Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is Your Company a "Best Employer?"

You know the source! Unfinished Business
What does it take to be a "Best Employer" company? And why is that a goal worth setting - and achieving - for your organization?

I was doing some research for a webinar on employee experience that I'll be hosting with Intradiem on March 18, and came across Aon Hewitt's Global Trends in Employee Engagement 2014 report. There are some interesting findings, which you can download for yourself.

The area of the report that most interested me focused on their Best Employer findings. What makes a company a Best Employer? And why is that even important?

Aon Hewitt defines Best Employers as companies that: "...drive consistent long-term performance through organizational cultures marked by strong leadership, strong performance orientation, a strong brand and, ultimately, strong employee engagement."

So, picking that apart, there are five attributes that go into defining a company as a Best Employer. They are...

1. Strong culture: When it comes to talent, "they attract the best through a strong reputation; they select and retain the best through a compelling value proposition; and they focus and engage their talent through a performance orientation that is driven by many facets of performance management,
growth and rewards

2. Strong employee engagement: "Employees at best employer organizations want to invest their energy in these companies and are at lower risk of taking their talents elsewhere than the average employee at the average employer."

3. Strong brand: This one is an interesting attribute, almost a chicken-and-egg story of sorts.  "Best employer companies are created through strong reputations. Strong reputations are also created through being known as one of the best places to work." To help clarify, though, the report goes on to state: "Strong brands also come from strong financial performance, social responsibility, and a compelling EVP (employee value proposition) that connects an external brand promise to customers with delivery on the internal brand promise to employees."

4. Strong performance orientation: It is "supported by enabling performance management processes, effective people management, ensuring learning and development support the capability required to perform, and reinforcement of performance through rewards and recognition." And it is "critical not only to having an engaging work environment with a great reputation, but also to having a healthy organization that is clearly focused on definition, enablement and delivery of high performance. This performance outcome is apparent in both individual and company performance."

5. Strong leadership: I think this is my favorite. You can't be a Best Employer if you don't have strong leadership that gets it. I've written about executive buy-in many times, mainly as it pertains to the customer experience, but it applies to the employee experience, as well - nothing happens without it. The report states that these companies are differentiated through leadership in four different ways; leaders set the tone by: 1) cultivating and developing talent; 2) having an unrelenting focus on talent beyond a typical performance management cycle; 3) aligning leadership programs and practices with business strategy; and 4) living it, i.e., leadership is a way of life; it's embedded in their values, expected behaviors, and culture.

Many of these remind me of a post I wrote about Brand Integrity.

Why is being a Best Employer an important goal to achieve? Well, there's this thing called a spillover effect, which I've also written about a few times. Remember that the employee experience drives the customer experience; if your employees aren't engaged, it will be very difficult for them to delight your customers. And that translates to the bottom line.

Need proof? The report tells us this:

Best employer companies drive higher engagement, revenue growth and shareholder value than do companies with top quartile engagement levels alone. They outperform the average company on revenue growth (6 percentage points), operating margin (4 percentage points) and total shareholder return (6 percentage points). They even outperform those companies marked by high employee engagement alone.
Source: Aon Hewitt Global Trends in Employee Engagement 2014
I've written about employee engagement and the employee experience many times. I'm constantly reminding clients and readers alike that the employee experience cannot be an afterthought. For more of my thoughts, check out the EmpExp Posts page on my site. The bottom line is that you can no longer ignore the employee experience. There's too much riding on it, not the least of which is the success of the business!

On what high-performing companies should be striving to create: A great place for great people to do great work. -Marilyn Carlson, former CEO of Carlson Companies

To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace. -Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup


  1. Your comment about performance management particularly resonates with me Annette

    People want to take pride in their job. How often do companies let them be the best they can be?


  2. Hi Annette,
    Back in 1999, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman wrote how Managers Trump Companies - People join companies, but leave managers (http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/523/how-managers-trump-companies.aspx).

    I think there is real truth in their insights and wonder where improving a supervisors, managers or leaders ability to manage fits within the best employer framework.


    1. I think there's definitely truth to the concept that people join companies and leave managers. In the end, we are people working for people. And if the people we are working for treat us poorly, don't help us grow, don't allow us to do our best job... then we leave those people.

  3. Hi Annette,

    You've hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, too many employees are still getting hit over the head these days.

    Back in 2004, my company developed the Contact Center Employer of Choice award to recognize the great contact center employers and to help improve the not-so-great ones. We wanted to address the challenges around employee morale, engagement and turnover which are huge in this industry. So the areas you mention in your article really hit home. What we see is, improvement in these areas not only creates a better customer experience, but a more profitable company. Our statistics vet that out. It's truly amazing. And any organization can achieve these results if they have the will and the commitment to create a better workplace culture and sustain it.

    Thanks for the great article and keep up the good fight!

    Best regards,
    Jeff Doran
    President, CCEOC Inc.

    1. Thanks so much, Jeff, for your comments. Couldn't have said it better myself. Love the premise for the award!