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How to Become an Employer of Choice

by
Jody Ordioni
Jul 15, 2013, 6:08 am ET

A recent Gallup study found that only 47 percent of American workers are completely satisfied with their jobs. A MarketTools study found that 21 percent of employees had applied to another job in the past six months. Clearly, many employees are ready to look elsewhere for the next step in their careers.

How do you make them look at you? More importantly, how do you make your current employees stay with you?

Or, in short, how can your company become an employer of choice?

Becoming an employer of choice means that applicants are eager to work for you, that people envy your employees, that you receive unsolicited resumes, and that your most talented workers stay with the company throughout their careers.

It’s the holy grail for every employers. So do you achieve it?

There’s no single answer to that question. In fact, coming up with the answer may require answers to more questions. Here are a few you should tackle:

  1. “Employer of choice” to whom? Determine who are the people you want to run your business. Shark-like go-getters? Tech wizards? Ideallists who want to change the world? Employees of your competitors? Your workers don’t have to be people who live nearby or happened to see your job listing. Create a vision for your workforce and strive to bring it to life. The answer to the first question leads to the second:
  2. What do the people that you want, want? A recent survey of college seniors by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that, when weighing a job offer, these workers look first for opportunities for personal growth, then job security, and then friendly co-workers. “High starting salary” didn’t make the top three. So if you’re offering recent grad lots of money up front but little chances of career advancement, you’ll need to change your priorities to be successful. There are plenty of workplace surveys out there, but you’ll get the best information from your employees, your candidates (even the ones who turned you down), and your applicants. Ask them what drew them to your organization. What set you apart? What’s still lacking? Accept the answers without judgment. You can’t improve unless you acknowledge you’re not perfect. Spoiler alert: Answers to the next question may require collaboration with your senior leadership.
  3. What are you prepared to do to attract your ideal employees — and keep them? This may require some changes within your structure or culture. You may have to increase perks, change policies, or even enhance your workplace with, say, a gym, or daycare center, or coffee bar. And that can’t happen without approval of your senior leadership, who may not see the need behind such transitions (and costs). You can tell them that more engaged employees will lead to higher retention, lower hiring costs, higher productivity, and eventually greater profits — all true.

Every company wants to have an employer brand that positions them as an employer of choice. Who wouldn’t want to have talent competing for you instead of the other way around?

So, in addition to the answers to the questions above, here is a short list of attributes of an employer of choice.

How does your company stack up?

  1. Interesting work. Challenging but not difficult; straightforward but not easy. Most workers want to be stimulated, challenged, or inspired by their work. No matter what your industry, are your positions actually interesting? Or do they ask too much or too little of the employees?
  2. Career advancement. If you want workers to stay with you for their entire careers, you have to give them a career. This includes a clear path to promotions, regular and fair evaluations, and training for new skills. And don’t forget about a mentoring program, which is lacking at most companies.
  3. Social Responsibility. Many people want to feel that they’re doing good. If your company isn’t in the rainforest-saving industry, you can still recycle, partner with a charity, and engage in fundraising activities. This attribute also includes business ethics.
  4. Recognition. Not just fair pay but also rewards for work well done and for time spent with the company. Contests (such as sales goals) also help employees feel valued, as can bonuses, free food, and other perks.

Becoming an employer of choice isn’t easy. It means taking an honest look at your current workforce and what you want it to become. It means acknowledging some difficult truths and making internal changes.

The rewards, however, are hard to overstate. You’ll have the best workers, doing their best work, increasing profits — and not leaving.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Joseph Murphy

    Good food for thought and being attractive has its merits.  Another point to consider is being prepared to deal with a significantly higher applicant to hire ratio.  Participants in the 2012 Candidate Experience Awards indicated that 50% to 95% of candidates were not qualified.  A highly attractive company requires highly effective selection science to quickly determine who to invest time with in the talent pool.   Being a employer of choice requires a recruiting foundation with an exceptional candidate choice process. In addition, high levels of attraction also means higher levels of rejection. Part of being an employer of choice is also delivering an exceptional overall candidate experience. And that means even the 99% who do not get a job walk away with a more favorable impression of the organization.

  2. Jacob Madsen

    Having had the privilege (and yes for me it was a privilege) of working for a multiple in country Great Place To Work winner I have some first hand experiences with this. You provide a god and comprehensive list Jody and much of what you mention is also what comes out of any employee survey from more or less anywhere in the world as to criteria for being employer of choice. It is absolutely true that the order of priorities are what you describe and that much can be achieved through making some in depth analysis. Whether called Great Place To Work or anything else for that matter makes little difference, but what these surveys offer are deep insight into what makes people tick. Good leaders that have a true care and interest in their people listen and read and interpret what these surveys say and then act upon them throughout every single action, every single person within the company. It takes skill and a throng human focus doing this but the rewards are tenfold in respect to retention, to getting people to go that extra mile and to try’s that little harder. When you as well have section managers, team leaders and anybody in a position of management buying into the ethos then you have an extraordinary set up. However so much can be done to make your company a ‘talent magnet’ not least what happens on a daily basis. If you have a structure and set up that allow and give room for at least 30% of any new/replacement role to be filed with internal candidates, if you encourage any employees to refer someone that they know and have that take up another 30% of hires then you ensure that very strong signals are sent that it is not just the occasional employee that get promoted and that the prosperity and future of the company lie in the hands of the employees. When that rumour start to spread and be known within the industry then you have a place that will simply act as a magnet and place of choice.
    As described by you Joseph this will invariably lead to many more applicants, why not only will it be possible to uphold a very stringent and high standard, but at the same time allow the company to not having to compromise. I could not agree more with what you expressed Joseph that employer of choice status obliges to also ensure that every single candidate irrespective of superior match or not a match at all go away with the best possible experiences, as this additionally will add to the reputation and the status of the company, so that even a rejection can be turned into something positive. As for selection it has to be kept at a very high and high integrity level in order for messages sent internally and externally that the company value and respect that they have a skill and knowledge and ability reputation to uphold and respect. Put it all together and let in become part of the fabric on the walls let it pervade holistically as much as possible and you have a recipe for potential serious success.
    As said I have seen it and now looking back knowing what I know and having been at other companies I can see what a truly ‘golden egg’ this was.

  3. Keith Halperin

    Thanks Jody. A well-written article, Unfortunately, the typical company can no more become an “Employer of Choice”(EOC) than the typical running enthusiast can win an Olympic Gold Medal. or a decent singer can win “The Voice”. According the the Census Bureau, there were over 616,000 US firms with 100 or more employees in the US in 2008. I would be surprised if more than 0.1- 0.2% are EOCs. I think it much more realistic to strive to become a decent place to work with a functional hiring process, and go after the people you can reasonably get (http://www.ere.net/2013/02/15/recruiting-supermodels-and-a-tool-to-help-you-do-it/), instead of spending a lot of time, money, and other resources on an unrealistic goal.

    Cheers,

    Keith

  4. Jacob Madsen

    That is a fair comment Keith if you ask me, but for every EOC that take the prize and glory at the what-ever-their-name-awards. They are in themselves really not that interesting, but rather what it means for the broader community that may strive becoming an EOC. If we are to believe that competition is hotting up and competition for talent increasing the only way having a chance of winning the hearts and minds of these people will be to being or at least displaying traits of an EOC.
    With here in the UK the 2nd Inhouserecruitmentawards just closed entry (for Nov 2013 final ) and received an unprecedented number of entrants, perhaps here a growing trend towards a wish to attempt seeing if measuring up and showing the flag. So I think and hope that there may be some sort of ripple effect as a result of more focus on these things.

  5. Alan Whitford

    @Jody, thanks for laying out the common sense themes that every employer should be considering. Great layout out and a sensible description for the ‘first timers’ as well as the veterans who think they have heard it all before.

    @Keith, while i agree it is a fair comment (as per @jacob), I actually feel a bit depressed for society that more employers do not seem to care (if your stats are accurate) I have worked in a wide cross section of businessess and trades from my high school years, through college, running around Oz and Europe – not all ‘professional’ jobs to be sure. Yet, I can hand on heart say that most of my employers believed that they were a quality employer, doing the best they could for their staff – as @jacob said, displying the traits of an EOC.

    I think we too easily get caught up in the labels. What Judy has laid out is what every employer should be considering – otherwise why be in business at all?

  6. Keith Halperin

    @ Jacob. Thank you again for your comments. My point is that most companies can not be EOCs or be able to turn away large numbers of the very best people, so they should strive to do dow well at being good and looking for decent (if not outstanding) people. To be blunt: th most companies aren’t and never will be exceptional or get substantial numbers of exceptional people to work for them, so they should strive toward being good and pleasant and getting good and pleasant people to work for them.

    Being a skeptical SOB, I’d prefer an independent, objective, unbiased organization with nothing to gain or lose to evaluate companies, instead of firms that seek to win a contest showing how good they are.

    Fundamentally, being an EOC means that you’re popular to TRY and work for, not that you’re good to work for. Several hundreds of my colleagues and I found out that a very well-known and popular EOC was NOT good to work for…

    @ Alan: my stats are made up and arbitrary. I THINK that there are probably only a few hundred well-known firms that people are dying to work for out of hundreds of thousands, but I could be wrong. I also think that there are probably hundreds of times as many companies in this list who are just fine to work for, but they’re not EOCs. These are the “unsung heros” of companies.

    “… what every employer should be considering – otherwise why be in business at all?” Why: to make its CXOs and other sr.executives as wealthy and powerful as possible and “the devil take the hindmost”. If that’s NOT why they’re in business, they should think again, because they’re doing a very good job of it, at least here in the good ole’ US of A.

    Cheers Keith “Unsung, for Good Reason” Halperin

  7. Jacob Madsen

    Sobering comments Keith. Indeed this is n o t about the top 100 or even 500 or for that matter 1000 companies we all read and hear about and who make the stats and the headlines but about ensuring ‘best possible’ within the context of industry, location, focus etc. For me this about an attempt to continually evolve, to improve and to have a focus on doing it that little bit better, more enticing so that my company (employer) does not get bypassed, get noticed and considered. Most companies fail to attract best possible talent (and with that I leave the word talent to be widely interpreted as this is independent according to before said level, industry, location etc.) simply by not being ‘visible’ enough and not being good enough at explaining who they are, what they do and what makes a good fit. Many a time have I been on the receiving end of candidates that thought they knew what the role was about and what best culture fit looked like, only for that not at all being the case. EOC is therefore about so much more and so much wider than just trying to copy what the likes and Google, Microsoft or others doing, but understanding what EOC traits will look like within a given industry and location.

  8. Jody Ordioni

    Thanks for all this great feedback.

    @Joseph: Yes, being an EOC may have its downsides in unsolicited and unqualified response but a strong employer brand can mitigate some of those issues by allowing candidates to self-select themselves out of the position. That said, when you start speaking the language of candidate experience, you are preaching to the choir.

    @Jacob: Thanks so much for your support – so true- so much of this succeeds or fails in the execution of the day-to-day. That’s why a brand is a promise of an experience, and we need to make any necessary changes to ensure we deliver.

    @Keith: I believe every company can be anything it sets out to be. While you may find this sad, we humans begin navigating our world through brand association from the age of 2 years old. Look around you- what are you wearing? what coffee are you drinking? what prompted you to make the choices you did? EOC’s are in the enviable position of getting first picks of talent. More companies should at least begin the conversations to see if that would be worthwhile, as they execute their business strategies.

    Jodyo

  9. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Jody:
    “I believe every company can be anything it sets out to be.”
    Do you literally or metaphorically believe that? Could you elaborate?

    Cheers,

    Keith

  10. Jody Ordioni

    @Keith – In response to your comment “My point is that most companies can not be EOCs” I disagree. If a company’s leadership believes that becoming an EOC makes good business sense, they can invest time, efforts and resources into becoming one.

  11. Jacob Madsen

    @ Jody, and Keith as well for that matter: Just saying ‘where there is a will there is a way’ and as with so much else it is about mind set.

  12. Keith Halperin

    Thanks Jody. This ties into comments I frequently make re: another ERE author, who makes recommendations based on (what ISTM) are unrealistically optimistic expectations of resources and buy-in. Can a company with unlimited amounts of these things possibly become one of the 0.1-0.2% of companies of over 100 employees that are well-recognized and can turn away large numbers of well-qualified candidates (my definition of an EOC)? Yes, because probably 0.1 – 0.2% of companies HAVE these things available to do that. The other 99.8-99.9% of companies don’t have these things and won’t become EOCs. However, they CAN become good, functional places to work that can attract a decent quality of person to work for them….
    Most companies can be far better and more functional places to work than they are, and this is a very reasonable, achievable, and affordable goal to strive for.

    What I have learned over the years is that there are some things you just can’t have or can’t afford to have, no matter how much you want it, how hard you work for it, or how smart you are. Instead of trying to go for something great you CAN’T get, go for something good you CAN.

    Cheers,

    Keith

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