Employer Brand

What does it take to become one of the world’s most admired companies?

A snapshot into how a few of the companies on Fortune’s recent list have become so widely admired.
Bright white star constellations against a dark blue sky

What does it take to become one of the world’s most admired businesses? There are so many things — big and small — that companies can do to rise from good, to great, to beacons of success that the rest of the business world strives to emulate. The leaders take care of their workforces, run innovative and nimble organizations, and participate in a progressive public discourse which nudges the world in a safer, more equitable direction.

It’s companies like those who make it onto lists like Fortune’s recent chronicling of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.” To compile the list, Fortune and its partner Korn Ferry asked 3,700 executives, directors, and analysts to rate enterprises on nine criteria, “from investment value and quality of management and products, to social responsibility and ability to attract talent.” Here’s a snapshot of 10 companies from the list, highlighting the things they’ve done to earn their place one of “the world’s corporate role models.”

Walmart

In March at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Walmart increased wages, and in April the company gave all workers (including those who are part time) a cash bonus as a token of appreciation. Again in early June, Walmart gave employees a second cash bonus in equal value to the first, making for a total payout of $365 million.

When speaking of the brand’s employees in a statement on Walmart’s website, John Furner, President and CEO of Walmart U.S. said, “All across the country, they’re providing Americans with the food, medicine and supplies they need, while going above and beyond the normal scope of their jobs — diligently sanitizing their facilities, making customers and members feel safe and welcome, and handling difficult situations with professionalism and grace.”

Not only does Walmart make a point to publicly praise their employees which is connected to higher productivity and less turnover among employees, they also back up that praise with tangible actions. In addition to physical health precautions like temperature monitoring, Walmart now offers virtual counseling services at no cost for all employees.

Starbucks

Starbucks puts their people first in very concrete ways. They’ve partnered with Arizona State University’s online program, and have made employees working full or part-time eligible to receive 100% tuition coverage for a first-time bachelor’s degree. They also offer a generous 401k matching policy for their employees.

Starbucks is also committed to taking necessary steps to improve social awareness and is quick to act on employee feedback. When the brand received negative press for not allowing employees to wear Black Lives Matter attire, the company took the outcry from their partners and the public to heart, and changed their views; in fact, they even had t-shirts made for employees to wear in-store. They also pulled their ads from Facebook after Facebook failed to adequately manage hate speech and stop the spread of misinformation; this sends a powerful message to both employees and consumers about the company’s values, even as they are evolving.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson is another great example of a company that goes above and beyond for their employees. Through their robust Employee Assistance Program, employees have access to counselors who can help with pandemic-related stress and are available 24/7 by phone or online. Over 90,000 Johnson & Johnson employees have taken advantage of their Energy for Performance® courses and trainings which are designed to support employees in holistic health and overall well-being. Their benefits package is generous and includes options like reimbursement for fertility treatments, pet insurance, plus paid volunteer time and more.

FedEx

Through its FedEx Cares team, FedEx shipped millions of pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) globally, plus N95 masks and other vital equipment to all 50 states. They offer several key programs including a “Promotion From Within Policy” and an “Advance into Management” program that are designed for upward mobility within the company, prioritizing existing employees. They also provide tuition reimbursement for FedEx Express employees

Home Depot

Home Depot is supporting their employees through the COVID-19 pandemic with $850 million in expanded benefits which includes additional PTO and double overtime pay. They’re also offering 14 paid days off for any worker who needs to quarantine, as well as an additional 240 hours of PTO for any full-time worker who is 65 or older, or determined to be high risk by the CDC. Part-time workers are given 120 hours of additional PTO, and both full and part-time employees will be paid out for any unused hours.

To help reserve PPE for healthcare workers once Home Depot learned of the short supply, the store issued a “Stop-Sale” order of N95 masks and redirected “all shipments to be donated to hospitals, healthcare providers, and first responders,” according to the brand’s website. Home Depot was also one of two large companies in Georgia that pushed for and signed Georgia’s anti-hate crimes bill, which was signed into law on June 26, 2020.

Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble offers employees a great benefits package including free virtual medical visits, flexible work arrangements, and virtual classes for both kids and adults. In order to serve their communities, they modified their existing equipment to mass produce hand sanitizer at a time when it was scarce and desperately needed. P&G was able to make 45,000 liters of hand sanitizer per week in addition to donating masks and face shields to over 20 countries.

Nestle

Nestle is taking concrete action to prioritize employees in their COVID-19 response, offering full pay for up to three months for any staff affected by coronavirus. They adjusted their sick leave policy, raised wages, and are even offering cash loans or advances for workers experiencing financial distress.

The company donated $10 million to the International Red Cross organization, and is also matching employee donations 1:1. They’re working closely with medical institutions, charities, and other frontline organizations and have donated food, medical nutrition supplies, and water to those affected by the pandemic. Nestle has also extended their outreach to include not just employees, but members of their supply chain who have been affected by the pandemic.

CVS

CVS set clear “guiding principles” for the company at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak which outlined the company’s plan to protect the health of workers and customers, keep the business running, and maintain open communication with “members, community stakeholders, and policymakers.”

When responding to the global pandemic, they were able to stick to these principles when formulating their cohesive response. They became a leader in the area of COVID-19 testing, scaling drive-through testing to accommodate 400,000 patients, and expanding testing availability in minority communities. Their program, Return Ready™, was a testing solution designed to prioritize those who needed to return to a physical job site.

CVS also returned $43.3 million dollars in payments they received through CARES Act’s Provider Relief Fund; the CEO of CVS, Larry Merlo (who won the 2019 Executive of the Year Award) said that he hoped by returning the funds, other providers who were in financial distress could benefit.

Best Buy

Best Buy is another prominent company who boycotted Facebook by pulling their advertisements. In addition, the electronics retailer also openly supports Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) which is an immigration policy that allows for non-US citizens who were brought to America as children to defer deportation and apply for a work visa.In 2020, Best Buy made Juneteenth a paid volunteer day and for 2021, the day will be a paid holiday.

Best Buy is known for listening to their employee’s feedback and responding. They recently expanded their benefits offerings to include paid caregiver leave and adoption assistance.

Chipotle

Chipotle quickly took cues from customers and responded to the changing landscape of the pandemic by expanding emergency leave and sick pay, and issuing $9 million in discretionary bonuses to help the restaurant teams who were hardest hit. The brand also offered free delivery and expanded options for mobile delivery, while donating 200,000 burritos to healthcare workers at over 2,500 facilities across the country.

Beyond just first responders, Chipotle recognized graduates and donated 10% of all graduation-themed digital gift card sales to Scholarship America, an organization that helps communities, corporations, and individuals fundraise and award scholarships to students.

Compass

Contract food service brand Compass didn’t stop providing meals to kids just because school was out. One of their teams is on the ground, serving “Grab & Go Meals”out of their food truck to families in Wichita Falls, Texas, and their other teams have mobilized in many areas to adjust for COVID-19. The company awarded bonuses to UK employees (they are a UK-based company) supporting the National Health Service. They’ve also developed technology-based solutions including Air Touch Technology which allows people to make coffee selections by hovering their finger 2 centimeters above the screen, no touch required.

Strong businesses enjoy strong reputations

There’s not one sure-fire formula that lands a company on Fortune’s list of “World’s Most Admired Companies.” It requires a nuanced balance of several factors: the willingness to go the extra mile for workers, a commitment to showing compassion for customers, and taking tangible action to move the world in a more equitable, transparent direction. The companies outlined on this list offer strong employee benefits, but they’ve also shown their empathy by adjusting to meet the needs of workers and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping their businesses safe, profitable, and sought after by customers.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get updates around new research and findings in your email.