What makes a good employer?

Written by
Jacques van den Broek

18 Aug 2016

18 Aug 2016 • by Jacques van den Broek

Saying employees are the life-blood of a business is a corporate cliché but the importance of staff and the need for employers to place them at the heart of a business — and trust them — cannot be understated.

With employee turnover costing businesses some £4bn a year in the UK, the monetary implications of losing staff cannot be overlooked, either.

Being a bad employer isn’t just bad for your reputation but can be seriously bad for your bottom line, too.

Challenging difficult demands

For businesses looking to stay ahead in an increasingly saturated and competitive market, hiring the best talent and hanging on to key staff members is vital.

Yet, despite their best intentions, even the most established global businesses still don’t always know what their employees want.

For example, in Randstad’s latest annual awards – the world’s largest employer branding survey that polls 200,000 people globally – we found that UK job-hunters prize salary and employee benefits, long-term job security and a pleasant working atmosphere in their next employer over anything else.

However, large UK employers were found to score best on financial health, strong management and good training – which marks a clear disparity between what prospective employees want and what companies are delivering — or at least are perceived to be delivering. 

Equally, the UK results showed that a significant percentage of UK employees now want not just flexible working hours but the ability to work remotely. The office-based 9-5 working week is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and as the UK employment landscape changes, the companies that don’t move with it could soon find they are left behind.

The awards also named the UK’s most attractive employers, with Rolls-Royce Group topping the listings, followed by British Airways and Marks & Spencer.

These three companies are very strongly associated with the country’s heritage — and that is clearly seen as a positive by Brits — something that strikes a chord with their sense of national identity.

And with a combined 284-year legacy, the trio also benefit from longevity. For Brits, quite evidently, nothing beats a long-established brand.

The power of branding

But while the Rolls-Royce Group, British Airways and Marks & Spencer topped the polls as the places people would most want to work, it was Tesco, Royal Mail and Barclays that came out as the best-known companies.

Beyond just reputation, powerful branding clearly plays another role in the perception of potential employees — and there’s no doubt that Tesco has that by the bucketload.

What’s not in doubt is that any company looking to steal a march on its competitors should have a long-term strategy underpinning its recruitment objectives – who you want to hire is intrinsically linked to what kind of company you want to be in the future.

This strategy should strike a balance between a company’s corporate values and merging them with the unique characteristics of its employees.

Consistency of brand message is also key. With the rise and rise of social media, inauthenticity is easily spotted and will likely put off the more skilled candidates.

As the results of this year’s survey prove, cash – and the security it affords – remains the most important trait for jobseekers.

Yet beyond that, the big companies that topped the poll this year did so because they tied the ‘essential’ attributes – salary, security, good working atmosphere – into their wider employer strategy.

This kind of effective employee branding can drive competitive advantage, and ultimately boost your ability to attract, engage and retain a high-performance workforce."