Best Companies to Work For: When the Going Got Tough, Their Commitment Held Fast

May 2021

Two generations ago, the top employers in America could be counted on to offer lifetime employment tracks, paid health insurance and a pension at the end of the line. At the big companies, and if you’d reached the right organizational level, you might even get the gold watch. 

A generation ago, the pensions started going away, but you still had a good shot at sticking with a top employer for your entire career. You could even take control of your retirement future by wisely embracing those new 401(k) thingies; they helped ease the pain of having to start paying for a chunk of your insurance benefits. If you were lucky, you might even end up owning a piece of the operation through something called an ESOP. Gold watches, though, were getting harder to come by.

Today, the work-force experts say, you’d best not count on a career with any one company. For a while, they said you could expect to have four or five employers over the course of your career; now, they’re telling young workers to expect four or five different career paths over their working lifetimes. The premiums on insurance make it darn near unaffordable, and if you really need a watch to know what time it is, you’ve been a dinosaur since before the first smartphone rolled out of China.

When you combine those trends with the demographics of an instant-gratification generation of digital natives, you get an HR playing field ripe for innovation. You see those all around with our Best Companies to Work For this year. These are companies led by executives un-afraid to color outside the lines with salary structures and benefits—everything from multiple health-care insurance packages to dog-walkers, from on-site fitness centers to dry-cleaning and grocery pickup. Ping-pong tables in the breakroom? Man, that’s so-o-o-o 1990s . . .

What’s new in employment dynamics is the growing focus on employee engagement—not just job satisfaction, but a passion for the work, a deeper commitment to the organization, and a feeling that what you do on the job will help make the world a better place. Employers have heard that message loud and clear from Millennials, and they’re making the kinds of workplace enhancements that promote collaboration, team-based problem-solving, shared recognition.

You’ll see elements of those trends across the board with this year’s Best Companies to Work For. In an era where the quest for talent is never-ending and any employee has the potential to be The One That Got Away, these employers are doing their best to set the hook and keep the talent in-house, focused on anything but or GlassDoor. 

The past year was a tough one for a lot of companies. And for the employees idled against their will during the COVID-19 nightmare. But among employers, 2020 separated the bad from the good, and the good from the great. So when we call these the Best Companies to Work For, we really mean it.

Want to know what it takes to compete in a post-pandemic world as a destination employer? Then just read on . . .




Commerce Bank

MccownGordon Construction

Security Benefit

The University of Kansas Health System




County Club Bank

Hoefer Welker

McCarthy Building Companies




Good Energy Solutions

Structsure Projects

UTXL, Inc.