The 50 Best Mid-Size Places to Work in 2014

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From striving to help you find your dream job within the company to zapping you with a Taser, the best places to work offer it all. Glassdoor has released its first-ever employee survey of the best medium-size places to work, focusing on companies with 250 to 999 employees. (See the top 50 large companies to work for here.) The Motley Fool tops a chart that includes many tech companies, a children's mental-health non-profit, and Taser International  (NASDAQ: TASR  ) , the stun-gun manufacturer.

Leading the list are:

1. The Motley Fool -- investor information and financial multimedia (and, in the interest of full disclosure, yes, I'm writing for them right now)

2. SmartBear -- QA software and services

3. Travelzoo (NASDAQ: TZOO  ) -- travel and entertainment deals

4. Cornerstone OnDemand (NASDAQ: CSOD  )  -- cloud-based business talent management

5. Paycom -- cloud-based payroll services

Matt Trogdon, external communications director for The Motley Fool, described the company's reaction to its #1 ranking as "absolutely ecstatic." He said matching employees to their ideal work is the key to high ratings and better productivity.

"We spend a lot of time with our Fools asking about their passions," Trogdon said. "If we can get people in the right roles where they're doing things they love to do, it's a major driver of performance and company success."

Social work scores a win
While many companies solve problems for clients online, one organization that's all about face-to-face problem solving scored well with its employees, too. Seneca Family of Agencies helps troubled kids, even those who've been turned out of other programs due to behavior problems. The non-profit, with offices in Oakland and San Leandro and partnerships throughout California, comes in at #22 on Glassdoor's list.

Social work in general has a reputation for burnout and high turnover, but Seneca bucks that trend. Like The Motley Fool, Seneca benefits from taking care of its people and matching them to the right work. Survey responses cite Seneca's continuing education and scholarship programs for advanced degrees and language-learning, "all of which contribute to even better services for the clients" and helps Seneca staffers "find their true fit within the organization."

Taser's electrified workforce
It's a bit of a shock that a company can make the list at all when its employees "regularly undergo voluntary exposures" with handheld electrical weapons. Maybe the fact that the CEO and the former chairman get zapped, too, is part of why Taser ranks 23rd. Taser employees also cite their "clear and inspiring mission to protect life and reduce crime," and several survey responses praise management for minimizing bureaucracy and "treating employees like adults."

Perks versus passion
Compatible work, a worthwhile mission, professional development, and autonomy on the job are some of the common threads among top-rated companies on this list and Glassdoor's large-company list, which are based on anonymous employee feedback. But with mid-size companies, there are unique factors that employees like, said Glassdoor's Allyson Willoughby, senior vice president of people.

"Two themes with the best medium companies were a sense of being part of a family and the ability for people to wear multiple hats. You need people to be more of a jack of all trades, whereas people in large companies are usually in more specialized roles."

Media coverage of great places to work often focuses on the perks that top-rated companies offer their workers. This list is chock-full of companies that sweeten the pot with extras, like The Motley Fool's unlimited vacation policy, SmartBear's real-estate services, getaway programs for Travelzoo employees, and Cornerstone OnDemand's paid sabbaticals. Matt Trogdon of The Motley Fool thinks such perks are just a part of overall employee satisfaction.

"We have a game room, free snacks, unlimited vacation, subsidized massages, and all the works," he said. "That said, for us it's so much more about passion and mission alignment than it is about perks. We want our employees to be 'on fire' about the work they're doing. And we've found that the key to that is to align them with the mission, give them challenges they enjoy, and place them among co-workers they love."

Glassdoor's Willoughby agreed.

"The perks thing gets people in the door," she said. But of all the criteria that Glassdoor asks employees about, "perks are really the only one that's not super substantive. Job satisfaction is more about 'I'm actually doing my own effort to make the world a better place.'"

The complete list
The list is based entirely on anonymous, verified reviews left by employees on job-search and information site Glassdoor between November of last year and this year. Glassdoor sifted through some 500,000 entries to tease out the best of the best based on criteria that includes job satisfaction, career opportunities, company outlook, work-life balance, pay, and confidence in senior management. Companies were rated on a scale of 1 to 5.

See what it's like to work Foolishly:

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