Oklahoma City ranks in "100 Best Places to Work” with three high-ranking businesses

Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 7:00 am By: Don Mecoy

The Oklahoman

Fortune magazine's latest "100 Best Places to Work" list provides more evidence that Oklahoma City has joined the ranks of big-league cities.

Repeat appearances on the list by local businesses Devon Energy Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and American Fidelity Assurance Co. put Oklahoma City in line with major headquarters homes such as Houston, where four ranked companies are based, Seattle with three and Dallas' two.

Devon ranked 20th. Chesapeake was 34th, one spot ahead of American Fidelity. Oklahoma City was the only metro area that serves as headquarters for three companies ranked in the top 35.

"Oklahoma City has always been committed to developing and maintaining a strong work force, and this is further proof," said Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

New York City led all cities as home to nine companies selected to the Fortune rankings. Oklahoma, home to four listed companies as Tulsa-based QuikTrip was ranked 41st, had the largest per-capita representation in the Fortune list.

Fortune compiles the list through a survey sent to random employees seeking feedback on their attitudes towards the management's credibility, job satisfaction, and camaraderie. The rankings also consider corporate responses to detailed questions about pay and benefit programs and a series of open-ended questions about hiring, communication, and diversity.

More hiring is icing on cake

Devon earned high marks from its employees for its top leaders, CEO Larry Nichols and President John Richels. Nichols, while handing out cupcakes to employees during the Thursday lunch hour, said it was especially gratifying to make the list during tough economic times, and noted that Devon again was the top-ranked energy company.

Environmental remediation specialist Chris Biagi, a six-year Devon employee, said the company's dedication to integrity and willingness to empower workers to make their own decisions make it a great place to work.

"The term 'family' is overused - this is a business," Biagi said. "But you feel valued here."

Chesapeake's generous benefits, including liberal retirement fund matching, regular stock grants and on-site medical and dental care, helped the energy company jump 39 spots in the rankings.

"We place a very high priority on creating a work environment and culture in which our employees deliver extraordinary performance while achieving professional and personal growth," Chesapeake CEO Aubrey K. McClendon said.

American Fidelity made the list for the seventh consecutive year, earning accolades for creating an environment that makes employees want to stay. One-fourth of the insurance company's staff has worked for the business for 15 years or more.

American Fidelity President David Carpenter, still wiping Silly String from his glasses after Thursday's celebration, referred to the widespread longevity as "swallowing the American Fidelity pill."

Monica Clayton, a seven-year American Fidelity disability adjuster, said she enjoys the company's diverse work force.

"They're going to have to drag me out of here," she said. "That's the way it is with everybody here."

American Fidelity served a free lunch to employees Thursday and awarded an extra paid day off to every worker as part of its celebration for again making the "Best Places" rankings.

Fortune Deputy Managing Editor Hank Gilman said hiring and the way companies are helping employees weather the recession were the top considerations in compiling this year's list.

"All 100 companies on our list are currently hiring, many of them aggressively, leading to more than 96,000 open job positions expected in the next year," Gilman said.

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