Does the Best Companies list matter?

Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, published in 1995, is probably to blame. As well as leading to a not very good film starring John Cusack with the action (such as it was) shifted from North London to Chicago, it helped lead to a national obsession with lists.

Here at Campaign, we too indulge in a bit of list-making every year, but mostly they are unashamedly subjective and therefore for fun. There are some companies, however, that have made a nice business out of compiling lists – and, while admittedly their methodology might be rather more scientific than ours, their value to the participants must be open to scrutiny.

As well as its Rich List, which delights voyeurs and irks those prone to jealousy on an annual basis, The Sunday Times also publishes a list of the Best Companies to work for. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Campaign’s Agency of the Year 2012, is the highest-ranked agency in the 2013 list at number 32, while other mentions go to Engine, MEC, Carat and Ogilvy & Mather.

While it’s nearly always nice to be included, is there any benefit for agencies to be named a Best Company?

Agency head

Ben Fennell, chief executive, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

"Best Companies is the only award that is voted for by your talent. It is a robust ‘moment in time’ audit.
"If you believe, like us, that positive people have bigger, better ideas, then the morale, vibe and culture of your business directly drives the quality of your work. It’s why we regularly do staff surveys, have a Culture Club, and why we invest in hundreds of initiatives every year to make our staff feel proud to work at Bartle Bogle Hegarty. In a creative business, the quality of your work, your relationships and your growth are all driven by KPI number one: how energised and inspired is your talent?"

Agency head

Sophie Daranyi, chief executive, Haygarth

"It’s easy to dismiss The Sunday Times Best Companies award as a fluffy ‘nice to have’ – and I remember being advised by one of the major intermediaries to take it off our creds as it wasn’t important to clients.
"I’ve found this absolutely not to be the case. On the contrary, we’re finding that agency culture and ethos are becoming increasingly important to the client agenda and can be a deciding factor in agency choice. For us, being in the Best Companies listing for eight consecutive years has been an effective shorthand to show that we have a happy and engaged workforce and that simply means we do better work and also attract great talent."

Agency head

Ian Pearman, chief executive, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

"It definitely matters. We came
17th in the survey the last time we entered and it was a real source of pride for people across the agency when talking to family, friends and clients. Getting external recognition of a strong culture helps reassure people they have made the right choice, and helps keep existing talent and attract new talent. But what matters more is ensuring an agency has a healthy culture in the first place, and that requires constant attention to ensure that an agency’s behaviours match its values and that those values drive decision-making every day. In the agency business, culture is strategy."

Agency head

Tom Roberts, managing director, Tribal DDB

"Being listed as a best company to work for by The Sunday Times is a noble – and clever – goal for any business. It improves a business’ CSR credentials, but also would help to attract and retain the best talent in the industry. The businesses on the Best Companies list stand out as organisations that go beyond the basics of looking after their staff. Companies that take their employees’ well-being and happiness to heart will win the ultimate prize in the long run. Being a great place to work is clearly a positive and being recognised for it by an independent body is even better."

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