How employers are luring workers
By Cara Jenkin
Employers are resorting to unusual tactics to lure workers, and workers are emerging as the big winners in the war for talented staff.
The lures used to hire the best workers are intensifying beyond higher salaries, as employers try to find new ways to make themselves more attractive to staff.
The Employer of Choice movement has grown in the past 10 years, after originating as a way to recognise the social responsibility of employers who hire staff from minority groups in the workforce, such as indigenous staff or women.
Traditionally, employers vied to hire the best staff by offering a higher salary to their competitors. Now they offer an increasing range of perks, from paid parental leave to a day off for parents on their child's first day of school.
The moves are being recognised with awards set up by human resources and employer branding groups such as the Best Place to Work, the World's Most Attractive Employers, Employers of Choice for Women and Excellence for Diversity@Work.
Recruitment and human resources solutions firm Randstad is one company which held its own employer of choice awards last year.
Chief executive Fred van der Tang says the importance of strong employer branding should not be underestimated as skills shortages intensify around the world.
``Companies with strong employer brands . . . have a natural advantage over their competitors,'' he says.
``Job seekers are drawn to companies for a number of reasons. There are obvious enticements such as financial reward, job security and the opportunity for career progression but employers that offer a good work/life balance, strong company culture, quality training and development packages and flexible working conditions can be equally attractive,'' he says.
The shortage of skilled workers in many industries, whether caused by a lack of people with the right training or because there are not enough workers to keep up with demand, is making employing the best staff more competitive.
Unemployment levels are among the lowest for 30 years, which limits the pool of workers, and the ageing workforce is reducing the pool further as workers retire. It puts the employment market at a job seeker's advantage, who can pick and choose between roles, rather than the employer.
A high salary also no longer is the most important consideration for many workers, with the increased awareness and desire for work/life balance now sought after.
Being publicly named as an Employer of Choice by an external organisation is the pinnacle for employers who can use the title in everything from recruitment campaigns to general advertising.
Companies that offer a complete package will do the best in hiring good staff, van der Tang says.
``The stakes for Australian companies are high,'' he says.
The Public Relations Institute of Australia says triple bottom-line reporting social, environmental and economic is becoming standard practice among major companies.
``EOC (Employer of Choice) can be viewed from many perspectives, including from staff, employers, the industry's and the public's perspective,'' its research paper, Reputation and Employer of Choice for Australian Business states.
``Internally the employer's perspective and the employees' perspective can substantially influence the success of the business.''
CASE STUDY 1
Culture we can bank on
NAB has received several Employer of Choice awards for its diverse and flexible workplace.
They include being recognised as an Employer of Choice for Women by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency for the fifth year in a row last year.
NAB People and Culture business partner Heather Webb says: "We off er a range of flexible options including part-time work, job sharing, compressed working weeks and working from home to give people choices that support them both at work and at home."
Business Banking associate Nadia Noori moved from a rival bank 10 years ago because of NAB's reputation as a good employer.
"Morale was really high ... there were good opportunities to move up as well," she says. She has since taken advantage of flexible working hours and enjoys her job-share role and being able to work from home.
"All these things enable me to still have a career and still look after my kids," she says.
Fellow Business Banking associate Lucie Wall has been employed at NAB for almost a year. Flexibility to pursue study or raise a family was a key attraction. She was allowed to come in late on Fridays while finishing her degree to attend morning lectures.
Senior Business Banking manager Peter Branson has stayed at the bank for 12 years.
"There was a lot of guidance and training," he says."You are supported and trusted to do the work you need to do in whatever hours you need to do it and wherever."
CASE STUDY 2
Staff earn a lucky break
IKEA was one of the world's 20 most attractive employers in 2011, global employer branding company Universum says. Ikea HR manager Elle Winter says the benefits package off ered to employees is one of the main attractions. It includes a discount on products and subsidised food and beverages in the employee restaurant, and free television, internet and computer access during break times.
Ikea off ers leave days for birthdays, for medical appointments, to take an extended unpaid career break, parental leave, blood donor's leave and first-day-of school leave.
"We see kids as the most important people in the world.
We want benefits that reflect that policy," Winter says.
"(Applicants say) 'We want to work for Ikea because I love Ikea and want to work there'. People see us as an employer of choice.
"Once we've got good solid people in the business, we want to retain them."
Defence Force winning hearts and minds
THE Defence Force was struggling to recruit staff before embarking on an internal makeover to its recruitment campaign, which led to it being nominated as a Dream Employer in the 2011 survey by InSync Surveys and RedBalloon.
Insync Surveys chief executive James Garriock says it was a surprise addition to the list, in 16th place, after a year of negative publicity.
``The result indicates a shift (among workers) towards more stable industries,'' he says. ``Almost 60 per cent of people are attracted by the pay, benefits and conditions the armed forces offer.
``Training and development attracted 56 per cent of the vote, which is the mainstay of their advertising campaigns, and only 38 per cent are driven by their personal interest.''
Employers of choice:
- Employ people with a disability; from indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; matureage workers; gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex workers; women and youth.
- Include all workers in management and leadership opportunities.
- Report high levels of satisfaction and/or morale among staff .
- Have a good reputation in the business and wider community.
- Employers usually nominate for an Employer of Choice award, from which a written submission is judged against the selection criteria by an internal or external judging panel.
- Tools used by employers of choice include:
- Reward and recognition programs.
- Flexible work practices.
- Career development programs.
- Involving employees in decisions.
- Family-friendly policies.