As an employer, your goal isn’t just to promote your product or service—you also need to promote your organization as a desirable place to work. After all, recruiting and retaining top talent is essential for growing your organization.
What does it mean to be an employer of choice? Highly sought-after organizations where employees are excited to come to work are called “employers of choice.” Becoming an employer of choice means creating a great work environment, building an outstanding brand, and crafting a fun and productive culture.
Any employer—even a small one—can become an employer of choice.
In this article, we’ll cover five ways your organization can become an employer of choice by finetuning your brand, culture, and recruiting strategies to attract and retain the best staff at the lowest cost.
1. Define your ideal employee
The first step toward becoming an employer of choice is defining what type of person you are trying to recruit and retain.
As an employer, you can’t be everything to everyone—and you don’t want to be. You only want to recruit and retain the type of people who fit your organization’s culture.
By hiring the right employee from the start, you’ll be able to promote from within when your organization is ready for more leaders. This saves you the time and hassle of training external hires for essential management roles.
A study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School compared the performance of employees who were promoted from within against employees who were hired externally. It found that the external hires took a full two years to catch up to the performance levels of the internal hires.
In short—create a vision for what you want your workforce to look like, then hire the people who can bring that vision to life.
2. Identify the perks your ideal employee wants
Once you’ve figured out what you want your ideal employee to look like, the next step is to find out what your ideal employee wants you to look like. That means offering the perks and benefits that are attractive to the prospective employee you wish to have on your team.
While there are many lists about the top perks employees want, the benefits you need to prioritize first are the ones that appeal to your workforce and company brand.
For example, if you own a thriving snow sports retail store, you likely want to attract and retain outdoor enthusiasts. Offering a perk like discounted ski passes or deals on sports equipment will help you attract that kind of employee.
Likewise, if you own a growing health benefits software company, you likely want employees who value a healthy lifestyle and are tech-savvy. For this workforce, a FitBit, wellness competitions, or discounted gym pass may align well with attracting the right employees.
Let’s dive into a few of the top benefits you can offer your employees to become an employer of choice.
No matter what type of employee you’re hiring, they’ll expect some form of health benefit. Many health benefit options are available, such as traditional group health insurance. However, traditional health plans may be too costly for some employers, and they don’t provide much flexibility for your employees’ unique needs.
A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is a great low-cost and flexible option to satisfy your employees. You can reimburse your employees for their health insurance premiums and qualifying medical expenses using tax-free money with an HRA.
If your employees receive advance premium tax credits, a health stipend may be better. Unlike an HRA, your employees can receive premium tax credits and take advantage of their health stipend benefit without affecting their eligibility.
HRAs and health stipends are great options for providing your employees with flexible health benefits.
Another great benefit to offer your employees to become an employer of choice is a wellness benefit. This can often be through in-office perks, gym memberships, or mental health counseling, to name a few examples.
Managing a wellness program can be challenging. Offering your employees a wellness stipend is an easier way to provide personalized wellness benefits.
With a wellness stipend, you provide your employees with a monthly allowance for wellness expenses of their choice. Employees then request a reimbursement for their wellness expenses. This gives your employees the freedom to use their wellness benefits the way they want to.
Remote work benefits
Giving your employee the option to work remotely is another sure way to become an employer of choice. According to Pew Research Center, 60% of employees with jobs that they can do from home would like to work from home most or all of the time if given a choice.
If you have employees working from home, you should consider offering them a remote work stipend. With a remote work stipend, you can reimburse your employees for their home office set-up costs and monthly phone or internet bills.
A remote work stipend helps you to set your remote employees up for success. Offering these benefits can help you retain and attract top talent.
3. Know what your competition is doing
Next on your list to become an employer of choice and improving your employer brand is researching how you stack up against your competition—because that’s exactly what your job candidates and your current employees are already doing.
While it may seem daunting to compete with other organizations, particularly when it comes to salaries, don’t underestimate the value of providing unique employee benefits.
Glassdoor’s Employment Confidence Survey shows that 4 out of 5 employees would rather have new or additional benefits than a pay raise.
Here are just a few ways you can get a sense of how your benefits compare:
- Network with managers from similar organizations
- Look at your competitor's career pages
- Talk to your employees and candidates about what they expect
4. Offer interesting and challenging work
Another important step toward becoming a preferred employer is offering a challenging but manageable workload. Achieving this blend may look different depending on the department or team member.
Keep these questions in mind when you’re evaluating your employees’ workload:
- Is the work challenging, but not burn-out difficult?
- Are there clear role definitions that are straightforward but not too easy?
- As employees grow and become more efficient, do their responsibilities grow with them?
- Along with the work you're asking employees to do, are they excited about the overall company vision?
- Are employees passionate about the vision?
Along with keeping your employees’ day-to-day work engaging, you’ll also want to offer continued growth and advancement opportunities. This includes a clear path to promotions, regular evaluations, training for new skills, and mentoring opportunities to help employees grow in the right direction.
5. Recognize your employees regularly
Lastly, recognizing your employees for their hard work and dedication is essential to building a positive workplace culture and morale.
In a survey conducted by Bonusly, 82% of respondents said they consider being recognized for their accomplishments an important part of their happiness at work. What’s more, 63% of respondents who felt recognized at work reported being less likely to look for a new job in the next 3 to 6 months.
Here are a few ideas on how to recognize and show appreciation for your employees:
- Celebrate work anniversaries and birthdays
- Start contents and award prizes for meeting sales goals
- Offer employer-provided lunches
- Track and share team wins
- Give out thank-you notes
Employee recognition can also improve employee engagement and productivity in addition to establishing a desirable company culture.
Being an employer of choice doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Following these simple tactics will help your organization, big or small, recruit and retain the right employees for your culture and stand out from the competition by improving the employee experience.
This blog article was originally published on January 12, 2015. It was last updated on April 12, 2022.