As the economy rebounds and more employers adapt to filling
executive and management positions in the candidate-driven market,
it is becoming increasingly important for companies to distinguish
themselves as employers of choice, to attract top candidates. The
most recent Gallup annual Work and Education poll revealed that
only 47 percent of American workers are completely satisfied with
their jobs, indicating employers are better positioned than ever to
attract candidates who are ready to move out of current roles. So
then how does a company become known as an employer of choice that
attracts star talent and makes employees never want to leave?

“In today’s job market, aggressive salary and benefits packages
that will potentially beat out counteroffers are not enough to lure
top performers to new companies,” says Rob Romaine, president of
MRINetwork. “Employers have to develop unique ways
to attract candidates into their companies and away from

To accomplish this, employers have to connect with their
employees, find out what is most important to them and then provide
programs and services that will be of value to the entire staff.
This entails providing career advancement opportunities, ongoing training and continuing education
programs, atypical benefits packages and employee perks that will
make any employee think twice about leaving. Some companies have
gone to great lengths to achieve this, providing unlimited sick and
paid time off, flexible work schedules, game rooms and employee
appreciation days where catered lunches, massage services and field
days are brought in-house for staff enjoyment.

SAS Institute, a North Carolina software company, became the
employer of choice in its industry by providing its employees with
workplace amenities like an on-campus gym, no limit on sick days,
company gates that don’t open until 7 a.m. and close promptly at 6
p.m., and maybe most importantly – free M&Ms. These perks
resulted in a turnover rate 16 percent less than competitors.

So what strategies can companies use to establish themselves as
employers of choice? “It’s important for companies to realize they
can’t become an employer of choice overnight,” says Romaine. “It
takes a collaborative effort from multiple teams within the
organization, focused on developing and implementing strategies
that attract star candidates and retain key employees. Each
department has to look at what they can do in their respective
areas to contribute to this process.”

The following are steps companies can take to become an
employer of choice:

  1. Know the company culture and the type of
    employees the company hopes to attract.
  2. Develop a sound employer branding strategy
    that is focused on distributing consistent messaging about the
    company culture and mission to clients, investors, employees and
  3. Conduct periodic employee surveys to determine
    employee satisfaction with the company. This provides staff an
    opportunity to express their feelings on everything from benefits
    and career opportunities to a variety of company-wide practices,
    while identifying areas that can be improved.
  4. Review the feedback from employee surveys and
    develop strategies to improve areas of concern.
  5. Look for unique ways to create the “ultimate employee
    reasons that make employees never want to
    leave, including anything from on-site cafeterias, gyms or daycare
    to parking and transit privileges.
  6. Submit a company nomination for an Employer of
    Choice or Best Places to Work award in your industry. These awards
    invoke employee pride and bring increased credibility to the
    company brand.

While hiring managers may not always have the authority to
implement the above strategies, there are things they can do to
help retain employees. They can create career tracks for each
position, so employees have a clear path for advancement in the
company. They can also provide ongoing training, development and
mentoring opportunities. Managers should additionally create an
environment where creativity and outside the box thinking is
encouraged. Finally, managers should reward employees for a job
well done via company announcements and awards, or
performance-based bonuses, promotions and raises.

Retention of happy, top performers is the most critical strategy
for companies to become employers of choice. This is where the
status of being a choice employer begins – promotion of the
company’s values through the ambassadorship of employees.

“What makes a company a great place to work for some people will
not be great for others,” advises Romaine. However, a company that
is an employer of choice will recognize this in the hiring process
and give as much consideration to the candidate’s fit with the
organization as it does to experience, qualifications and talent.
They will additionally recognize the value in providing a
collaborative, company-wide approach to not only attracting, but
also retaining top performers that will move the company

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