Are you an Employer of Choice?
What are the characteristics of an employer of choice?
An employer of choice is an employer that has built and nurtured a workplace environment that attracts and retains the most talented employees. There is no one size fits all system for building your reputation as an employer of choice, it is a matter of assessing the unique characteristics of your workplace and the needs of your employees and implementing policies which best fit those needs.
Sandy Asch, author of Excellence at Work-The Six Keys to Inspire Passion in the Workplace, offers a list of questions she says companies can use to assess how well they are doing as an employer and whether employees view them as an employer of choice:
- Do your employees love to work for your company?
- Are employees deeply engaged?
- Are employees’ full potential being realised?
- Are employees planning on staying with your company?
- Are communications open, honest, positive and future-focused?
- Are people proactive and see, own, and act on problems quickly and efficiently?
- Are truth telling and risk taking encouraged and rewarded?
- Is there a high level of cooperation and collaboration?
- Are people respectful and seeking to bring out the best in each other?
- Is there a healthy work-life balance?
- Do employees have energy and passion?
- Do employees trust and respect their managers and feel valued and supported?
- Are your leaders trusted and respected?
- Are employees treated fairly?
- Are employees regularly rewarded and recognised for good performance?
- Are there opportunities for growth and development?
- Are employees encouraged to contribute and make a difference?
- Are employees proud to work for your organisation?
- Would your employees recommend your company to their friends as a good place to work?
In Australia, being an employer of choice does not have any universally recognised professional or legal standards and there are no awards for being a general employer of choice. However many organisations every year make an application for an Employer of Choice for Women citation as determined by the Australian Government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA).
EOWA assesses organisations on a range of factors including the policies they have in place to support women’s development and advancement, the transparency and effectiveness of policies designed to promote the success of women in the workplace, training and education opportunities available to educate employees on gender based harassment, the organisational culture and the organisational outcomes for women.
EOWA points out that an Employer of Choice for Women citation allows organisations to differentiate themselves from their competitors and achieve public acknowledgment of their efforts in the area of equal opportunity for women.
Organisations seeking to build a reputation as an employer of choice with all employees need to develop and adopt company-wide policies which improve the situation for all employees. Susan M. Heathfield from About.com says employers of choice almost always offer staff salary and benefits which are equal to or above market rates, along with employee benefits including opportunities for flexible work, paid parental leave and so on.
However, employers of choice also usually offer a number of additional features which go above and beyond industry norms or employee expectations and which help cement their reputation as a great place to work. These include, but are not limited to:
Employees are reasonably certain that their employer is financially sound and are not concerned about losing their jobs. This enables employees to concentrate on their goals and core functions without worry.
Empowerment and authority
Employees are empowered to make decisions about and take responsibility for how they do their jobs. Employees are given a strategic framework (company mission, vision, values, goals, feedback) by their department, but they control their choices and how they perform their core functions and make progress on their goals.
Employees may not always be right and their ideas may not set company direction and choices, but at an employer of choice, employees feel that they are fundamentally respected by their bosses and coworkers.
Opportunity for growth
At an employer of choice, employees feel as if they are encouraged to continue to develop their skills and careers. These employers offer performance development planning, career paths, and internal and external training opportunities. Job assignments help employees expand their skills.
Access to information
Employers of choice share information with employees that range from the company financial progress and results to the success framework referenced above. Employees feel as if they are members of the in-crowd because they know what is happening.
Employers of choice are committed to their employees and to their customers. This is reflected in everything from human resources policies to business strategies. This commitment plays out in retention and engagement strategies and perks that can range from free lunches and beverages to monthly employee and family events.
At an employer of choice, employees feel as if they have the opportunity to be involved. They can make suggestions, think up new products or service innovations, serve on employee committees to plan events and work processes, and attend appropriate meetings and have input on work processes that affect their jobs.
Positive relationships with co-workers
Gallup research finds that engaged employees are likely to have a best friend at work. On a larger scale, at an employer of choice, because cultural fit is considered in recruitment, coworkers like and enjoy working with each other. A bad boss is dealt with by the organisation before he or she can negatively impact employees and the work culture. Remember that employees leave bosses more than they leave anything else present in their workplace.
Work life balance
Work-life balance initiatives such as flexible scheduling choices, allow employees to work undistracted by family and life events occurring outside of the workplace. These initiatives minimise employee stress and help them balance competing life commitments while continuing to work.
An employer of choice finds ways to tie the performance and the interests of employees with those of the employer. Two of the ways that employers accomplish this are through their variable compensation system that ties rewards to performance and a job plan process that provides regular guidance and feedback.
Perceptions of unfair treatment or a workplace that favors certain individuals over others for unknown, undefined reasons is anathema to an employer of choice. Employers need to fairly develop and apply policies, treat employees with the same regard and consideration, and make the workplace guidelines clear and enforceable across the board.
Employers of choice provide feedback to employees about their performance, growth prospects, accomplishments, and areas needing improvement regularly. One of the most powerful forms of feedback is employee recognition. At an employer of choice, recognition is regular, targeted to real successes, and used to reinforce positive, desired behavior.
Employers choosing to adopt some or all of these factors in an organsation-wide commitment to building their reputation as an employer of choice will benefit by being able to attract and retain the best employees.
Employers which make this a priority will, according to Herman and Gioia, enjoy many benefits:
“It means that people will choose to work for you. It means that people will choose to really dedicate themselves to your success. It means that people will choose to stay with you, even when they are being courted by recruiters from other employers – recruiters with exceptionally attractive inducements.
“In the years ahead, workforce stability will be a company’s competitive edge… the most successful employers will be those who legitimately inspire highly talented workers to stay with them and join them.”
How to Become an Employer of Choice by Roger E. Herman and Joyce L. Gioia
This Better Workplace Bulletin was First Published in September 2012