Surprise! Microsoft really is a lovely place to work

A survey of the best places to work in Scandinavia has found Microsoft topping the list more than once, with fellow tech companies both large and small not far behind.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft might be the ranked only 75th best place to work in the US, but it's shaping up far better in Scandinavia.

In a survey by local chapters of the Great Place to Work Institute, Microsoft was found to be the best place to work in two Scandinavian countries, and the second best in another.

The company took first place for employers with 250 or more staff in both Norway and Sweden in the institute's recently-published list of best employers for 2012. On the other side of the Baltic Sea, Microsoft was found to be Finland's second best workplace in the 50 to 499-employee category.

Microsoft isn't the only IT company to get plaudits in the region. Sweden's top 10 list is littered with tech companies and consultancies: in the 'large organisation' category behind Microsoft, which employed 451 people in Sweden, was consulting giant Accenture, which employed 927 staff, followed by IT consultancy Enfo with 452. Payments startup Klarna, with 640 staff, was fifth, while business intelligence firm QlikTech, which employs 254 people, was ninth.

According to Great Places to Work Sweden, the best employers promote workplace friendships, are inclusive towards employees' families, and find ways to promote success in line with the company's culture.

The institute's junior consultant, Anna Fahlgård, points to Klarna's intranet and a feature called 'Face List', which lists employee's birthdays every day and encourages staff to get to know each other, while Enfo holds hackerkväller or hacking evenings for staff to review new products. Microsoft Sweden's HR chief Anne-Marie Andric put its success in the workplace survey down to flexibility and that management place trust in their employees to get the job done. 

Norway and Denmark

A number of tech companies make Norway's top 10 list for larger companies. Cisco follows Microsoft in sixth place, with Canon and HP in seventh and eighth respectively. In Denmark, Microsoft is the only tech company in the top 10, which is headed by Swiss pharma giant Roche.

In Finland, there are no tech companies in the top list in the 500-plus employee group, and one company notable by its absence is the Helsinki-headquartered Nokia. So long as you're not one of the thousands laid off recently, it's historically been regarded as a good place to work and offers outgoing employees programs such as its Nokia Bridge start-up plan.

Companies do have to apply to the institute to be considered for inclusion in the list, so it's not a complete list of employers in the region and a few notable omissions from the Swedish list include, for example, Spotify and Ericsson. Similarly, while Swedish-founded Ikea does not make Sweden's top 10 list, it is considered the top workplace in Finland at the large end with more than 500 employees.

For a comparison, the Great Place to Work US list rates Google as the top workplace, followed by enterprise software company SAS. Microsoft is down at 75, behind storage vendor NetApp, chipset maker Qualcomm, Intuit, Rackspace and others. Noticeably missing from this list however is Apple, which is ranked 34th on the best places to work list compiled by careers site Glassdoor.

According to the Glassdoor list, Facebook is actually the top place to work for, followed by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Ikea is ranked 43 on the list.

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