How to Become an Employer of Choice

Jul 15, 2013

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.