employee satisfaction report - Glassdoor logoWhat do the top cities in Glassdoor “50 Best Cities for Employee Satisfaction” have in common? Not geography, though nice weather certainly doesn’t seem to hurt a city’s grade.
Topping the list is, unsurprisingly, the epicenter of the Silicon Valley, San Jose, CA, home to forward-thinking, tech-focused companies like Google, Yahoo, Adobe, Apple and Tesla, among others.
But having a concentration of cool tech giants isn’t a prerequisite for a city to make Glassdoor’s annual list. Overall, the most in-demand jobs in top cities run the gamut from customer service and cooking to project management and business analysis.
The report is based on a survey of employees in the largest 50 metro areas in the U.S.
Where is your closest metro area ranked? In which city is your industry most needed? Look through the full Employment Satisfaction Report Card by City (2014).

Let’s dig in a little to find the characteristics shared by Glassdoor’s top cities for employee satisfaction and what makes local employees so happy. What are the takeaways for companies looking to improve employee satisfaction or expand?

employee satisfaction

Accessibility, a vibrant culture and innovative companies that care about their workers make San Jose, CA, the #1 city for employee satisfaction. (Photo via the_tahoe_guy, Flickr)

1. Make It Easy for Employees to Get to Work
Employee-friendly cities make it easy to get to and from work by being compact and offering reliable public transportation. In a Glassdoor video of on-the-street interviews with San Jose workers, one man comments on how close the suburbs are to central San Jose. Before he moved to the area, he was commuting an hour and a half daily. Now, he says, “I get an hour and a half of my life back every single day and I love that.”
Wherever your company is located, you can make it easier for employees to get to work by offering carpooling opportunities and discounts on public transportation. Nobody does their best work after an hour’s drive through nerve-fraying rush hour traffic.
2. Be Innovative
Not every company can be as flashy as Google or Tesla, but innovation is still a valuable workplace trait no matter the industry. The best companies know that staying competitive means encouraging an atmosphere of risk-taking, fresh ideas, competition and collaboration. For tips, check out Inc’s “8 Ways to Foster Innovation in Your Company.”
3. Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Innovation grows from the overall environment, not just within the walls of a workplace. That’s why it’s important to give your employees the time to enjoy what the city around you has to offer, from parks to theater. If they feel pressured to work unreasonable hours, take on too many projects or otherwise spread themselves too thin, they won’t be doing their best work or enjoying their life outside of work. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Work-life balance fosters employee satisfaction, productivity and innovation. Need more reasons? See our past posts on the topic, such as “A Compelling Case for Work-Life Balance,” or for tons of quick ideas, “25 Ways to Improve Employees’ Work-Life Balance.”
4. Give Employees Reason to Be Optimistic
Optimism is one of the factors Glassdoor took into consideration for its report. While San Jose ranked #1 overall, Salt Lake City ranked #1 for optimism.

“Fifty-two percent of Salt Lake City employees believe business will improve in the next six months. Local employees report several benefits of working in Salt Lake City, including enjoying a healthy work-life balance, in part comprised of working reasonable hours and being able to take advantage of the beautiful city and outdoors.”

Employee satisfaction

Glassdoor ranks Salt Lake City #1 for employee optimism. (Photo via Flickr user countylemonade)

Does your company communicate its successes and offer employees opportunities for advancement? Satisfied employees are optimistic about the future. Be sure to give your employees good reasons to look forward. This is particularly important now as the news is filled with reports of a rocky recovery from the Great Recession.
5. Listen to Employees
“Employees are really satisfied because I think employers really do what they can to try to accommodate the employees, top to bottom,” one San Jose worker told a Glassdoor surveyor, in explaining the city’s top ranking.
Before a company can accommodate employee needs, it has to know what those needs are. Ask — and listen. Listening is a great skill to practice in the workplace, and in fact listening was a theme at this year’s SHRM conference.
What other patterns do you notice in the Glassdoor city rankings? Do you think your metro area is ranked too low or too high?
For more on building a culture of employee satisfaction, happiness and appreciation, download our FREE ebook, “Winning with Workplace Gratitude”.
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