Becoming an Employer of Choice

Unemployment may still be high, but that doesn’t mean great workers are easy to recruit, motivate and retain. In this video interview, Stacey Bigelow explains why becoming an employer of choice is critical to attracting and keeping superior employees right now:

 

Video Transcript:

Mandy Wittschen:

What does it mean to be an employer of choice –  and how can you use it to your advantage in today’s economy? My name’s Mandy Wittschen, and today I’m joined by The Advance Group’s president, Stacey Bigelow, who’ll be answering these questions and more. Welcome and thank you for joining me today, Stacey.

Stacey:

Thank you, Mandy.

Mandy:

Today’s discussion is all about becoming an employer of choice, and specifically, what businesses can do to make their organization more attractive to candidates and current employees. But before we get into that portion of today’s conversation, Stacey, if you would, just take a minute and tell us a little bit about your professional background, The Advance Group and who you serve.

Stacey:

I’d love to. I founded the company almost 30 years ago. Actually, next month is our anniversary. And I’ve been blessed to have some unbelievable people that have been very supportive of me and I really feel like I was mentored over the years. We have three and a half offices: an office in Sylvania, Ohio, Monroe, Michigan, and Dundee, Michigan, and then also Southgate, Michigan.

We really handle everything from the Toledo and Detroit markets in the manufacturing, distribution, warehouse and fulfillment areas. We do a lot of shift work. We provide people on a project or temporary basis, temp to hire and also direct hire basis for our clients.

Mandy:

Great. Thank you for that introduction. Let’s start with a quick 101 for anyone who’s not familiar with the term. What does it mean to be an “employer of choice”?

Stacey:

Okay, so big topic. An employer of choice is an employer who offers a great work culture and a workplace environment that will not only attract, but retain superior employees. If you want top notch employees, you have to be able to attract them and you have to be able to keep them.

Being an employer of choice is also focused on the wellbeing of employees, their safety and the happiness of employees and their customers. And safety is a huge concern right now as we’re in the midst of this COVID pandemic.

Mandy:

Sure. In today’s economy and employment market, why is it important for companies to aspire to become an employer of choice?

Stacey:

Well, the pandemic has really led to widespread unemployment, and there’s so many additional challenges that go along with that: fear of the virus, COVID-19; the safety and wellbeing of people and their families; and the uncertainty on whether schools are going to be in session, and if kids are going to be safe in schools or childcare arrangements. This pandemic has caused people immeasurable anxiety and high stress; I don’t know when we’ll actually come out of that.

If you’re not exceeding what people can receive without having to work, then you’re not going to capture that audience, that talented workforce that you’re looking for. You have to be able to not only offer it, but to showcase what you’re doing – like providing a safe work environment, and providing job security. What does that mean in your organization? How can you show that to those talented workers out there and to give people the flexibility that they need in this day and age?

Mandy:

It sounds like it has a lot more to do than with just pay rates right now. And I know specifically that The Advance Group has worked hard to develop your reputation as an employer of choice. What did the process involve for you? Where did you start and what did you do?

Stacey:

We really wanted to create an atmosphere from the beginning so employees are able to advance, right? We want to make sure that we’ve got high performance and very collaborative teams. We listen to our employees. And I think that that’s really important to listen to what they have to say. That collaboration that we have within our teams, I mean, they are the brightest and the best. We get great feedback from them and implement many of their ideas for process improvement. We’re willing to try anything, during these abnormal times.

We’ve instituted some quarterly S.M.A.R.T. awards, which recognize Some Measurable Action Recognized Throughout the company. That was one of my employee’s ideas that stuck, and everybody loves it. We also do weekly appreciation and recognition during our team meetings. We’re constantly evolving, looking for ways to go from good to great. That’s kind of our motto, especially this year.

We also recently implemented some new technology to improve the interface with not only our staff members, but with our employees and our candidates, so that it’s more user-friendly. That was a plus to be able to really advance some of the things that we’re doing forward.

We encourage our employees to develop their skills and advance their careers and offer them lots of career pathing and training opportunities.

I think flexible scheduling is very important now, too. We have many contests and incentives to create a “fun” factor, because we all work a lot of hours.

Finally, having a comprehensive benefits package is extremely important. Enhanced PTO is essential, because life does happen and we want employees to have that balance of work and life. We have a 401(k) too, so it rounds out our generous compensation package.

Mandy:

You’ve provided so many great ideas there. If I were an HR leader or a business owner, what could my company do to strengthen our employment brand and attract higher quality candidates? Where would you advise somebody to start?

Stacey:

Well, listen to your people, right? See what’s on their mind and don’t be afraid to change.

I think you have to practice what you preach. Early in this pandemic, I was concerned about the health and well-being of our employees because of this level of stress we were all feeling. And so we really enhanced our EAP (employee assistance program). We met with the staff, we reviewed why we were doing what we were doing, and that’s extremely important – so people understand and feel comfortable using this resource. We added this benefit at no cost to them, explained the offerings, kept them educated and then kept this new program top of mind.

I think that that’s really important, but also, when your company is posting a job on a website or a job board, you’ve got to be able to change your mindset from what you’re looking for to what you’re going to do for the employee. Think: What do you have to offer that employee? Candidates have a lot of choices right now. They’re very quick to go on social media and take a look at reviews to determine what the company’s reputation is, so it’s important to keep an eye on that.

Mandy:

And that leads me to my next question. Actually, it was a perfect lead-in. That is, how important are candidate and employee reviews to a company’s reputation?

Stacey:

They’re very important. In this day and age of technology, you can grab your smartphone and check out reviews before you purchase a product. It’s at people’s fingertips. If a customer walks out of a business and is not satisfied or they are at a restaurant, and they’re dissatisfied, it’s quick and easy for them to give very specific reviews online. It’s out there.

It is essential to make sure that you’re monitoring those review platforms and that you’re responsive. If someone is unhappy, what are you going to do as a company to fix it? Get on the phone, talk to that person and see what you can do to change the situation. And a lot of times it might just be a simple misunderstanding.

Mandy:

Sure. And sometimes those simple misunderstanding set the stage for service recovery, which allows you to do even more to promote your employer brand and strengthen it.

Stacey:

Absolutely.

Mandy:

And then finally, what advice would you give to a leader who’s struggling with creating an employer of choice work environment or culture? Because it does impact culture. It’s defined by culture in ways.

Stacey:

Yes, it is. It is. I think there are a lot of things that you can do as an employer to really reevaluate, obviously your starting pay, because you want to be competitive. Do you offer shift differentials? Can you stabilize your work schedules? Because last minute overtime doesn’t work for everyone right now, right? This is a weird time, especially for childcare and for schools.

Add flexibility because employees really need that. Offer potentially part-time opportunities or job sharing opportunities. There are many things you can do to make sure that the workload is covered and you have a happy staff to be able to maintain that. And of course, safety is a top priority. Make sure you have clear policies and strict procedures. It’s very necessary in today’s climate.

Some companies that we’re working with right now are really updating their hiring criteria. Maybe there was a lot of steps in their process and that now causes them to lose people in today’s market, especially with so many opportunities. If somebody can get a job and not have to jump through a bunch of hoops and another employer wants them to take an assessment and three interviews, well, you know what? They might go the other way. I mean, a candidate’s perception of your reputation starts from the get-go, so take a look at your hiring criteria and update them if necessary.

I am very happy to meet, and we do this quite often with our clients, and talk to employers about what’s happening in the marketplace. I mean, we are very embedded in our communities and we know a lot of people and what their practices are. We’re happy to bring that insight to them to really share some best practices with what we’re seeing out there, in terms of what’s working and what’s not working.

Mandy:

Well, there’s so much involved with the subject of employment brand and you’ve done a really good job providing some practical takeaways that employers can begin implementing immediately to make a difference in becoming an employer of choice. I’d like to thank you for sharing all these insights today, Stacey.

Stacey:

Thank you, Mandy.

 

 

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