The traditional employment relationship, highly successful since the Industrial Revolution, no longer works in today’s climate of accelerated change and uncertainty. Employers are now striving to create a culture based on a modern employment relationship model that is more open, collaborative, and responsive to the changing needs of employees.
It’s no surprise, then, that many are adopting an "employer of choice" strategy and offering a range of benefits. But while this is a good start, being an employer of choice is more than just the perks. What makes a company an employer of choice is its ability to attract and retain top talent with a desirable culture, leadership style, employee engagement… and a few more things.
What Makes an Employer of Choice Today?
Generally speaking, an employer of choice is one that strives to provide its employees with a salary and a comprehensive benefits package that exceeds market levels. After all, according to an Informed Candidate Survey, salary and compensation are at the top of the list for most candidates (48%). But that's not all. At least, not according to candidates.
For 37% of respondents, company culture is critical, followed by company reputation and employer brand at 36%. This shows that it is imperative for companies to improve their talent management strategy and their employer brand. Top employers should also be promoting employee well-being, providing a healthy work culture, and promising security, transparency and satisfaction.
Companies can start by developing an enticing employer proposition in a number of areas, such as:
A company that has a good reputation in the industry is naturally a place employees will seek. Build your reputation by making sure your employees' experience is consistent with what they expect when they start. This consistency will help you maintain your reputation and create a positive feedback loop for employees.
Do this by creating solid financial plans to ensure long-term stability and job security, keeping your promises and addressing issues early, openly and honestly, and paying attention to employer review sites and surveys to regularly find out what you are doing well and where improvements are needed.
The most attractive workplaces offer a wide range of programs and practices that support the personal needs of their employees. Work-life balance initiatives are increasingly required to allow employees to work uninterrupted by family and personal events and minimize employee stress. And they tend to work, because rested, relaxed and balanced people are more productive and satisfied.
Do this by offering flexible work schedules, work-from-home programs, and generous time off. When possible, focus on results rather than time spent in the office. You could also consider wellness offerings such as massages, game rooms and gym memberships.
Free from the worry of losing their jobs, employees can focus on their goals and core tasks without worry. Plus, there's the aspect of having positive relationships with their long-term colleagues, and research has clearly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees put into their jobs.
Do this by encouraging learning and development opportunities (skills are the new currency), being a future-oriented leader preparing for the road ahead, and encouraging career mobility. If your employees learn new skills and grow in their careers, you'll help increase their job security – and your company's bottom line will benefit.
Career Growth Opportunities
One of the main reasons people leave a company is because they want to advance. Whether it's a position with more responsibility or one that requires different skills, people want to feel that they are encouraged to continually develop their skills and career. Top employers know this and offer performance development planning, and internal and external training opportunities.
Do this by creating a variety of career paths that facilitate advancement within the organization, holding regular career planning meetings, and providing the support needed to identify next steps and build new skills. Even when promotions or lateral moves aren’t possible, stimulating and challenging work assignments allow employees to reach their potential and be satisfied.
Authentic Company Culture
Authenticity refers to employees' sense that leadership is honest about the company and themselves. If employees do not feel authenticity, they may doubt their leaders' intentions and question their business decisions. Employers of choice are committed to their employees and their customers. This is reflected in everything, from human resources policies to business strategies, and
To cultivate authenticity, encourage leaders to be more authentic at your organization, provide ample opportunities for your employees to express their beliefs, admit mistakes and voice dissenting opinions. Cultivate a culture of openness and trust and employees will feel they can contribute, make suggestions, come up with ideas, and get involved in work processes.
Workplace factors that contribute to overall satisfaction include trust in senior leadership. Trustworthy leadership sets the tone for respectful deliberation when it comes to mission, vision, strategy, and decision making. Employees feel safe when they trust that leaders are making sound business decisions and that the work being done is purposeful.
To achieve this, make sure your vision is well articulated and communicated with employees during the strategic planning process, identify potential future leaders early, and ensure current leadership is approachable. For example, you could try to provide more opportunities for them to interact with employees at all levels and in all areas of the organization.
Top employers share information with their employees, including the company's financial progress and results. Employees feel like they belong to the circle of insiders and, when employees feel like they ' know,' they understand that they are part of something bigger than just their job description. This is motivating and exciting for everyone.
To achieve open communication and transparency, make sure to share information consistently (before it leaks out!) and use a variety of communication methods to improve access to it for all. Be transparent about financial and performance metrics, put the numbers in perspective for people to understand what they mean, and take time to answer questions.
Recognizing employees for the hard work they do is essential. No one wants to feel that they are being taken for granted or that their contributions go unnoticed. Develop a strong performance management system to ensure that employees feel valued and recognized at all times, and develop a work plan process that provides regular guidance and feedback.
To do this, set performance goals for both the individual and the team, so that every type of contribution has the opportunity to be recognized. People are sensitive to fair treatment, and they want a workplace where they trust that equality is a priority. Favoritism will only create discord and cause people to leave the company.
Salary and Compensation
As the economy recovers and previously reluctant workers have more opportunities, employers must offer competitive compensation if they do not want their top talent to leave. If you can not afford to pay for top-tier talent, look at your entire compensation package. Do you have benefits or unique perks that make life easier?
To improve salary and compensation for your employees, conduct a salary analysis and benchmark your salaries and wages against competitors. The goal is to ensure your total compensation is at or above market averages. Don’t forget about perception! If you find that you are paying fairly and are on par with your competitors, it’s important that your employees know this.
Why Is It So Important to Be an Employer of Choice?
The Modern Employment Relationship Model
The modern employment relationship model offers new perspectives on employment relations, different to the old “them and us”. Both employer and the employee of choice are changing their mindsets to best serve the other. Take, for example, commitment: a top employer commits to help their employees achieve their personal goals. At the same time, a top employee commits to helping their company achieve its goals.
Or take work: top employers have started structuring work around projects rather than organisational functions, while top employees’ now see themselves as project-based workers rather than function-based employees. The same is true about flexible deployment: top employees are more willing to work in a variety of organisational roles and settings, and top employers encourage them to try new organisational roles.
How to Become an Employer of Choice
Align Reputation and Reality
While employer branding activities might not pay off immediately, a consistent approach to messaging, content and employee engagement will raise the profile externally. However, it can be very damaging if a company sells a culture that looks very different on the outside it does in reality. Make sure you live up to the idea you sell new employees!
Embrace Flexibility in the Workplace
Employers looking for the best talent need to offer the best work-life balance. As we move away from the traditional 9-to-5 workplace structure, we need to remember that workplace flexibility encompasses a wide range of work arrangements, including flexible arrival and departure times, location independence, choice and control over work shifts, and opportunity for sabbaticals or career breaks.
Offer Room to Grow
People have had a chance to be more reflective during the pandemic, so it’s no wonder companies are seeing more and more employee demand for training opportunities. A culture where continuous learning and a growth mindset are encouraged, and where employees can try new things in an inclusive environment, is part of the new recipe for success.
Listen to What Your Employees Have to Say
Communication is crucial after more than two years of feeling isolated – including communication between employers and workers. Listening carefully means tuning into your employees' emotions, too. Top employers recognise that emotions offer important insight into the well-being of employees, and make sure they are meeting them where they are.
Foster a Healthy Workplace Culture
Social interaction, in person or virtually, is part of well-being. In a hybrid world, it is even more important to stay connected. Relationships may have grown organically in the past, but now employers and employees alike need to consciously create space and opportunity to nurture them – which means the value of creating and maintaining relationships in the workplace may have never been higher.
Encourage Open and Honest Communication
Open and honest communication in the workplace is non-negotiable. Without it, tasks go undone, team members cannot engage, and company culture gets lost. One way of encouraging employees to feel comfortable speaking up is by getting to know them beyond their role in the company. Greet them when you see them, show interest and let them know they are valued beyond their jobs – as people.
Lead by Example
Leading by example means demonstrating behaviours that your employees are likely to emulate. To lead by example you need to foster social skills such as active listening, empathy, and emotional intelligence. When experienced leaders take the lead in these areas, these behaviours become contagious and lead to a strong company culture.
Acknowledge and Reward
Taking the time to recognise the accomplishments of your employees promotes engagement, increases productivity, and reduces tension in the workplace. Remember that rewards and recognition can go beyond remuneration. There should also be a focus on collective performance, not just that of the individual, which can be celebrated with the team as a whole.
Empower Your Teams with Workplace Technology
While the human elements, such as a strong company culture, leadership style and employee engagement, help you attract and retain the best candidates by being a great employer, so does the technology element. Nobody wishes to work in an environment where technology limits the productivity, so don’t let employees work with computers and operating systems that are outdated!
Is There a Downside to Being an Employer of Choice?
While becoming an employer of choice is an admirable goal, there are a few overlooked negative aspects. For example, we might measure the quality of the work environment by superficial qualities and benefits, and end up building only the image of a great place to work. Or, we might be faced with the retention of actively disengaged employees masquerading as committed enthusiasts because of the perks.
To avoid this, consider the distinction between long-term benefits (meaning) and short-term satisfaction (pleasure). We thrive when what we do is both meaningful and enjoyable. A corporate culture based on meaningful goals increases internal motivation, whereas one filled with nothing but positive emotions can jeopardize employee engagement by promoting instant gratification (associated with low effort).
Being an employer of choice takes planning, a strategic approach, and a few hard questions. Ultimately, though, it all comes down to culture: do your employees trust you to make sound decisions and have their best interests in mind? If so, your reputation will carry you forward and employees will seek you out.