Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, employers had to go above and beyond to provide for their staff. Read below to find out what these standout companies did to separate themselves from the pack.
1 to 50 US-based staffers
Headquarters: Santa Monica, California
Blaze PR stands out for its focus on developing the next generation of leaders. As one employee noted, “The leadership personally adopts and trains each person with a unique program suited for their level.”
The agency has invested in career growth by hiring coaches, encouraging employees to take professional development classes and offering virtual lunch meetings that provide insight into what’s going on in the industry.
“We do lunch-and-learns, have regular reviews for feedback, agency real and virtual retreats that help in our overall growth,” responded another employee.
A judge praised the agency’s ability “to ride out the storm of the last 18 months and keep its strong, collaborative culture at the forefront, which led employees to feel appreciated and cared for.”
Not only did Blaze PR communicate clearly and consistently with its team on the latest updates and decisions impacting them, but the organization also fostered a creative environment and promoted work-life balance while everyone worked from home.
Staffers gave the agency high marks for being receptive and inclined to act on staff feedback and suggestions, as well as empowering them to speak about serious or troubling matters. Employees believe the agency is committed to diversity, inclusion and equity (DE&I) and cite how it has fostered a diverse workforce at all levels.
Headquarters: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fish Consulting is on the Best Places to Work list for a second consecutive year with high marks across the board. What one judge found most impressive is the inclusive nature of the agency, with employees noting that “the agency is like family” and that everyone is allowed to be their true and whole selves at work.
“Each member has the ability to voice their opinion and have their questions heard,” added an employee.
Fish cares deeply for its employees and celebrates their accomplishments at every opportunity. It was clear to the judges that employees feel recognized for their achievements and supported to pursue new challenges in their careers.
“The entire team at Fish is dedicated to an employee’s success and development,” said a staffer.
From total transparency from leadership to weekly team meetings and an open-door policy, staffers at all levels have access to opportunities to advance within the organization. Fish brings in “trainers across a variety of subjects, hosts roundtables and budgets resources for off-campus programs to further team members’ development,” added yet another team member. In addition, “senior members of the Fish team meet weekly with junior members to offer mentorship and guidance.”
Fish’s dedication to its employees, their well-being and their retention didn’t waver during the pandemic. This year alone, explained an employee, the agency has already promoted seven people, “showing if you work hard, you’ll be rewarded for it.”
Headquarters: Hoboken, New Jersey
Turnover at Litzky PR has always been extremely low with many employees staying at the agency for years, even decades. Most impressively, since the start of the pandemic, only one employee has left the company.
Staffers across the board lauded Litzky’s commitment to their personal and professional development.
“There is a clear path to growth for employees and creativity and pursuit of personal passions is encouraged,” explained one judge. Another noted that professional growth is tailored to individuals from weekly informal check-ins with managers to formal annual reviews and classes, webinars and networks in between.
“Within my three years at the agency, starting as an intern, I have been promoted four times,” added an employee.
Staffers praise the Monthly Litzky Labs learning sessions led by internal and external experts on a range of topics. Other offerings include agency lunches to share key learnings and “storm/shops" to hone creativity, opportunistic thinking and media-relations skills.
“Litzky PR always provides the best tools and tips to help everyone with their career goals and client work,” explained another team member.
The agency received high marks for its helpful annual performance reviews and receptiveness to staff feedback. Throughout the pandemic, the agency has prioritized the safety, health and well-being of its employees. Leadership kept the entire team in the loop, created a collaborative, innovative remote work culture and devoted resources to ensuring employees could work productively at home. Its commitment to purpose amid the challenges posed by COVID-19 was another oft-cited factor.
Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is a top priority for Media Frenzy. Employees recognize the agency’s commitment to DE&I, as evidenced by the representation of diverse backgrounds and generations at the junior, mid and senior levels.
“Particularly impressive is its focus on advancement for women,” noted a judge. Media Frenzy’s leadership team is largely comprised of women.
The Atlanta-based firm is a place where employees feel they can grow and learn.
“Employees are given constant and consistent development for skills and behavior to help with their current role and growth within the agency,” explained a team member. And growth opportunities are tailor-made to suit each individual’s needs and interests. “Leadership works closely with management, all staff and consultants to realize the best career path and advancement opportunities for each member of the agency team,” added another staffer.
While working from home, Media Frenzy maintained its commitment to creativity, collaboration and transparency. And as a result, employees felt the agency prioritized their safety, health and well-being.
“The Media Frenzy team is close-knit and highly collaborative, open and very professional,” offered an employee. The company culture is also described as transparent, well-managed and competitive in a good way. It’s a place where individuals have every opportunity to shine — and the judges noticed.
As one summarized, “Junior employees feel they have personal attention from the leadership and the team clearly loves working together.”
Headquarters: Washington, DC
Narrative Strategies knows what its employees want and like. Its scores topped the charts across all categories.
“Employees reported high marks for general employment considerations (e.g., compensation and bonuses), work-life balance and its COVID-19 pivot,” observed one judge. “Perhaps most impressively, Narrative Strategies is a place where employees can thrive and advance their careers with customized development plans and resources tailored to existing strengths and areas of opportunity.”
From frequent employee-led workshops and professional development coursework to bi-annual formal reviews, Narrative Strategies has built-in opportunities for team members to learn new skills, pursue growth and advance at every stage of their career. The agency goes so far as to create “new roles to reflect changing client needs and firm growth,” added a staffer.
It all starts with the culture.
“Narrative Strategies embraces collaboration, openness and honesty, which encourages employees to take on new challenges, share and pursue new ideas, and continuously receive constructive feedback,” explained one employee. As a judge said, that “collaboration was a key value for the organization and leadership fosters a transparent and supportive company culture.”
Described as entrepreneurial and well-managed, the agency’s receptiveness to staff feedback and suggestions empowers its employees to, for example, “pioneer new programs and software for firm adoption.”
As another staffer concluded, at Narrative Strategies “hard work is rewarded and entrepreneurship is encouraged.”
Headquarters: Los Angeles, California
Employee feedback made it clear to the judges how happy the staff is to be a part of Startr Co. Nearly every employee filled out the survey and the agency received practically perfect scores across the board.
“This is a true testament of doing something right and keeping its employees engaged by focusing on their well-being both inside and outside of work,” noted a judge.
Owing to a creative, collaborative culture at Startr, employees at all levels can tap into mentoring programs, monthly video calls to learn new skills and team-building exercises.
“Startr prioritizes employee growth opportunities through agency training sessions, direct report monthly meetings, annual performance reviews, etc.,” explained a team member.
Staffers feel empowered to speak up about serious matters and trust that management will keep them up-to-date and informed with clear, consistent communications. COVID-19 reinforced that the company not only puts its employees first, but the greater good as well. The company practices good governance and ethics, is transparent and accountable, and has a positive social impact.
In fact, “Startr’s commitment to purpose-driven initiatives stood out among its peers,” summarized a judge. “Employees felt supported during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic and the firm’s commitment to DE&I initiatives was measurable and a key area in which the agency is excelling.”
51-200 US-based staffers
Headquarters: New York, New York
A strong focus on developing talent was a major factor in landing Evoke Kyne a spot among this year’s honorees.
“Employees cited caring managers and development programs, such as Collab Labs, to learn new skills as a testament to why its turnover is so low and why Evoke Kyne continues to be a place where people want to work,” said a judge.
According to one staffer, “mentorship programs, educational stipends and a dedicated internal workgroup for career development give each employee an opportunity to grow and thrive.” As a result, employees not only have caring managers to help progress their careers, but also the freedom to create the right career path for themselves.
Evoke Kyne is a company that not only talks the talk, but walks the walk with regard to DE&I. Recently, the agency launched “new job profiles, a new competency matrix, 360-degree guidance for managers and DE&I-rooted SMART goal templates to hold everyone accountable for our efforts,” said a team member.
Judges also praised the firm for its responsiveness and ability to pivot during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Its employees feel supported and encouraged at work with numerous employees noting the agency’s commitment to helping its employees grow and develop in their careers,” summarized a judge.
Headquarters: New York, New York
One gets the sense that LaForce is more like a family than a company.
According to one judge, “LaForce employees continually touted the family-like culture at the company as a primary reason the agency was differentiated as a place to work.” That means that every employee has a place within the organization as well as the opportunity to grow into a future leader.
“LaForce has a robust mentorship program where each staffer is paired with a senior team member who is very invested in their growth,” explained one employee. Another noted that each staffer can “seek feedback, advice and set goals with a manager on a consistent basis.”
Transparency is a hallmark of LaForce’s commitment to growth. Staffers appreciate that the firm is giving them the tools to advance by “coordinating outside experts to speak to our teams, facilitating training, clearly identifying individual paths to success.” As an employee shared, “I feel supported and challenged to do and be my best.”
Teams and individuals at all levels can access programs, software, education and more to ensure they achieve their goals and continue to grow. The result is “the creation of a strong and unified team,” said a judge.
“The opportunities are endless,” summarized a team member. “One of the great things about our leadership is their willingness to add and bring new to the agency.”
Headquarters: New York, New York
Employees at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment North America are encouraged to speak up — and are not afraid to do so. The agency’s incredible participation rate in the Best Places to Work survey (97%) is a testament to that.
And the responses shared by that 97% were impressive. Employees praised M&C Saatchi for its handling of the pandemic and its ongoing efforts to put its employees first.
“From giving employees additional mental health days to maintaining pay and benefits throughout the unprecedented times, it has made a concerted effort to keep its employees engaged and happy,” noted a judge. “This has contributed to low turnover rates.”
The agency is a tight knit and collaborative group that successfully retains talent from junior to senior levels of management.
“M&C Saatchi goes above and beyond to ensure that team members have the professional development tools to advance in the communications and creative spaces,” said one employee. Staffers can participate in a mentor program designed to help each individual grow and mature in their role, peer-to-peer guidance, educational courses, experiential learning and more.
“The company encourages employees to upskill themselves and provides the resources and tools to make sure they are both growing in their careers and happy in their day-to-day roles,” explained a judge.
It’s a workplace where employees feel recognized for their contributions, supported in their careers and encouraged to have a work-life balance.
“Everyone here cares for you,” summarized a team member, “and truly wants to see you grow as a professional.”
Headquarters: San Diego, California
Employee development is front and center at Power Digital Marketing. This past year, a judge noted the agency “put proof in the pudding of caring about the employee experience” by hiring Marissa Heckman as its first director of employee development. That’s because Power Digital knows its success depends on its team.
Work-life balance is valued at Power Digital, with reasonable hours and unlimited personal time off mentioned as some of the perks. Its 98% employee retention rate stands out as “a true testament of Power Digital’s commitment to the employee experience,” added a judge.
“Creative, transparent and well managed” is how staffers describe the culture at this firm.
“This amazing company culture is hard to find at agencies,” said one staffer. Employees believe Power Digital practices good governance and ethics, is transparent and accountable, and treats them well. Staffers also appreciate how Power Digital recognizes good work through advancement opportunities and performance-related bonuses.
Team members ranked the agency’s employee development and advancement tools as excellent. The consistent annual performance reviews are truly helpful to each employee’s evolution. One employee noted that ”an amazing proprietary platform called Nova helps with development and advancement, along with numerous trainings and meetings.”
“The organization’s commitment to employee advancement and fostering an inclusive and positive company culture helped it stand out as a true Best Place to Work,” concluded one judge.
Headquarters: Washington, DC
Seven Letter’s career-development opportunities and its pivot during COVID-19 stood out. Employees praised the agency for supporting their safety, health and well-being, while ensuring their productivity was unaffected as much as possible.
“One particularly powerful example,” a judge noted, “is that senior leaders took a pay cut when COVID hit and client work declined, demonstrating the company’s employees-first mentality.”
Staff feel overwhelming support to forge their own career paths.
“The company makes mentorship a top priority and encourages employees to develop their careers and explore new areas of the business that are of interest to them,” explained a judge. All employees have an in-agency mentor that meets with them regularly and provides “real-world experience” and ongoing support. Employees also receive feedback from twice-yearly reviews and “are often rewarded with more responsibility for taking initiative on projects.”
Opportunities to learn new skills such as podcasting, video production to advertising, design and polling allow employees to continue to grow.
“Seven Letter has always encouraged us to take on work that interests us and it always provides access to any education needed to do so successfully,” added an employee.
Seven Letter had near perfect scores in the work-life balance and strong, team-oriented culture categories.
There is an “expectation that every member of the team can offer ideas for clients,” said one employee. It’s clear that Seven Letter has an employee-first, we’re-in-this-together mentality.
“Our focus on development and advancement is evidenced in long tenure of employees and little turnover,” summarized a team member.
201-400 US-based staffers
Headquarters: New York, New York
At a time when the PR profession is changing at ever-increasing speeds, it’s critical for companies to understand the importance of employee development and deliver on that commitment.
“It’s clear GCI Health prioritizes employee development and career progression,” noted a judge. “In this area, the company stood out.”
Staffers at all levels can participate in mentoring programs with senior leadership and training opportunities in account management, digital, creative and media relations.
“This is a learning culture with incredible access to senior leadership and a priority is placed on people’s professional and personal growth,” explained a team member.
A robust educational curriculum led by internal and external resources covers all aspects of communications and PR, as well as racial equality, sensitivity for LGBTQ+, self-care and more. Senior leadership actively encourages staff to participate in these programs so they can further “develop skills they currently have or wish to learn.“
The judges were particularly impressed by the firm’s “commitment to employee development and how employees say that regular reviews offer a ‘clear path’ for promotion and growth.” 360-degree reviews play a critical role in employees receiving the support and constructive feedback they need to “learn, grow and try new things.”
Retaining talent is clearly a priority for GCI Health, too. In addition to offering employees opportunities to pursue new interests and advance in their careers, the firm ensures its employees are fairly compensated. Salary and benefits weren’t impacted by the turmoil of COVID-19. All of this adds up to a workplace that employees describe as collaborative and well-managed.
Headquarters: New York, New York
It’s not often you hear employees say, “I have everything I need and more to be successful in my role.” M Booth’s staffers did say that — and the judges saw that as a testament to “the culture that M Booth has nurtured within the firm.”
While team members describe it as creative and fun, the judges noticed “this is a very purposeful culture that is paying off for its employees.”
Staffers value the agency’s training and development opportunities and say “there have been consistent conversations (with actions to back them up) regarding my upward mobility and advancement.”
Of particular note are the Booth Camp curriculum classes to help team members grow at the agency, develop new skills and stay up-to-date on industry trends and practices. “We focus as much on employee career development as we do on the day-to-day work,” explained an employee.
In addition to training, M Booth’s management is dedicated to executive coaching, constructive annual reviews and frequent check-ins to help all team members grow professionally.
“Even during the pandemic, our agency never took its foot off of the development accelerator,” a staffer said. M Booth also received high marks for its commitment to employee well-being and its purpose amidst the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The workplace is “inspirational, thoughtful and caring,” shared one employee. That may be because M Booth steps up when it’s the right thing to do — such as with diversity and inclusion.
As one judge observed, “At a time when DE&I is critical to society, business and for individuals, M Booth’s commitment to it is notable.”
Headquarters: New York, New York
“Employees need to know that their management cares,” a judge advised. MSL has a great reputation for doing just that. As one employee explained, “I am given opportunities to grow and am encouraged to try them. My leaders want to see me succeed and take that next step.”
For MSL, it starts with the agency values: Leading, Learning and Loving. Staffers can access a compelling mix of company, team and individualized resources on the proprietary Marcel platform to help them grow both personally and professionally. There are “lots of great trainings specific to any level within the agency, encouragement and support from managers, and tools to enhance our professional development,” said one staffer.
In addition to unmatched learning opportunities, MSL offers ongoing feedback throughout the year through structured reviews, transparent manager conversations, weekly seminars and goal-sharing.
“MSL leverages its My Performance Conversation tool on a biannual basis, which allows for all employees to have informal and formal touch bases with their managers,” added a team member. Judges especially appreciated “the active involvement of the management.”
Employees value MSL’s rotation program which offers them “wide exposure to different skill-building, business lines and clients” on a wide array of accounts.
“MSL has gone above and beyond to make sure everyone has the tools they need to succeed in this new digital environment,” summarized an employee.
401-plus US-based staffers
Headquarters: San Francisco, California
Judges and staffers were wowed by Real Chemistry’s commitment to innovation and wellness, so much so they voted the agency, previously known as W2O Group, a Best Place to Work for a second straight year. The firm’s continued dedication to its employees’ career development and culture also stood out.
“Aside from being an outstanding firm, its focus on taking mentoring further by providing coaching to all employees who are interested set it apart from others,” observed one judge. “Mentors are great, but coaches and sponsors are how opportunities open up. Real Chemistry seems to get this and lives up to the promise.”
Employees agree. “Coaching is one of the most amazing development resources we have in-house,” said one staffer. A steady mix of bespoke training, guest speakers, town hall presentations, webinars and more also help team members handle any challenges that may arise and make it easier for them to get ahead. Everyone is “strongly encouraged to raise their hand to try new things, functions, ideas,” added another employee.
“Company culture prioritizes individual career development and presenting building opportunities for growth,” explained a team member. “Development initiatives such as the Hybrid Program (leadership development) and the Accelerate Program (coaching for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC employees)” are examples of how forward-thinking and inclusive the culture is. It makes for a more collaborative workplace, where employees “appreciate being treated well,” summarized a judge.
Headquarters: Bellevue, Washington
“Employees recognize that the tone is set at the top and are effusive about the strength of leadership in being purpose-driven, transparent and passionate,” noted one judge. “These are all qualities that create a dynamic work environment.”
What really stands out about WE, observed another arbiter, is that “the agency is committed to its employees. There is support for everyone looking to advance.”
WE checks all the right boxes when it comes to personal and professional development. The agency offers a myriad of options including training, shadowing, management tools, reviews, online courses, guest speakers and more to advance skills and provide industry insights.
As one employee said, “Resources offered are supportive, easily available and encouraged.”
Fostering growth and change for each individual ensures no one is “ever stuck in one role,” shared another staffer. “I felt there was an investment in me from day one at WE, constantly working on my goals, helping me stretch into new areas of interest.” New courses highlighted included Compete to Create, an EQ and mindset course taught by an Olympic athlete, and Self Awareness, which focuses on racism and belonging.
“WE is a place to grow and learn every day,” explained a team member. For those looking to rise in the ranks, staffers find that “manager training is intentional and transparent and gives employees the tools to advocate for their teams.”
It all starts, though, with the amazing company culture. “Through a difficult time for all agencies,” concluded one judge, “WE retained its element of fun, passion for the work and its focus on people.”
Headquarters: New York, New York
Zeno Group has a way of inspiring its employees that sets the company apart from others. The judges were particularly impressed by its “people-first mentality and drive to model their values at every level.”
Employees describe the workplace as collaborative, fun, transparent, kind, organized, helpful, team-oriented and encouraging. In other words, simply amazing. According to staffers, “Zeno Group’s focus on the employee experience is beyond refreshing for the agency world.”
Every one-on-one with management starts with “What can I do to help you grow?” Zeno received high marks for being receptive to feedback and listening to employee concerns. Of particular note, according to the judges, are the scores for flexible work arrangements.
Employees have access to extensive resources and opportunities to excel and advance. The organization offers consistent check-ins, helpful annual performance reviews, online tutorials, one-on-one mentoring with peers, exclusive FearlessU training for technical skills such as monitoring news and tracking earned impressions, and more. These programs help support and elevate employees, teams and leaders, as evidenced by the “excellent promotion rate and success level.”
“Zeno is a phenomenal place for professional growth,” added one employee. “If you raise your hand for more, you’ll get it.”
The best part is that growth is practically unlimited, as the agency encourages its talent to stretch their skills, step outside their comfort zones and take on new roles.
“As Zeno grows, careers grow,” summarized a staffer. “The business is evolving and it’s creating new opportunities in all corners.”
US-based staffers only, no staff size differentiation
Headquarters: San Jose, California
“Deeds, not words.” These words were shared by numerous staffers, noted one judge. “And the clear execution to back up those words said it all.”
Cisco leadership listens and acts on feedback and suggestions, while it makes significant progress on its DE&I goals. It is what employees have come to expect from a company that maintains a collaborative, transparent and accountable culture.
Employees also appreciated Cisco’s response to the pandemic. The company prioritized their safety, health and well-being and ensured productivity was relatively unaffected. The key was clear and consistent communications that kept them informed on all decisions impacting them. The emphasis on work flexibility and work-life balance showed a commitment to the team’s mental well-being.
Critical to Cisco’s success is its hands-on approach. “We use a weekly check-in system that helps us track success, what worked and what didn’t, and that helps have fun and productive conversations with leadership,” explained a team member.
The judges commended Cisco’s professional development efforts “from finding budget and time to having well-structured programs and providing opportunities to move within the organization.” Staffers can tap into top-notch resources for development and advancement including skills training, job referrals, career path planning, feedback, mentoring, shadowing and coaching.
“I am encouraged to challenge myself in new ways through stretch assignments, classes or networking,” summarized one staffer. “I can learn, grow, connect and understand my potential.”
Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts
DraftKings may be a young and growing organization, but its commitment to learning and development opportunities and programs wowed the judges.
Employees have access to free LinkedIn Learning classes and manager training, as well as tuition reimbursement elsewhere. One employee was celebrating having successfully completed The Leadership Consortium at Harvard with the help and blessing of the company.
“Our company believes in investing in its employees and will work with us to further our career in whatever way seems fit,” explained a staffer.
A number of respondents said DraftKings has an energizing work environment where employees are treated and compensated well. It’s no surprise that work-life balance is a top priority, as evidenced by the flexible work arrangements.
The judges applauded DraftKings on its COVID-19 response. The company seamlessly switched to a work-from-home model, continued to practice good governance and ethics, and maintained excellent camaraderie.
Most notable was “its ability to move quickly to changing circumstances, stay connected with its employees and go over and above in providing the resources, especially mental well-being, when employees needed it most,” added a judge. “At a time where division seems to be the norm, DraftKings pulled its people in closer, creating a safe place where they could thrive in their own way.”
Headquarters: Deerfield, Illinois
According to the judges, “Horizon Therapeutics is a shining example of how to maintain humanity, empathy and compassion while running an organization in difficult times.”
Employees are treated well, feel empowered to speak about serious matters, celebrate the company’s community involvement and benefit from good governance and ethics, as well as excellent philanthropy efforts. They describe the culture as energizing, entrepreneurial and transparent.
Horizon impressed the judges in so many areas: its progress on DE&I, commitment to mental well-being and respect for work-life balance.
“Horizon appears to have made the COVID work-model pivot and, notably, employees are satisfied with their compensation,” explained one judge.
Team members raved about the organization’s commitment to “developing ‘people leaders’ and comprehensive learning and development programs.” Aspiring individuals at all levels can refine and grow their skills through on-demand learning, training, weekly check-ins on their current tasks and career trajectory, and more.
“The company is willing to work with you on customized development plans,” added a staffer. “The sky is the limit.”
Headquarters: Stamford, Connecticut
“Can I work there?” a judge asked. That question was inspired by one employee’s comments that “We do the right thing, the right way.”
“To me,” that arbiter continued, “this spoke volumes about the company, its leadership and its commitment to the organization and to each other.”
Employees say Pitney Bowes has made real progress against DE&I goals with greater representation at the junior, middle and senior levels of the organization.
On a more personal level, the company supports professional development, listens to feedback and is transparent and accountable. Employee development offerings include online and in-person training and education, experiential learning and wellness courses. Annual performance reviews also help team members understand how they can grow.
“We are encouraged to take courses for learning and to take on projects for exposure and advancement,” added a staffer. Others felt motivated to branch out and tackle new challenges, such as “opportunities to lead a wide range of campaigns with senior leadership visibility,” participation in a 10-month intellectual property rights master class and coursework in other disciplines such as marketing and government relations.
All of this translates into advancement opportunities throughout Pitney Bowes.
“The company-wide internal mobility statistics are above the 50% benchmark standard,” explained a staffer.