America’s Favorite Bosses In 2015

Glassdoor, the careers website, has just released its third annual Employees’ Choice Awards for the Highest Rated CEOs.

The survey is based solely on the input of employees who anonymously and voluntarily provide feedback through the Glassdoor company review survey.

Glassdoor leaves the survey open year-round, this time from April 21 of last year until April 22 of this year, to all employees and says “this encourages feedback on whether they approve or disapprove of how their CEO is leading the company.”

This time around the top five CEOs were Google’s Larry Page, Nike’s Mark Parker,HEB’s Charles Butt, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Ultimate Software’s Scott Scherr.

There was a bit of movement in the rankings as well. Google’s Page jumped to the top spot after coming in at number 11 on last year’s list. LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, who was number one last year with a 100 percent approval rate, dropped to number 12. And of the 50 CEOs that made the list this year, 30 of them did not make the cut last time around. Some of those newcomers are Chevron’s John Watson, Sephora’s Calvin McDonald and Airbnb’s Brian Chesky.

This year’s list appears to indicate a possible increase in overall employee satisfaction with companies’ leadership from last year.

Whereas No. 50 on last year’s list, General Electric’s Jeffrey Immelt, had a 78 percent approval rating, this year’s No. 50, Marriott’s Arne Sorenson, beat that by 10 percentage points. One explanation could be that employees are by and large happier given the improving job market.

“We know the economy is bouncing back, and this is freeing up companies and leaders to provide additional benefits,” said Scott Dobroski, Glassdoor’s community expert.

But making year-over-year comparisons is a tricky exercise. For one, the difference in satisfaction with the highest-ranked leaders on the list and those that just squeak above No. 50 is pretty marginal. There’s a difference of just nine percentage points between Google’s Page (97 percent) and Marriott’s Sorenson (88 percent). So falling or rising a few spots may not mean terribly much.

Moreover, the pool of companies considered for the ranking grew substantially between 2014 and 2015, from 120,000 to 180,000. For companies with more than 1,000 employees, it takes at least 1oo reviews to be considered. For smaller firms, it takes at least 35 reviews.

That could help explain why there was big turnover on the list, Dobroski said. For instance, some CEOs who ranked highly this year — such as Parker at Nike — weren’t eligible for the list last year because they didn’t have enough reviews.

The influx of new entrants might also explain some of the drops in ratings. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, for instance, had a 93 percent approval rating last year and ranked eighth. This year, he fell to 31st, though his approval rating dropped only slightly, to 91 percent.

Could public relations types be filling the site with glowing reviews of their CEOs? Dobroski said it’s possible, but said Glassdoor verifies anonymous reviews to the best of its ability, trying to stamp out fraudulent reviews via technological checks as well as human reviewers. When it finds cases of companies incentivizing reviews, he said, they take them down and exclude companies from the ranking if they find evidence of anyone trying to game the system.

Here’s the full list:

Top 50 CEOs of America in 2015