from £50 million to approximately £600 million in the last 10 years with the number of employees soaring to over 900 in the same period – has been heralded as a “hallmark of a great workplace” by the jury, in particular in the area of leadership, talent management and recruitment.  “Softcat was set up with one clear goal in mind – to create an organisation where people enjoyed coming to work and felt engaged,” says Martin Hellawell, Softcat chief executive. “Being named as the Best Large Workplace in the UK, over 20 years after the company was formed, celebrates that original goal. It is an outstanding achievement for our entire team.”

Fast food chain McDonald’s, a regular name in the list (the company has been named as one of UK’s best workplaces since 2007), ranks second, on the back of very high employee satisfaction scores. “The company has placed a focus on training and development, flexible working and creating a fun and energising workplace,” writes the jury. The top five is closed by the UK division of IT giants Salesforce and Cisco, and Capital One, a Nottingham based card issuer. “We have built an amazing workplace and we live our values and culture not to win awards, but in pursuit of supporting each other and our customers. That said, winning kudos from the prestigious Great Place to Work Institute and standing out in a competitive field is great validation that we’re doing something right… not to mention having a ton of fun,” comments Chris Newkirk, chief executive officer at Capital One UK.

The top 10 further includes Hyatt Hotels, Pets at Home (a retailer specialised in products for pets with over 350 chains across the UK), the Financial Services arm of German automotive giant Volkswagen, Rackspace (a hosting company founded in 1998) and Adobe Systems Europe. The positions 10 to 20 are held by Pentland Brands (a company behind several large brands in sports, outdoor and fashion), Bright Horizons Family Solutions (with over 200 nurseries in the UK and Ireland one of the largest players in the healthcare segment), Mars UK, Frontier Agriculture (UK’s largest crop production and grain marketing business), REL Field Marketing (a provider of sales and marketing programmes), car insurance provider Admiral Group, credit card issuer MBNA, the UK unit of Hilton Worldwide, Marshall Motor Holdings (an automotive retailer and dealer) and travel agency and platform Flight Centre. Other well-known brands in the Best Large Workplaces include pharmaceutical giant Bayer, Capita, City Football Group (the holding company of among other football club Manchester City) and KFC. 

Best Mid-Sized Workplaces
RHP Group, a non-profit housing association with over 10,000 properties in South West London, has been named the Best Workplace in the mid-sized category. RHP’s chief executive David Done says he is "absolutely thrilled", and adds: “We’ve worked hard to create a special culture where people feel trusted and empowered to make decisions and share their ideas, are given meaningful opportunities and are inspired to be the best they can be.”

Cosatto, a retailer of baby products based in Bolton, takes second place, followed by financial recruiter Goodman Masson, team manufacturer R.Twining & Company and technology firm UKFast. “It's a business no-brainer to invest in your team and create an environment which people love coming to work in. We employ great people based on values and skills you can’t teach. That’s what drives our incredible culture,” comments UKFast chief executive Lawrence Jones. Among the staff investments the firm recently completed are an ice-rink outside the office at Christmas, regular ski trips to Switzerland, and the transformation of UKFast's car park into a full-scale beach, allowing the team to take advantage of the good weather.

Baringa Partners, a consulting firm with over 400 consultants, ranks sixth. The firm has been highly decorated for its remarkable culture, which has given the firm a low rate of staff turnover (9% last year), around half the average in the consulting industry (approximately 17%). The consultancy has also recorded a satisfaction rating of 95% in its annual Great Place to Work survey. Baringa in addition was, together with McDonald’s and Ketchum, awarded the Master status from the Great Place to Work Institute – an accreditation which is given to companies who have qualified as a Best Workplace for ten consecutive years. Dan Look, Senior Partner at Baringa: “We are thrilled to be awarded Master status, representing how we’ve fostered an industry leading culture over the past ten years. We set out to create a welcoming, family-friendly and professional environment that helps people reach their full potential - it is fantastic to have recognition for achieving this.”

The top 10 best mid-sized workplaces also includes bdht (a provider of affordable housing in Bromsgrove), Autodesk (a 3D software provider), Axon (a consulting firm specialised in the healthcare and life sciences sectors) and Danone. Miranda Dini, Managing Partner of Axon is delighted with the recognition, and credits the team with this achievement.  “Working alongside our talented, passionate and dedicated team, and seeing the outstanding work they deliver—and sharing in the laughs you can regularly hear in our offices – truly makes it a pleasure to come to work at Axon every day.”

Thirty two of the 50 companies in the mid-sized category are either professional services firms or technology players, while the Education & Training (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons), Healthcare (ResMed), Media (MediaMath) and Retail (Puig UK) sectors each have one representative in the ranking. New to this year’s list are winner RHP Group – in its first year of participation – bdht, MediaMath, Hitachi Data Systems, Puig UK and Qlik.

Best Small Workplaces
Technology solutions company has been recognised as the top workplace with under 50 employees, and also achieved the top spot of the Most Trusted Leader award in the small category (jointly tied with firstlight Public Relations). Simon Grosse, chief executive of Foundation SP, explains how the firm embraces trust and engagement: “Engagement for us is about the creation of total trust and authentic behaviour between business and employee – creating the conditions for our staff to become the best they can be.”

DMW, a consultancy that specialises in IT transformations, came out second, following another year of exceptional growth. “We’re awfully proud to place in the top two, for the third consecutive year. We grew significantly last year, we also made significant investment in the people that make DMW such a ‘great place to work’ and this award is recognition of that,” comments Christopher Dean, Managing Director of the London based firm. Futureheads Recruitment and Resurgo hold third and fourth spot respectively, with New Chapter Consulting, a recruiter focused on the Consumer/FMCG, Retail & Medical sectors, closing the top five. Adrian Dalby, Managing Director of New Chapter Consulting, states: “Being ranked on the best places to work list for the second year in a row is of great significance to us and a source of great pride. I am especially delighted that this year we’ve made the top 5.”

Other players in the top 10 are Synergy Vision, Propellernet, Fiscal Technologies, and Arrow Valves.