"Employer of Choice" -- What is It?

We're seeing this term used a lot these days. "An Employer of Choice" say the recruitment advertisements, but you're right to wonder what it really means.

The term has as yet no universally-recognized legal or professional standing other than being used by a variety of government and semi-official organizations in specific activities. It was originally coined as a marketing phrase for the recruitment industry and its use has quickly spread around the world as such things do in our communications-powered business environment.

This doesn't mean that the idea of being an Employer of Choice (EOC) isn't worth pursuing. In fact, becoming an EOC is a worthwhile goal for every enterprise, regardless of its size or industry.

In their book "How to Become an Employer of Choice", workplace trend analysts Roger E. Herman and Joyce L. Gioia tell us: "The phrase is more than just a buzzword; it is representative of a whole new design of corporate culture."

They point out that the skills shortage currently in the news means that in the years to come it will be increasingly difficult to attract and hold good people. They say that enlightened employers will be able to differentiate themselves and become the employers people choose to work for after they reject those who offer less attractive employment propositions.

The authors tell us that the EOCs of the future will be successful because they motivate their employees and create opportunities for them to grow. This concept is more common sense than rocket science, yet most employers haven't the slightest idea of how their people really feel about their work or how to motivate them.

An Employer of Choice is willing to restructure itself to become and remain a better place to work than other businesses. People feel good about working there and because they can achieve more the business itself will achieve.

Dr. John Sullivan, HR expert and Professor of Business Management at San Francisco State University, sees EOC as a "conscious corporate-wide employment strategy designed to re-make a company image as 'a great place to work'."  He says that a business will benefit greatly from becoming an EOC including having an easier time recruiting and retraining talented people, as well as receiving favorable publicity and a higher share price.

Importantly, Dr. Sullivan also notes that being an EOC makes it easy to maintain corporate culture because the employees and the public "assist in maintaining it". This in turn will help attract customers and strategic partners.

How can you recognize an EOC? Dr. Sullivan has a long list of characteristics that are all beneficial to the organization. Among these are that it is the first to be benchmarked against when companies are looking for "best in the world" best practices, that it is generally among the most profitable in its industry, and that the firm's name, product, and brand are among those most recognized by the public.

The Australian Government's Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) has jumped into the fray with a program that awards "The Employer of Choice for Women (EOCFW)" citation to a list of businesses that is reviewed annually. To be an "EOWA Employer of Choice for Women", an organization needs to:

- Have policies in place (across employment matters) that support women across the organization;
- Have effective processes and practices (across employment matters) that are transparent;
- Have strategies in place that support a commitment to fully utilizing and developing its people (including women);
- Educate its employees (including supervisors and managers) on their rights and obligations regarding sex-based harassment;
- Have an inclusive organizational culture that is championed by the CEO, driven by senior executives and holds line managers accountable; and
- Deliver improved outcomes for women and the business.

On its website the agency points out that the EOCFW citation "provides significant positioning in a competitive market place, particularly when an organization is seeking to attract the best possible talent."

From Canada comes the Government of Manitoba's Employer of Choice Program. The aims of the program are to give SMEs throughout Manitoba ways to deal with their labor force issues and to maximize productivity and profitability.

They define an Employer of Choice as "...a company or organization where employee actions are directly aligned with business goals, employees feel appreciated and valued for their hard work, and where their contributions are acknowledged and rewarded."

This is a pilot program beginning in the 2005-6 financial year and offers an on-line assessment and tools for businesses that are having difficulty finding new employees, are losing employees to competitors for more money, or are finding it difficult to motivate existing workers or having them adapt to change.

There is at least one business built around the concept of EOC and that's Employer of Choice, Inc., an affiliate of The Herman Group in Greensboro North Carolina. The firm awards an "Employer of Choice"-- designation to businesses that meet their criteria and pay an assessment fee for the evaluation.

Employer of Choice, Inc. says on its website that '"companies that don't become 'Employer of Choice' will continue to do business. The quality of success will be different, as will the vulnerability to failure."

It adds that "Organizations that earn the right to be described as 'Employers of Choice' will enjoy a higher level of performance, greater workforce stability, and the level of continuity that assures preservation of the knowledge base, customer loyalty, employee satisfaction, and stronger profits."

We'll leave the last word on the subject on Employers of Choice to authors Roger E. Herman and Joyce L. Gioia. In their book "How to Become an Employer of Choice" they summarize the reasons why any business should give serious thought about becoming an EOC:

It means that people will choose to work for you. It means that people will choose to really dedicate themselves to your success. It means that people will choose to stay with you, even when they are being courted by recruiters from other employers -- recruiters with exceptionally attractive inducements.

n the years ahead, workforce stability will be a company's competitive edge...the most successful employers will be those who legitimately inspire highly talented workers to stay with them and join them.




Copyright 2005, RAN ONE Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from http://www.ranone.com

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