Why you should quit your job and work for Microsoft

Or even better than that, Cisco

No matter what job you currently have, you should quit and sign up with the Beast of Redmond because it's the second-best company to work for in the UK.

That is, according to the Sunday Times' 50 Best Companies to Work For in 2001 survey. Incredibly, tech companies storm the chart - six in the top 15 alone. And American companies also stand proud, taking the top three spots and seven of the top ten.

Microsoft is only beaten by Cisco - the best company in the UK to work for. This can't be right. Anyway, both of them beat Intel, which is sixth, Sun which arrives at 11, Agilent at 13 (unlucky for some) and HP at 15. The tech companies, the paper said, are so nice to their employees because the skills shortage has led to increased employee power.

And so Cisco is held out as a shining example. It even has its own headline: "Flexibility brings happiness" - obviously the sub-editor has been seeing a ballet dancer. Cisco, it says, has been "tossed on the horns of the stock market" but shareholder employees remain loyal. Why? Hands-off management, flexible work hours, trust [what's that? - Ed], benefits and a fair sharing of company profits.

Odd that it is such a great company and yet the employee turnover rate is enormous. This may have something to do with the £1,500 employee referral bonus for new staff or the fact that Cisco could also be a top contender for the 50 Most Boring Companies to work for.

But what about Microsoft, you all cry. Microsoft is lovely to its employees, of course. It's just everyone else's that it doesn't like. Private health insurance, free drinks and fruit, gym etc on the "sprawling" campus, a decent wage and the chance to buy M$ shares at a 15 per cent discount.

The shares matter may be less of a draw in these dark days of the DoJ but there's still the "anarchy zone". While it's debatable that anyone but Microsoft would designate an area in which to be anarchic, you can watch MTV and talk to the tropical fish, so it can't be all bad.

Of course, the most exciting thing about working for Microsoft is that you get to play with all the new technology, the survey reports. Shame they don't find the bugs at the same time.

Intel's a funny one. An apparent positive is that everyone works in cubicles - even the chief exec! Well, he's welcome to a cubicle if he wants one but is it only us that finds them, well, depressing? Anyway, it's all on first name terms down at Intel and share packages make staff wealthy for short periods of time. Hurrah.

Sun. Ole Scott McNealy is described as a "tireless evangelist", although it is possible the Sunday Times misheard "less" for "some". Again, perks, share options, gym etc etc make live for the employees just wonderful. A so-called British worker is quoted as saying: "It's very motivating to work for a company that is doing well. Who wouldn't want to be on a winning team?" Clearly, Sun also gives Yankee brainwashing classes at work. This "winning team" philosophy is alien to us Brits, and we've got the collapse of our manufacturing economy to thank for it, so leave off Sun.

And Hewlett-Packard of course. Out comes the old tale of Dave and Will in their shed, which passes for corporate culture chez HP. Also quoted is that dusty bible of business management In Search of Excellence which every MBA student is forced to endure. But, to its credit, it does have one of the biggest benefits packages you're ever likely to see.

So how come this survey has worked so well in IT companies' favour. Well, of course, with all such surveys, you need to look at the methodology. The two journalists behind it - who do Fortune's 100 Best Companies annual survey in the US - personally identified 1,123 companies (one criteria was that it had over 500 employees - so that explains why The Reg never made it :-) ).

To all these companies, they then sent an explanation of what they intended to do - explaining that most of the info would be gathered direct from their employees. Of course, most British firms turned their nose up at this and only 205 of the 1,123 expressed interest. Of these, only 115 went the whole hog. So the top 50 is based on 115 UK companies.

The remaining companies then dished out questionnaires, randomly, to at least 250 employees. Then a convoluted points system rated employee comments with corporate stance on benefits etc and lo! You had an overall score.

So, how did Cisco et al pull it off? Easy. They either cheated or they relied on brainwashed automaton staff. And we'd expect nothing less from the IT industry. We're proud of you. ®

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