Today's job market is more competitive than ever. With demand for the most talented staff high and supply low, the power is often in the hands of the prospective employee rather than the employer when it comes to choosing the right people. These days, the question is not so much, 'why should we hire you?', but 'what will make you accept our offer?'.
But it's not just in recruitment where this challenge needs to be addressed. It's also vital from an employee retention perspective. The easiest way to make sure you have the best staff is by making sure your existing talent doesn't leave.
You can do this by making sure you're an 'employer of choice' for your staff. This means that if they’re selecting between your company and a new offer, staying put will be their preferred option. And achieving this status isn't all about the pay packet. In the US, workers are twice as likely to value personal interests, benefits, company culture and growth opportunities over salary when choosing a job.
But how can you ensure you're offering the right benefits and environments to become an employer of choice and stop your staff looking elsewhere? Here are five key steps to take.
1. Be socially responsible
Employees are now increasingly likely to value companies that have a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, and as younger workers make up a larger proportion of the workforce, this is only set to grow. Indeed, three-quarters of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible employer.
There are a wide range of things you can do to promote this, from supporting charities and making sure you factor ethical concerns into your supply chains and procurement, to allowing workers time off to participate in voluntary work.
2. Have a unique culture
Company culture has become central to how almost every firm does business today. If staff buy in to your values and vision, they'll be far more likely to be loyal when other offers come calling. On the other hand, a poor company culture can also quickly become toxic and drive good employees away.
But there's no one-size-fits-all approach to this, and businesses shouldn't simply look to duplicate what others have done, as workers will sense when a company's 'vision' is just a set of stitched together buzzwords. Instead, each firm needs to build its own unique identity and value system. Start by asking why the business was founded in the first place and what it wants to achieve. For most employees, knowing why you do what you do is more important than how you do it.
3. Promote mental and physical wellbeing
Demonstrating that you care about the health and wellbeing of your employees is another key factor in being an employer of choice. It's no coincidence that benefits such as gym memberships are among the most popular employee perks.
But this shouldn't stop at workers' physical health. Indeed, firms that take the time to look after their employees' mental health will also be rewarded. For instance, one study by mental health charity, Mind found 60% of employees would be more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing.
4. Focus on career development
People spend a third of their waking life at work, so for most employees, they'll want to have more than just a job, but a career they can be proud of. Offering strong opportunities for long-term career development is vital if you're to retain your best talent, with the added benefit that upskilling your existing workforce means you spend less time chasing after skilled workers in the recruitment market.
Offering training courses or encouraging employees to participate in short-term projects with other departments to broaden their skills will be good places to start, but you also need to provide a clear career path so employees know what they need to do to climb the ladder - and know that opportunities for advancement exist.
5. Foster a positive environment
Finally, making your company a nice place to work can go a long way to convincing your employees that you're an employer of choice. You don't have to go the way of some Silicon Valley firms and fill your workspace with slides and ball pits, but offering features such as chill-out areas, a bit of greenery, natural light and perks like free fruit can make a big difference to how people feel about their workplace.
Little things like this make the environment a more pleasant place to spend time in and will go a long way towards improving employee wellness and morale, making them feel as though their employer is looking after their interests.