How to be an employer of choice

Organisations face huge challenges in attracting the best and brightest people. Workplace automation means those in “human” jobs will become highly prized employees, so companies need strategies to motivate and engage this talent.

A recent survey of more than 3,500 workers by the Workhuman® Analytics & Research Institute (WARI) found that employees who have a sense of meaning and purpose are more than four times as likely to love their jobs. Respondents ranked meaningful work as the biggest factor influencing their career choices, above compensation and perks.

If the future of work is human, it is crucial that organisations appeal to people’s emotional connection to both their job and their employer’s values. Workers are twice as likely to recommend a company to a friend if they think it has meaning and purpose, and three times as likely when their personal values align with company values.

To attract highly skilled employees, whose values match corporate values, companies must have a strong employer brand. According to research from LinkedIn, four out of five talent acquisition managers believe that employer branding has a significant impact on the ability to hire great talent. It allows companies to communicate their culture and values through storytelling to prospective employees.

“Storytelling means telling candidates about your company’s monthly green challenge, whether that’s to cycle to work or use only refillable water bottles, rather than just saying it values sustainability,” says Grant Beckett, vice president of global product strategy at Workhuman, the leading provider of human applications.

You can’t dictate your company culture and then expect it to just appear. You’ve got to unlock the power of people to live it through recognition and reinforcement

“Tell people why they will enjoy working at your company, from the on-site cafeteria to the dog-friendly policy, and help them understand what the job really is. It’s about triggering a reaction based on sharing genuine insights into company culture.”

While developing an employer brand is important, it is essential that it truly represents the company. If the culture of the company doesn’t reflect what the employer brand communicates to the world, people will feel duped and soon move on. Improving company culture and developing values starts from the top, but should not end there.

“A lot of people say they’re going to have a good culture and here are our core values, mission and purpose, and expect that culture to just appear,” says Mr Beckett. “The reality is you can’t dictate your culture in a company. You can set its tone from the top, but then you have to unlock the power of people to live it. Acknowledging people who represent those core values is the way to ensure company culture reflects the company mission.”

Organisations can’t manufacture a culture, but they can facilitate one by placing recognition at its heart. Through recognising those who exhibit the values that have been defined, companies can engrain their purpose into the life of the business in a positive way. Showing what “good” looks like through praise allows them to celebrate the best of their culture within the subtle day-to-day interactions between their people.

Recognition should be emphasised as a key initiative, rather than just deployed as a trivial afterthought. This requires executive support. People have to feel there is support from the top and that it’s for the whole workforce, peers and management alike. Inclusivity is the key to a great culture.

Putting a name to the initiative is also important. US airline JetBlue, for example, has a crew member recognition programme called Lift and employees embrace this language in their interactions, “lifting” each other through public praise and gratitude. It becomes part of the core fabric of the company and over time feels organic and authentic. Across diverse industries, big global brands such as Cisco, LinkedIn, and Procter & Gamble are investing in recognition initiatives.

“You also have to invest in it,” says Mr Beckett. “Programmes that just amount to a pat on the back die out over time because recognition givers get tired of high fives or ‘likes’. There has to be substance behind it, such as calibrating recognition moments with points that can be cashed in for real rewards, like a trip for your family.

“As research by SHRM/Workhuman shows, companies that invest one per cent or more of payroll in rewards and recognition are nearly three times as likely to rate their programme as excellent, compared to those that don’t.”

Workhuman facilitates human connections with innovative technology that supports recognition moments for organisations on a global basis. The company’s technology, consultancy and industry insights help foster positive working cultures that are based on gratitude, inclusion and fairness, key attributes when building an attractive employer brand.

Workhuman statistics

There is a powerful emotional psychology behind recognition and appreciation. Workhuman helps C-suite and HR leaders tap into that psychology to rethink how traditional recognition programmes work. Its consulting group helps them to structure and brand a programme in the most effective way, then deliver strong return on investment (ROI).

“We spend a lot of time thinking about the name of the programme and how to change traditional thinking about feedback as being only a responsibility of managers. We teach them about trusting their workforce, making feedback more social and crowdsourced, with the right supervision,” says Mr Beckett. “Only once those foundations are in place do we run the technology, enabling colleagues to communicate, express gratitude and tell their stories by posting comments and even pictures and videos.

“Once the programme goes live, we constantly monitor the data. Our data scientists have deep mathematical regression analysis in their background and we partner with our clients to understand what the programme is achieving for metrics like retention, employee engagement, safety and billing rates. For any business metric of importance to a particular company, we can analyse how the recognition and culture created through it results in hard ROI.”

When people feel invested in their company and feel their company is invested in them, they become its best recruiters and ambassadors. Most importantly, the human connections made through recognition moments provide invaluable content to reflect in the employer brand, forming the basis of the company’s vital public-facing identity.

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