How to Be an Employer of Choice and Win Talent

The experts all agree: the job market has changed. The digital marketplace means that candidates have a wealth of information at their fingertips – from LinkedIn to Glassdoor to Indeed – and that information colors their employment decisions. Additionally, it used to be that workers outnumbered jobs; these days, candidates have a multitude of options. That means you need to impress them at least as much as they need to impress you.

In this day and age, employees aren’t afraid to assert themselves, both within the company and in online reviews. Potential applicants will happily leverage one job offer against another. The competition to land the most talented people is just that: a competition. In order to attract the best and brightest talent, you have to stand apart from the crowd and become an Employer of Choice – providing an engaging and fulfilling work environment so that people will strive to work for you.

This is easier said than done: today’s employees are asking a lot of their ideal employers. They want to work for companies with a sense of social responsibility, whose values align with their own. They look for community leadership, fair treatment, and a healthy working in environment in addition to ethical business practices and financial stability. Putting in the work to become an Employer of Choice, though, is worth it in the end. According to Roger E. Herman and Joyce Gioia, authors of How to Become an Employer of Choice, taking these steps will allow your company to “enjoy a higher level of performance, greater workforce stability, and the level of continuity that assures preservation of the knowledge base, customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, and stronger profits.”

Here are some of the techniques progressive companies use to make themselves Employers of Choice.


Offer Training Opportunities

You may have seen the following floating around on the internet: A CFO asks a CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?” The CEO responds, “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

Providing training for existing workers is one of the most important commitments an employer can make. By taking an active part in employee development, you signify that you value your people. It’s not enough to pay lip service to training, or to merely supply the training tools. Employers of Choice make sure their training programs include guidance, time, financial assistance, and follow-up support.


Provide Competitive Benefits

Compensation is one piece of the puzzle in attracting and retaining top talent, but only one, small piece. Smart companies are implementing innovative pay practices and benefits programs. Gain sharing, profit sharing, cafeteria-style benefits options, and even team pay are just a few examples.

Additionally, there are many low or no-cost benefits that you can offer. “Casual Fridays” are a common example, but other unique, valuable perks include dry cleaning pick-up and delivery, flexible working hours, credit union membership, and flu shots. It’s a busy world, and the most cherished benefits are often those that help employees save time and make their lives easier.

Too many companies view benefits as an expense; you’ll do better to consider them like investments. What you can offer to employees that will offer you the greatest return on that investment?


Become a Community Leader

Possessing a good image in the community is critical, for it can be the strongest way of attracting talented people to your business. On the other hand, a poor reputation – whether deserved or misperceived – can seriously hinder your recruiting and retention efforts.

Don’t be afraid to showcase your company’s unique efforts to help make the world a better place. Community involvement – from donating to charity to participating as a team in community events – and the publicity that surrounds it can serve as an excellent marketing tool for recruitment. Ropella participates in the yearly YMCA Corporate Games in our town (pictured), and have also, as a company, participated in the Tough Mudder competition when it was in the area. Highly visible events like this help you stand apart from the competition. Press releases sent to local media outlets describing your community improvement efforts, such as sustainability initiatives or volunteering, provides the community with an unbiased report of your good deeds. Improving your company’s reputation strengthens relationships with shareholders, customers, and, more importantly, current and potential employees.


Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance

There was a time when many employees worked long hours as a means of establishing job security. Today, though, most people are looking for a more equitable balance between work and personal time. At Pepsi in Australia and New Zealand, the CEO has created a program he calls “Leaders Leaving Loudly”, in order to encourage company-wide acceptance of work-life balance. In his words, “if I occasionally go at 4pm to pick up my daughters, I will make sure to tell the people around me, ‘I’m going to pick up my children.’ Because if it’s okay for the boss, then it’s okay for middle management and new hires… I say to my team, ‘I’d like you to be a hero at work, but I want you to be a hero at home. If you’re only a hero at work, you’re only doing half the job.’”

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, encouraging employees not to overwork themselves benefits the company as much as it benefits the employee. It reduces sick days and turnover, and increases workflow, productivity, and morale.

Offer Meaningful Work

You may have heard the story of when President John F. Kennedy visited the NASA space center and asked a janitor what he was doing; the janitor’s response was “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

All employees, from the receptionist to the CEO, should work in an environment where they feel their work is meaningful, where they feel as though they are contributing to the greater goals of the organization. This is easier said than done. It may require reengineering work processes, reconfiguring job descriptions, and looking for alternative solutions to get work done, including spreading engaging and mundane tasks equally amongst all employees. It may also require redefining candidate profiles so you have a better chance of hiring people who will find meaning in the specific work they are to perform. The position the employee is in is not ultimately important – what is critical is making certain they believe that their job function has value.

It is also important to foster a nurturing work environment where opinions are valued, creativity is fostered, and employees are able to form quality relationships with one another. Managers should challenge their employees to think, and to teach them to understand their role in the big picture. When workers are allowed to play a role in developing better ways to get the job done, it strengthens their commitment to the company.

Are You Ready to Compete?

However you decide to become an Employer of Choice, remember that word travels fast. Having happy employees is like having your own PR firm working for you around the clock. (And having unhappy employees is like a slow poison choking the life from the organization.) Whatever you do to benefit your employees’ work lives will come back to you many times over, in the form of better recruits, lower turnover, happier and more productive staff, and increased profitability. With those kinds of results, you’ll be well on your way to winning the War for Talent!

What are you doing to cement your position as an employer of choice? Let me know in the comments, then share this article with your network of culturally savvy (or not-so-savvy) executives.