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The best companies for employees in 2019

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

America’s best employer is an old-fashioned grocery store.

Trader Joe’s was recently ranked as the best place to work among large companies, according to a new report by Forbes and Statista.

The report — which surveyed 50,000 workers at companies with over 5,000 employees — found that when it came down to a range of factors like atmosphere, remuneration and working conditions, the Aldi-owned grocery chain topped the list.

America’s favorite value airline, Southwest Airlines, and pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly (LLY) followed in second and third place, respectively.

Jason Baglin restocks chips as shoppers line up inside Trader Joe's for the grand opening on 14th Street on March 17, 2006 in New York City. (Photo: Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

Forbes and Statista also looked for the top midsize employers and found that TripAdvisor, Penguin Random House, and the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin topped the list.

Trader Joe’s employees are the happiest

Trader Joe’s first opened in Pasadena in 1967, founded by San Diego native Joe Coulombe.

Focusing on a college-educated market that “would want something different,” the Stanford MBA graduate wanted to create a store that was similar to, but not quite a 7-11. The store was geared towards “overeducated and underpaid people,” he revealed in a 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times.

The best companies for employees in 2019. (Source: Statista)

The Monrovia, California-based company was later acquired by German discount retailer Aldi Nord and has seen steady growth to over 480 stores in 42 U.S. states.

Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming are the few that haven’t been blessed with one yet.

Besides the fact that it doesn’t have a loyalty program or that it never goes on sale, Trader Joe’s is a grocery institution beloved by many customers for its high quality products, low prices, and high levels of employee satisfaction.

Trader Joe’s also did remarkably well on the employee front, scoring 9.59 out of 10 in the Forbes/Statista survey.

This was primarily because salaries at the company were noted to be “good with captains (store managers) taking home over $100,000 a year.”

Another factor was that “staff receive health insurance and a retirement plan while store discounts are also” offered.

The move to compensate employees well was a deliberate one by Coulombe.

In the LA Times interview, he noted that “the fundamental difference between Trader Joe's and all other retailers is the income level of employees.”

He specifically wanted to make sure that no matter what, the “average full-time employee will make median family income for California … That will vary state by state. And the benefits are rich — medical plans, extended in recent years to part-time employees.”

A group of Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft sit on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on March 13, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo credit: Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

‘There is a lot to a culture’

Southwest Airlines (LUV) came in second place on the Forbes/Statista survey, inching out companies like Eli Lilly — and even Google — thanks to travel-related perks that employees enjoyed.

The Dallas-based airline, which was ranked as the top U.S. carrier by TripAdvisor, got a score of 9.54, thanks to the fact that its employees “receive unlimited travel privileges for themselves and eligible dependents as well as discounts with rental car companies and hotels.”

Like Trader Joe’s, Southwest also values its employees immensely. In 2016, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC that it in its four decades of existence, it has never laid off or cut any employee’s pay.

“There is a lot to a culture, and it’s easier to have a strong culture if you feel like you’re a champion,” Kelly said. “And that’s the way our employees feel.”

Indianapolis-based pharma giant Eli Lilly rounded off the top three with a score of 9.49.

Again, employee benefits were cited as the reason for high satisfaction.

But at Eli Lilly, employees had also specifically reported “perks such as a good vacation allowance, 401K plan and maternity and paternity leave,” the report stated.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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