Anatomy of the Perfect Employer

As societal trends, values and outlook change with the ebb and flow of generations, so do the wants and needs of the workforce. Google has a lot to answer for when it comes to trendy, enviable office spaces and perks, but is this really what attracts and retains top candidates?

The main reason people work is to earn a living, and competitive rates of pay will be a highly influencing factor, but the culture and environment that an employer creates plays a pivotal role in why people will choose to work for you, remain with you, and do valuable and impactful work while they are there.

So, what characteristics does the ‘perfect’ employer embody?


 

They want to understand how to motivate their staff


Companies that have motivated and highly productive staff are likely to have worked hard to figure out the ways to engage with their workforce.

Are your employee perks aligned with your employees? If you don’t know what your employees expect and desire from you, how can you delight, motivate and prevent losing them?

Current workplace and operational trends that companies are adopting to ensure they are meeting employee expectations are remote working and flexible hours to support employee’s work/life balance, a commitment to providing the latest technology, offering unlimited holiday or extra days and weeks off on birthdays or based on length of service.

Other important aspects are workplace pensions, health insurance and support for employee health and wellness and a general concern for their personal life. Are you precious if an employee takes and hour or so for a dentist or doctors’ appointment? Maybe reconsider your approach to these small elements and consider how much of an impact a change in approach could have.

Take the time to survey your staff and find out what could be implemented to motivate and support them, both in and out of their working hours.

  • Take stock of your current employee demographic, what perks and benefits are aligned with their lifestyles and values, and will enhance their lives? Remote and flexible working shouldn’t hinder performance or collaboration with the technology available today.
  • Invite and encourage ideas from the team – they will know best what motivates them!
  • Consider your business product or service, are there benefits that are also aligned with this? For instance, Patagonia, an outdoor lifestyle clothing brand encourage their staff to be active outdoors as much as possible, and even live stream daily surfing reports so employees catch surf on their lunch break! Another example is Ben and Jerrys giving employees three pints of ice cream each day and encouraging them to share with friends and family!
  • Stop penalising staff – they aren’t merely your employees, they are people. If they need an hour or so for a personal appointment, you may find they are more motivated, content and productive if it simply isn’t an issue.

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They provide a comfortable, positive environment


A recent survey by Saracen Interiors found that a ‘modern’, inspiring space influenced their decisions when it comes to working for a firm. So much so, that 66% of respondents said they would travel further to work in a modern office, and 41% reported that it’s a key factor when it comes to accepting or rejecting a role. Further to this 2 in 3 office workers say that their uninspiring offices had a direct impact on their productivity.

However, an environment is much more than a workspace and a holistic approach needs to be taken when it comes to the culture within a business. An inviting and open culture thrives when there is a commitment to communication and finding solutions, not focusing on barriers.

Negativity and toxicity can fatigue the most energetic and proactive employees, and employees expect a top-down approach to banishing these elements. Optimistic encouragement should be woven into the fabric of the company management style to encourage confidence and integrity, if you deliver company news with an air of doom and gloom, expect this culture to snowball and the business to become stagnant. Encourage mistakes to be learnt from and creative thinking to be used to overcome challenges and watch the team pull together and flourish.

  • Be mindful of the delivery of results and feedback, even if they aren’t as positive as you would have desired. A positive, solution-driven culture must come from the top down, any other approach will create an environment of fear and anxiety – not conditions that are conducive to great work and productive staff.
  • Make it a priority to monitor the general office mood; if there is low morale and unhappy staff, this must be addressed with a plan to alter for the long term.
  • Invest in your office space, and involve your employees, what do they want from the space that would make them comfortable and inspired? Think about your brand, how can your brand be reflected through your office?

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They are respectful


In any relationship that you embark on, whether personal or professional, respect is critical. Put simply – relationships without mutual respect will not work, and significant damage can be caused. In the case of an employee/employer relationship, the damage can be inflicted on an individual’s confidence and self-esteem, causing them to second-guess every move, make mistakes and become anxious with regard to their role, and also to a brand, should you gain a reputation for a company that disrespects their employees.

Respect can be conveyed in both your words, your tone of voice and your actions, and it often overlaps with trust. For instance, do you trust your team to manage their workload without being micromanaged? How are you employees treated if a mistake is made? An emphasis on the importance of good communication is imperative when it comes to creating a culture that embodies respect.

When you consider the spotlight shone onto diversity and inclusion in the workplace, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a tick box exercise. To truly create a talented and diverse workforce, everyone within the business must exhibit respect when it comes to gender, working practices, and styles and personalities, and this includes those in senior and executive positions.

  • Be aware of your tone of voice, body language and demeanour in every interaction you have.
  • Actively listen to all members of the business and focus on what they are saying rather than simply waiting to respond.
  • Understand small gestures such as ‘good morning’, ‘good night’ can go a long way.
  • Make a concerted effort to praise and thank your team more than you criticise – regardless of whether you deem the criticism to be constructive.
  • Demonstrate that you respect your employees’ ideas and suggestions by inviting them to share them, and discussing them, and invite management and senior members of the team to also behave in this way. Implement great ideas and recognise who bought the idea to the table.
  • Stop micromanaging – give your team space to adequate training, make mistakes, learn and grow.

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They understand the importance of having a purpose


When you consider that around 35% of the workforce is now comprised of the value-driven millennial generation, it should come as no surprise that the modern workforce want to feel like their role, and the work they execute, has a purpose.

We now reside in what’s been tipped as the ‘purpose economy’; this doesn’t necessarily only relate to social responsibility, but for individuals too, we want to know that the work we do is meaningful and has value.

By communicating the purpose of a role and team, employees will make an emotional connection and strive to deliver impactful work.

It’s more important than ever for companies to create, communicate live and breathe a mission statement and a measurable set of values to ensure everyone within the team fully understands the role they play in the organisation.

  • Create a comprehensive brand guidelines document that outlines your mission statement, who you are brand are, what they want to achieve and a set of brand values. These elements should be clearly displayed throughout the business.
  • Take the time to communicate the document to the team as a whole, and also individual employees so that they understand exactly how their role and behaviour can encompass the brand values and how they contribute to the overall brand mission.
  • Regularly challenge team members on how a piece of work, project or achievement demonstrates your brand values, to create a purpose-driven culture.

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They offer consistent feedback


Another ode to the art of communication, feedback is an essential part of employee engagement, and ultimately company growth.

From formal one to ones and personal development plans that address weak areas that need improvement, to more informal chats whereby employees can discuss any concerns they have or where they think they would like to develop and progress – providing feedback can provide support and direction.

  • Feedback can help a business to develop internal processes and policies, while also demonstrating to employees that they care about them and want to see them grow and progress.
  • Create a ‘growth mindset’ – feedback is a positive part of our careers, and we will all learn, grow and develop from receiving fresh perspective.
  • Giving feedback is a skill, so invest in training all staff on how to give and receive feedback
  • Set clear, standardised expectations of the regularity, the process and the goal of the sessions
  • A feedback culture must come from the top-down, so ensure the executive team is diarising regular feedback sessions with senior staff to set the example and underpin how important it is to the business.
  • Consider implementing channels whereby feedback can be submitted anonymously for staff who aren’t comfortable giving feedback they perceive to be negative.

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They recognise and appreciate great work


Recognition is an incredibly powerful tool that can motivate employees, improving their confidence and raising the standard of work. Even the smallest token of appreciation can go a long way, do not underestimate the weight that a ‘thank you for your hard work’ carries. Whether that’s face to face, in a personal email or in front of the team – recognising an employee’s efforts and contribution makes them feel valued and reminds them of their purpose.

However, it’s important to remember that you need to be aware of the efforts of ALL team members. By singling out team members when they have also been supported by other members of the team, you will create low morale and have a negative impact on the team.

Hard work and great results should be celebrated, pull the team and business together every quarter and let them know how much you value them.

  • Establish lines of communication so that senior and executive staff are aware of hard work, great contribution, fantastic results and when clients and customers have been delighted – you can’t recognise something that you aren’t aware of.
  • Recognition can come in a variety of ways, day to day from team leaders to motivate and encourage employees, informal recognition such as praise in front of the team and formal recognition in the form of awards and rewards. All forms of recognition should be used.

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They encourage and support progression


According to the Global Talent Trends 2019 report by Mercer, 83% of employees see it as their responsibility to keep their skills up to date. So, while employees are exhibiting a proactive approach by ensuring that their skills are current and relevant – they will of course expect the opportunity to be able to be able to leverage these skills to develop and grow in their role and progress in the business.

High-performing candidates that are focussed on carving a career will not be entering a role that they think will be short-lived and only offers short term prospects. It’s critical that each employee has a clear progression plan and predetermined criteria they need to meet to be able to progress their role. This plan should include tailored training, the time and space to execute this training and regular support and feedback to address their journey through the process.

  • Make sure that the topic of ‘learning and progression’ are on the agenda in feedback meetings.
  • Ask employees where they would like to be in 1, 3 and 5 years and determine what they need to execute in order to achieve this. Once a clear development plan and predetermined goals are put in place, it is far easier for employees to focus on achieving each goal.
  • Set timelines for learning; many companies use 30, 60 and 90 learning plans.
  • Move from ‘management’ to ‘mentoring’ – it’s one aspect to have a written development plan in place but exploring the reasons behind why an employee wants to progress and develop, employers can better understand how to support a team member.
  • Allow for ‘growth time’ by allowing 10% of an employee’s time to be spent on personal and professional growth.

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If you are committed to attracting and retaining top talent, it’s important to make sure they you are offering the environment, culture and employee benefits and initiatives that motivate and support your team. This isn’t about paying lip service, and offering free tea and coffee, it’s about a sustained and comprehensive pledge to ensure your workforce have everything they need to be proud of their employer and the work that they do.