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What is an Employer of Choice and How to Become One

Standing out in a crowded talent market is tough. Use these strategies to build an employer brand that attracts top talent.

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Your reputation as an employer is make or break for your company. If you’re constantly losing great talent to competitors, your company can’t grow or meet organizational goals. And this is a probable scenario—Glassdoor reveals that 92% of people might change jobs if a company with a top corporate reputation offered them a new role.

So, how can you position yourself as an attractive prospect to job seekers and hang on to your existing talent? This blog discusses how companies can become an employer of choice by offering a positive employee experience.

What is an employer of choice?

An employer of choice is a company that job seekers want to work for. Boasting an excellent reputation, it attracts both active and passive candidates. These highly sought-after organizations offer a positive work environment, excellent leadership, fair pay, engaged employees, and meaningful work. 

Andrea Hoffer, Founder and CEO of aha! Talent Experts, describes the importance of being a top employer. 

“Imagine a world where talent flocks to your door, not just for what you do but for who you are. This is the power of a strong employer brand—a beacon that attracts the brightest, driven by your reputation as an exceptional place to work. Investing in employer branding is no longer a luxury; it’s an imperative strategy in today’s fiercely competitive job market. It’s about crafting an identity that speaks not just to your customers but to potential team members. It’s about being an employer of choice, where the best talents aspire to be.”

What are the characteristics of an employer of choice?

While there’s no boilerplate for becoming an employer of choice, some common characteristics appear across the board. These include: 

Trust and transparency 

Transparency is crucial for building trust with employees. Companies that share information about the company’s goals, strategies, and performance foster a sense of trust and collaboration among their staff, reducing stress and creating happier, more productive employees. 

Unfortunately, trust in leadership has waned since the pandemic, and only 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they trust their specific organization’s leaders. Employers of choice turn this situation around by offering strong communication, directing positive change, and inspiring confidence. When this happens, 95% of workers fully trust their leaders, according to Gallup. 

Fair treatment 

Your approach to pay is critical to whether current or future employees trust you as an employer. Studies reveal that 55.15% of women don’t believe they’re paid fairly in their current role, while 1 in 20 employees would quit if they discovered they earned less than their coworkers. 

With New York City, California, and many other cities and states adopting pay transparency laws, now may be a good time to revisit your compensation strategy and job posting templates. Survey research from Indeed found that 75% of respondents are more likely to apply for a role if the salary range is listed. Even if your city or state doesn’t yet require it, proactive pay transparency is one way to breed trust in candidates and employees and demonstrate an employee-first philosophy. 

Growth opportunities 

Career development benefits elevate your employer brand by showing you care about your workers’ careers. All employees should be able to progress throughout your org chart from an entry-level position to a C-suite executive if that’s their goal. Employers of choice define clear career paths using role competencies and development frameworks to clearly define how an employee gets from A to B. 

Conference Board research highlights that growth opportunities are a dealbreaker for 58% of employees who would likely leave an employer if they don’t offer professional development. But employers can go the extra mile by providing personal enrichment programs, which have plenty of benefits, too. Research has shown that participating in an art-related activity can reduce cortisol levels, providing an instant feeling of calm. Similarly, engaging in creative work causes us to use different brain parts, leading to previously untapped problem-solving and thinking skills. 

Employee recognition 

Recognizing your employees for their hard work has a powerful impact. Employees who believe they will be recognized are 2.7x more likely to be highly engaged, according to Quantum Workplace research. Employees engaged at work are more productive and deliver better work, making recognition programs a true win-win for companies.

Recognition can be as simple as saying “thank you” to employees for their daily contributions to the company but can also include a myriad of other structured ideas such as “Employee of the Month” awards, peer recognition programs, internal shoutouts, and posts on social media. 

How to become an employer of choice

Just as your employees develop, your organization can also progress and upskill as an employer to attract more quality job applicants and retain highly skilled workers. Here are a few strategies that leading companies implement to become an employer of choice: 

1. Offer a competitive salary

Pay is a hot topic this year. My Perfect Resume revealed that 69% of U.S. workers agree or strongly agree that more people will quit their jobs if they don’t consider their salaries rewarding. Similarly, 68% believe employers must pay more to retain workers

Employers of choice have no choice but to offer competitive salary and benefits packages to employees by doing the following: 

  • Conduct a full pay analysis, including market comparisons, when deciding on the appropriate salary for a new position.
  • Use exit surveys and regular feedback during management reviews to learn if poor compensation is causing team members to leave or if other cultural factors are at play. 
  • Create a compensation leveling framework that defines various levels of pay and promotions within a specific job function to ensure fairness and consistency. 

Some employers such as nonprofits or startups may be unable to offer a salary within the highest pay range in the market. And that’s understandable. But other characteristics can still make them an employer of choice, such as increased flexibility and a great company culture. 

2. Provide the best benefits

Beyond offering a competitive salary, a rich selection of benefits is one of the best ways to establish yourself as an employer of choice and differentiate yourself from the competition. Here are some enticing benefits and perks to offer: 

Health benefits 

Health insurance benefits encompass a wide range of services and coverage options designed to safeguard the physical and mental well-being of employees. These usually include: 

  • Medical, dental, and vision coverage
  • Flexible spending accounts (FSA)
  • Health savings accounts (HSA) for high-deductible plans

Work environment 

Individual employees thrive in different work environments, depending on their personalities, life situations, and physical or mental health conditions. While in-office work was the norm until the pandemic, many employers now offer increasing flexibility such as:  

  • Remote work: 98% of employees would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers, up from 97% the previous year. The most popular remote work location is home, with coworking spaces and coffee shops also available. 
  • Hybrid work: Some companies are insisting on return-to-office mandates this year, but a more flexible approach is likely to appeal to employees and job seekers. The hybrid model combines remote work and in-office days. 
  • Flexible work schedules: 4-day workweeks, compressed schedules, and job sharing give employees more freedom in how they organize their workdays. 
  • Paid time off: Organizations increasingly offer unlimited PTO, putting trust in employees to take the rest they need. 

Perks and stipends 

One-size-fits-all benefits plans don’t offer the customization employees need to maximize their benefits. Employee perks and stipends overcome this by serving up flexibility in the form of lifestyle spending accounts. In this model, employers add funds to each employee’s LSA account each month, which they can use in some of the following ways:  

  • Wellness: Employees might choose to pay for massages, gym memberships, meditation apps, mental health support, and more. 
  • Food: Alongside traditional in-office catered lunches and pizza parties, employees may also spend money on meal deliveries, meal kits, restaurants, and more. 
  • Technology: Remote employees may need financial support with work from home equipment and internet bills, while anyone using their cell phone or other personal device to take work calls or answer emails could benefit from a technology stipend to cover related expenses.
  • Commuting: Employees may need support with the cost of getting to and from work, including expenses related to public transportation, ride-sharing services, gas, and parking fees. 
  • Caregiving: Whether caring for children, elders, or pets, your employees’ responsibilities extend beyond the workplace, and financial assistance in these areas can be a game-changer for your recruitment and retention policies. 

Curious about the variety of stipends you can offer to employees? We put together a guide to employee stipends to provide an overview of this popular employee benefit and offer inspiration as you design your stipend program. Download the guide to learn about the types of stipends available and how to design a successful program.

A Complete Guide to Employee Stipends: 14 Ideas With Tips and Best Practices

Professional development 

Employee development benefits allow your workers to gain new skills and knowledge to advance their careers. This approach shows you value them for what they can do today and their future potential. Some common examples of professional development benefits include: 

  • Tuition reimbursement: Support employees who wish to improve their career prospects with courses or certifications related to their work.
  • Professional development stipends: Employees can spend money on a career coach, training course, or software program.
  • Leadership training: Encourage your employees to step up in their roles and take on more responsibility by offering leadership development programs.
  • On-site workshops: Bring in outside experts or utilize in-house knowledge to offer workshops on various topics, such as public speaking, time management, or technical skills. 
  • Tickets to conferences: High-ticket industry events enable attendees to extend their professional networks while watching keynote speeches, learning about product launches, and soaking up the latest news. 
  • Mentorship opportunities: Pair employees with experienced mentors to help them learn and grow in their careers. 
  • Professional development plans: Work with your employees to create individualized plans for their growth and career advancement within the company. These should include options for cross-department transfers if that suits their career goals.

3. Create an inclusive culture of choice 

Leading organizations value inclusivity and diversity by encouraging employees to voice their concerns and opinions, then acting on their valuable feedback. When all employees feel welcomed, appreciated, and valued, they’re more likely to enjoy their work and be happier and more productive. Follow these ideas to become more inclusive: 

  • Focus on diversity: Organizations in the top quartile for ethnic representation are 39% more likely to financially outperform those in the bottom quartile, according to McKinsey’s latest diversity data. 
  • Achieve senior leadership buy-in: Ensure your managers and C-suite executives set a great impression and encourage lower-ranked employees to follow their example. 
  • Create an inclusion and diversity council: Members may discuss how to design inclusive recruiting practices, build employee resource groups, or improve workplace accessibility. 
  • Respect personal beliefs and individuality: Make adjustments that take your employees’ needs into account. For example, you might establish unisex bathrooms and lactation rooms for nursing mothers, create prayer or meditation rooms, or ask about dietary restrictions before company events. 
  • Provide inclusive benefits options: Inclusivity should be considered in every aspect of the employee experience, including your benefits package. Ensure your benefits options provide enough flexibility to serve all employees equally, regardless of age, gender, location, and other demographics. 

4. Offer opportunities for personal and professional development

Developing your employees isn’t a one-time exercise. Designing a continuous learning environment that provides everything your employees need to grow requires commitment and customization. Follow these eight steps to create your program: 

  1. Assess your current needs: Use a skills gap analysis to determine the distance between your employees’ current skills and your business requirements. 
  2. Set clear objectives: Develop specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) development goals for each employee and the organization. An example SMART goal for the organization could be to improve leadership training completion by 40%.
  3. Develop personalized plans: Incorporate performance feedback, skills enhancement plans, and developmental resources to invest in your employees individually.
  4. Provide training opportunities: Combine internal and external resources for a well-rounded learning experience. 
  5. Recognize and reward: Celebrate developmental progress to continuously motivate employees. 
  6. Lean on technology: Use learning experience platforms, learning management systems, or online training to ensure accessibility and convenience for your employees. 
  7. Build a continuous learning culture: Encourage peer-to-peer learning, knowledge sharing, mentorships, and 1:1 sessions.  
  8. Monitor and adjust your employee programs: Review the impact of your development strategy in line with the SMART goals you created. 

5. Design a recognition and rewards program

As the name implies, a rewards and recognition program incorporates two aspects: delivering the message of praise or acknowledgment and rewarding positive behavior with various incentives. While you may opt for monetary rewards like spot bonuses, these can lose their magic if some employees put the extra money toward bills, household needs, or debt repayment. 

Instead, a pre-loaded card like Benepass inspires employees to spend the funds on something they might not normally buy with their own money. They can purchase anything they like, with flexibility as a core element of the program.

Whatever your approach, follow these eight simple steps to design a rewards and recognition program that resonates with your workforce: 

  1. Obtain employee input: Use employee pulse surveys, focus groups, 1:1 meetings, and stay or exit interview data to understand what your employees want. 
  2. Set clear achievement criteria: Determine what behaviors employees need to exhibit to earn praise, how frequently recognition-givers should deliver it, and how your rewards system works. 
  3. Encourage peer-based recognition: Give examples of how team members can share praise. 
  4. Foster inclusivity: Ensure employees of any role, rank, or department can give and receive recognition. 
  5. Offer meaningful and personalized rewards: Consider a rewards points allowance enabling employees to choose gifts they actually want or need, rather than mundane company swag. 
  6. Timely recognition: Deliver positive feedback to achieve high employee engagement levels. 
  7. Align recognition with company values: Reinforce the desirable behaviors and actions you want to see in your employees. 
  8. Make it easy for employees to exchange recognition: Consider using a dedicated recognition app or platform.

Become an employer of choice with Benepass

Employers of choice value their employees’ professional and personal lives and prove this in every interaction they have with them. This type of people-first company culture will long reap the rewards of a loyal and productive workforce. 

Benepass offers a wide range of perks and benefits to skyrocket your employer brand, including: 

Ready to become an employer of choice? Book a Benepass demo to build your comprehensive employee benefits package or reach us at sales@getbenepass.com with any questions. 

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Rebecca Noori

Rebecca Noori is a freelance HR Tech and SaaS writer who is obsessed with our world of work. She writes about everything from employee benefits and performance management to upskilling and productivity tips. When she's not writing, you'll find her grappling with phonics homework and football kits, looking after her three kids.

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