123rf35260568 best workplace largeBecoming an employer of choice has value for any business. Just as taking care of customers matters, a reputation for looking after your employees helps to attract top talent to your organization.

In the increasingly candidate-driven employment market, business owners and managers find themselves needing to [quotes]develop a competitive edge in the workplace or settle for the applicants others turned down.[/quotes]

The semi-official bible of great companies to work for is the annual survey of Canada’s most popular employers. Reviewing the latest survey yielded interesting results among small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). You want to be on that list!

Here are some ideas on how you can make it onto this list:

Promote Career Advancement

Do your employees feel confident about voicing their interests in taking up other positions internally, or is it a “no-go” area of conversation? In a 2015 study by research firm Gallup, [quotesright]51 percent of employees were actively looking for a new position, [/quotesright] although not necessarily with a new employer. Reasons given were mostly to expand their horizons, and to do what they were good at.

It’s challenging for employers to keep staff interested and engaged, but you can do it by enabling career advancement from within. [quotes]This doesn’t necessarily have to mean moving up the ladder, either;[/quotes] many top employees are after increased knowledge and experience.

Internal mobility or lateral movement, with a bit of additional compensation thrown in, can provide a fresh career path, training opportunities, and new experiences for employees – even when job promotions aren’t available.

Provide Good Performance Feedback

Performance review methods differ widely between organizations, with some companies holding them quarterly and others almost never. Whatever is your practice, to become a top-tier employer [quotesright]it’s essential that your staff get the feedback they need. [/quotesright] Some of the golden rules are:

  • Put goal-setting first. Regardless of the components of your performance review, goal setting needs to be your primary driver. Unless your employee knows precisely what’s expected of him, and has it documented for reference purposes, you can’t expect him to deliver. Certainty breeds confidence, and knowing what his role is empowers him to perform it.
  • Give feedback regularly. [quotesright]Don’t wait until the formal review meeting[/quotesright] to do so. If the feedback is positive, your employee needs to know it sooner rather than later for motivational purposes. If it’s negative, the earlier he (or she) can address it the more empowered he is likely to feel, and the better your results.
  • Ask about his or her dreams. It’s surprising how many employers simply have no clue about their employees’ future plans and desires. The performance review is an ideal opportunity to find out what your top talent would like to be doing a few years from now, and [quotesright]help them map out paths to get there that can benefit your organization. [/quotesright]

A primary criterion for the selection of Canada’s best employers was how they provided feedback, with 85 percent of participants responding that they were open to criticism if they knew it was constructive.

Put People First

Despite the diversity of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet and his declaration of his “feminism,” corporate Canada has a long way to go to catch up. In 2016, women held only 42 of more than 500 C-level senior executive positions in public companies.

To foster a corporate culture that puts people first (both customers and employees), [quotes]it’s essential to create equal opportunities for workers from all walks of life.[/quotes] That includes gender equality, such as trans or “other” genders, immigrants and new Canadians, older workers, disabled people, and visible minorities.

A 2016 sentiment survey by ADP showed [quotesright]65 percent of workers could be considered a ‘”flight risk,” [/quotesright] based on feeling uninspired, disrespected, and unengaged. By putting people first, you create better managers, foster loyalty and help your employees achieve their dreams.

Turn Employees into Brand Evangelists

You’ll find plenty of information available on how to turn your customers into evangelists for your brand, but [quotesright]who better to have on your side than your own employees? [/quotesright] Make your staff proud to represent your product or service, by doing the following:

  • Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk. Invest in training for your employees; create opportunities for them to express themselves and take risks; support them studying further, even if it’s in a different direction than their current jobs.
  • Enable a healthy work-life balance. Few workers are going to “live for their jobs” for long, before their desire for a normal existence gets in the way. Insist on downtime, vacation time, and regular opportunities to enjoy life, and make sure you pay your staff well enough to able to take them. It’s not about the money, but about having a supportive environment where they feel valued and appreciated.
  • Identify how you can empower your employees to live your brand by talking to them, finding out what they think of it, and taking note of their input.

Encourage your workers, not through financial incentives or tangible rewards, but by developing them to be the very best they can be. [quotesright]Recognize their successes, coach them to overcome their failures, and take them along on the journey with you. [/quotesright]