As an employer, your goal isn’t just to drive sales by promoting 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 an important part of growing your organization.
Highly sought-after organizations where employees are excited to come to work are referred to as “employers of choice.” Becoming an employer of choice means creating a great work environment, building an outstanding brand, and crafting a culture that’s both fun and productive.
Any employer—even a small one—can become an employer of choice. In this article, we’ll cover five ways your organization can finetune 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 having to train external hires for important 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 employee you want 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.
No matter what type of employee you’re hiring, chances are they’ll expect some form of health benefit. While traditional health plans may be costly for small employers, a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is a great, low-cost option to keep your employees satisfied.
3. Know what your competition is doing
Next on your list to becoming an employer of choice 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 trying to compete with larger organizations’ expensive salaries, don’t underestimate the value of providing unique employee benefits.
Results from Glassdoor’s Employment Confidence Survey show 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 an employer of choice is offering a workload that’s challenging but manageable. 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 opportunities for continued growth and advancement. 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 said they 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
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.
This article was originally published on January 12, 2015. It was last updated April 5, 2021.