Tradie HR director Leigh Olsen explains what makes an “Employer of Choice”

Recently a number of clients have been asking me what they can do to be considered an “Employer of Choice” in their industry. They want to be thought of as a “good employer” looking after their people — taking care of their employees so others want to join their business and, most importantly, to keep the top workers they already have. I am overjoyed when I hear this — and even more delighted when they show me what they are currently doing and asking how they can put in place some further initiatives and plans to make it a reality. What does being an Employer of Choice mean for you? Here are some of my clients’ responses when I ask them this. Please note that there are no right or wrong responses, just responses:

  • “I am happy if they just make it home safely each night.”
  • “That I provide them a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.”
  • “That I have no trouble recruiting staff and have a waitlist of people wanting to come here.”
  • “That I am seen as a better boss than my old boss who was a control freak.”

A real motivating factor for my clients, in wanting to be an employer of choice, has been the desire to not be like previous bosses. One client in the painting industry said his former boss was a good guy but he had anger management issues, and his team were walking around on eggshells most of the time. He would yell at them, calling them names I am not allowed to print, and then shower them with bonuses and overtime options. It was confusing for the team, and my client said he suffered a lot of anxiety until one day he decided enough was enough, and he was going to go into business for himself. He said a big part of his business strategy was to implement initiatives to be regarded as an Employer of Choice. He recently hired me to come into his business, conduct an employee engagement survey, and speak to his team. The results were outstanding. The team said he is the best boss because he listens, he responds appropriately, and he cares even when they make mistakes. They said he doesn’t yell, but uses it as an opportunity for learning. Characteristics of an Employer of Choice There are several factors that can make an employer an Employer of Choice, such as:

  • Paying above market rates with added benefits
  • Providing job security
  • Letting employees take responsibility for how they do their work.
  • Opportunities for growth and learning.
  • Work life balance
  • Recognition.

Absolutely all those things are important. What I have observed is that the exceptional, inspiring and stand-out employers also do the following:

1. Build trust

They create opportunities where they are open, honest and transparent. They share information, even when it is difficult to hear and share. They create safe environments where it’s okay to make a mistake, as long as you learn from it. It’s okay to speak freely without fear of repercussions, and it’s okay to challenge the status quo — in fact, it’s encouraged. If people don’t trust the companies they work in or trust their manager or colleagues they probably won’t be staying much longer. New research shows that among Millennials, transparency from leadership rates as among the most important drivers of company loyalty.

2. Provide hands-on management

They are able to coach and do it well. Understanding their employees’ strengths and talents, they move them into the right roles and rearrange work to leverage these strengths and help them to build on these strengths. If an employee feels they are doing well and adding value then they are going to feel pretty good about their environment, their manager and their company.

3. Are fair and reasonable

Their actions are fair and reasonable. They may have to be firm at times, but they are always fair, always providing context for the decisions they have to make. They take the time to explain why things may have not worked out on a project, why the goalposts have moved again, or why they are now going with a different supplier. When I first started on my HR journey, one of the best pieces of advice given to me by a mentor was “at the end of the day Leigh, if you can put your hand on your heart and say that what you did was fair and reasonable, you will have done good”.

The benefits of being regarded as an Employer of Choice The benefits are many, but the main ones my clients seek are:

  • Great publicity for their brand.
  • Having highly productive and engaged teams.
  • Skilled teams that are able to multi-task.
  • Low turnover.
  • Recruitment made easy.
  • Happy satisfied customers because the workers are happy and satisfied.

The link to being an Employer of Choice and employee engagement is strong. If you don’t have engaged people (workers who are willing to go above and beyond and give discretionary effort) then you won’t be seen as an Employer of Choice.

If you decide that, yes, being regarded as an Employer of Choice is the very thing for you, then please give us a call (always in confidence). We can assess what you currently have in place, and work together to take that, and new initiatives, to the next level.