Work-life balance has been described as “at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth.” Still, it’s an ideal most recruiters and career services staffers would say is increasingly on the mind of MBAs. And according to research recently released to Poets&Quants, no other company has a better work-life balance for its MBAs than Salesforce, the customer service management (CRM) company.
TransparentCareer — the MBA jobs platform — has crunched the self-reported data from MBA graduates on weekly hours worked, travel percentage, and a “work-life rating index” to establish a work-life index ranking. Perched on top is the San Francisco-based software company founded by Marc Benioff, Salesforce, scoring the perfect 100.
MBAs at Salesforce report working an average of 43.3 hours a week, traveling only 9.7% of the time, giving the company a work-life rating of 93 (out of 100). Furniture e-commerce company, Wayfair, where MBAs report working 47.5 hours a week for a 78 work-life rating, placed second. Walgreens, American Express, and Nike, which scored a perfect 100 on the work-life rating, rounded out the top five. While the list is dotted with big name companies, many are not “top of mind” on most MBAs’ radar, says TransparentCareer Co-Founder and COO Kevin Marvinac.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL LIST OF TOP MBA EMPLOYERS
“I see a ton of massive companies on this list that aren’t always top of mind for the majority of MBA students,” says Marvinac, who is currently working through his MBA at Chicago’s Booth School of Business while building his business with fellow co-founder and Boothie, Mitch Kirby. “These are companies that invest heavily in their people and culture, but when it comes to the MBA sphere, they’re often competing for talent against the likes of McKinsey, Bain, or BCG (Boston Consulting Group).”
How did consulting giants like McKinsey, Bain, and BCG fair on the list? They didn’t make it, suggesting those companies fell out of the top 50. You also won’t find any typical MBA-hiring banks like Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, or Bank of America. Scrolling down the list, popular tech companies like Adobe (34), Microsoft (38), Google (41), and Apple (44) do make the cut.
For MBAs interested in working for companies that offer a healthier work balance, the list offers some unexpected options. Marvinac points to Eli Lilly, the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company, as an example. Eli Lilly, which placed 18th on TransparentCareer’s list, ranks in the 83rd percentile for work-life balance out of all the companies in their database, Marvinac notes. “They also rank in the 95th percentile in ‘opportunity for advancement within the firm’ and 88th in ‘training and development,'” Marvinac adds. Another example, Marvinac says, is Liberty Mutual, which finished sixth behind Nike and is popular among MBAs hired into their “corporate development group.”
MBAS AT NIKE REPORT WORKING 50 HOURS A WEEK BUT STILL RATE FIRM HIGH
Work-life balance doesn’t necessarily mean less hours worked. “There is often a disparity between the perception of overall work-life balance at the employer and the number of hours worked,” Marvinac points out. Nike is one main example of Marvinac’s point. MBAs at Nike report working 50 hours a week — significantly more than the typical 40 hours considered by most companies to be full-time. Yet, the sports clothing company based in Beaverton, Oregon, places first among all the companies in the database for its work-life balance rating. Similarly, at Danaher, the Washington D.C.-based manufacturing company, MBAs report working an average of 54 hours a week, travel almost a quarter of their time, and still rated the work-life balance in the 91st percentile.
“To me, this says definitively that work-life balance isn’t all about how much you work, but includes other important considerations like the ability to work from home, vacation policy, and the overall stress level or pace of the work,” Marvinac says.
Maggie Tomas, the director of the Business Career Center at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, says work-life balance can also go beyond flexible schedules and working remotely. “I think the tech companies on this list speak to the fact that the employees are connected to the work they do,” Tomas says. “These employees are thriving and satisfied because their companies do a great job of hiring folks who are passionate about the industry and the mission and they offer training programs, a chance to give back to the community, and opportunities to connect with your work peers in a fun way.”
WORK-LIFE BALANCE GOES BEYOND FLEXIBILITY AND REMOTE WORKING
Of the 50 companies to make the list, 10 have average work weeks of 50 or more hours. While big banks such as Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are starting to adopt “pencil down” policies, limiting their employees from coming into work on Saturday afternoons, they just might be missing the point.
“When you are satisfied, growing professionally, and connected to the core goal of your work, you end up not minding the hours quite as much,” Tomas explains. Tech companies, she says, are focusing on “employee satisfaction” rather than work-life balance.
TransparentCareer data backs up this assertion. Through the platform, MBAs are asked to rank their values, or “what they care about in an employer for their post-MBA job,” Marvinac explains. Some 63% of MBAs have listed work-life balance as an important value. “Of course, these folks are overwhelmingly not the banks of the world, ” Marvinac mentions. Interestingly, work-life balance doesn’t rank high on TransparentCareer’s platform in the “core value” section. Users are asked to rank seven core values, based on their importance, and work-life balance currently ranks fifth, behind such categories as compensation, benefits and perks, and the ability to advance quickly within the firm. But of the 63% who do care about work-life balance, nearly half (49%) really care, marking it as their first or second concern in a post-MBA job.
SOME MBAS MAY ALSO BELIEVE THEIR FIRST JOBS SHOULDN’T HAVE WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Doreen Amorosa, the associate dean and director of the MBA Career Center at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, says, “there is genuine interest in the roles and prestige that these (consulting and investment banking) firms offer, and it is possible that the compensation offered also impacts decision making about joining these firms.” About 60% of McDonough’s full-time MBAs currently enter consulting or investment banking, Amorosa says, noting that “all MBAs” somewhat strive for work-life balance.
Of course, there’s a reason so many MBA grads go into more hard-charging careers in consulting and investment banking. They may believe that seeking work-life balance in the first job out of school isn’t entirely realistic. Tomas agrees there is at least a portion of MBAs that still want to work long hours, despite the stereotypes associated with their generation. “For some, they feel they will work hard, grueling hours while they are young, put in their time, and then scale back once they have more options,” Tomas says.
But the times are changing, and for a “growing number, work-life balance is extremely important,” Tomas believes. “This is a generation that does not want to separate their mission driven work or avocation from their vocation,” she continues. “This generation is passionate about wellness and service work.”
(See the next page for the top 50 companies for MBA work-life balance.)