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For the first time in several years, Wegmans has been knocked out of the top five in Fortune magazine’s “Best Companies to Work For” ranking.

The Rochester-based company landed in 12th place this year out of 257 participating firms. Last year, it ranked in fifth place out of 259 firms.

So what caused the big drop?

It’s not that Wegmans has done something wrong, speculates Alan Dick, a marketing professor and chairman of the University at Buffalo’s School of Management. It’s that other companies have stepped up their game.

“Maybe more of those top companies did something better, rather than Wegmans doing something worse,” Dick said.

For example, several companies that outpaced Wegmans this year made giant leaps in the ranking, including biotech firm Genentech, which jumped from No. 36 to No. 6; cloud computing company Salesforce.com, which jumped from No. 19 to No. 7; and software firm Intuit, which leapt from No. 22 to No. 8.

Aside from a smaller number of participants, there was no change in the list’s ranking methodology or criteria, Fortune reps said.

Wegmans said it doesn’t see its slip in the rankings as a negative reflection of the company. It is “equally proud this year” compared with previous years with better showings, according to spokeswoman Jo Natale.

Natale declined to speculate as to what contributed to the drop but pointed out that Wegmans is the highest-ranked retailer on the list.

“Our participation in this competition is important, but we never lose sight that our goal is to be the best place to work for our employees,” Natale said when asked about the drop in rank.

In 2013, Wegmans changed health insurance eligibility requirements for its part-time workers. The company’s availability of health care to employees working part-time hours had been recognized as a positive in the past. Fortune declined to say whether that change negatively affected Wegmans.

Wegmans got into a messy labor dispute with its Teamster Union-represented workers last year, but that doesn’t seem to have dinged the company’s score either, since employees rated their employer just as highly as they did the year before. The average score employees gave their employer, which accounts for two-thirds of a company’s overall score, was identical to the score they gave last year.

Despite the company’s lower ranking, Wegmans isn’t any less of a great place to work than it was last year, a Fortune spokesman said, though it can appear that way to prospective employees looking at the numbers.

That’s just one of the dangers of being at the top for so long, Dick said.

“When you’re number one, the only place to go is down,” Dick said. “It’s difficult to be at the top.”

Wegmans was recognized as an especially great place for college students to find work, due to its flexible scheduling and scholarship opportunities, as well as its cultivation of young employees.

“College students, take note: Almost half of employees are 25 or younger at this family-owned grocery retailer on the East Coast. Flexible scheduling, an employee scholarship program, and stretch assignments help young employees grow within the company, and 66 percent of jobs are filled through internal promotions,” Fortune wrote about Wegmans.

The company also made Fortune’s Best Companies All Stars list, which spotlights 13 companies that have made the “Best Companies” list every year since its inception in 1998.

As an all star, Wegmans was praised for its employee wellness program, which has 89 percent of its employees working with the company’s pharmacists to monitor and care for their health with blood pressure screenings and health counseling. Wegmans also got kudos for promoting from within and for Operations Chief Jack DePeters’ direct communication with employees through his question-and-answer blog.

Wegmans reported revenues of $6.7 billion in the competition survey. The average store department manager’s annual salary was listed as $56,498. The average nonsalaried position, in customer service, was listed as $29,994.

Search engine Google topped this year’s list, followed by software developer SAS, strategy consulting firm the Boston Consultant Group, financial services firm Edward Jones and mortgage lender Quicken Loans.

email:schristmann@buffnews.com