Pop quiz: what do these seven organizations have in common?

Banfield the Pet Hospital, Kohl’s, Lockheed Martin, Bright Horizons Early Learning Center, Colgate-Palmolive, Starwood Hotels, and the King County Department of Transportation.

The answer: they all have operations of some level or another in Washington State — and more importantly, they’re likely among the most progressive and supportive employers you could possibly work for in the region, culture-wise!

Hard to believe?  If so, the evidence I’d put before you is that all of these companies meet a rare and fascinating (at least to me) criterion that I’ve used for years to identify those organizations who don’t just give lip service to being a “good place” to work, but who truly stand behind their employees and put their money where their mouth is.  They come up when you run a search for the simple phrase Domestic Partner on Indeed.com.  In 99% of cases, a match with this phrase means that these companies pay to provide equal benefits to their employees who are members of same-sex partnerships, not just those in a traditional marriage.

Why is this such a critical distinction, even for heterosexual job seekers not in need of this particular benefit?  It’s because talk is cheap — and as opposed to just saying that they “value their employees” or “employees are their greatest asset” or some tired mantra along those lines, blah blah blah, the discovery that these companies offer domestic partnership benefits lends concrete, factual proof to the notion that they have an employee-centered culture.  Are they the only companies that engage in this practice?  Probably not.  But they’re the only ones smart enough to mention it in their job postings.  So for those readers of mine seeking a highly progressive place to work, the “domestic partner” phrase can be a great one to key on in your searches if you’re looking for an employer who really goes the extra mile in terms of caring for their employees.

Using targeted keyword searches in this type of forensic manner, to me, is one of the really fun and useful things about the Internet.  It often turns out to be a more reliable way to find companies that fit you than alternative methods, such as relying on the “Best Companies to Work For” lists published by various media sources.  For example, I recently had a client e-mail me about one particularly obnoxious company, commenting that:

“This company I’ve found myself working for reminds me of some of the companies who are repeatedly voted ‘Best to Work For’ by various reports, but who have literally badgered and brow beaten their employees to vote for them.  In fact, I just heard a story about this very thing a couple of days ago and was appalled at the behavior of the top management and the IRONY of pushing their employees to say how great it is there!”

So as you run your searches on Indeed.com and other sites, think hard about the language that you’re using — or could potentially use — to zero in on organizations that share your values, worldview, and cultural preferences.  In addition to the example above, you might try a phrase like Christian OR Faith-Based to find companies with strong religious currents running through them.  Or Family-Friendly OR Maternity Leave OR Paternity Leave to find companies that are likely more tolerant of employees seeking to start a family.  Or Sabbatical OR Work-Life Balance to find firms that allow their workers to have a semblance of a social life.  The list of possibilities is endless.

And if you’re into the whole “green” thing, you could try Sustainability OR Sustainable OR Renewable OR Recycling — but ironically, the word green itself is worthless, since it shows up in too many other contexts (e.g. green belt, green card, etc.) to narrow things down much.

While not foolproof, these keyword-driven methods can be the “secret weapon” of a job seeker who truly has some special needs in terms of the type of company they join — or the type of culture they insist on working in.  So think hard about the specific language that would be significant in terms of your preferences and give it a whirl!