5 ways to become an employer of choice

How to meet employee needs and develop a progressive workplace


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A lot is said about how employees can score points with the boss whether its being the first in and the last out, or even taking on additional responsibilities beyond their job title. Yet, not much is said about how employers also need to keep their end of the deal by providing a workplace where their employees will not only grow, but also thrive.

The Top Employer Institute which recognises and certifies exceptional employers worldwide, defines optimal employee conditions as those that help "people develop themselves personally and professionally."  

Large companies have also recognised the benefits of developing employees and creating an atmosphere of growth. Just recently, Microsoft SA was announced as the number one employer in the country by The Top Employer Institute for its work culture and management programmes. 

Zoaib Hoosen, managing director of Microsoft SA, in a recent interview said winning the award was in keeping with Microsoft’s new mission to empower every person and organisation including its own employees.

"We believe in bringing out the best in our people through the use of technology and skills development. Doing so, not only enables companies to remain highly competitive in tough times, but also allows the organisation to constantly innovate and address the changing needs of our customers during times of technological or business disruption, as well as digital change."

Growth and development

Michelle Moss, the co-founder and director of Talent Africa, a company that helps companies in South Africa and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa find talent, believes that offering staff opportunities to grow and giving them room to express themselves is key to employee development. 

There is a wide range of ways to develop staff, says Moss from employee-focused programmes to encouraging social connections.

Here are Moss's 5 ways, business owners can meet their employees' needs and foster employee satisfaction. 

1. Give plenty of opportunities to develop
This can be done through formal training and education, workshops and conference attendance. It can be done through providing coaching and mentoring and it must also be done through on-the-job training. For example: stretch assignments where they are given a project or a task that ‘throws them into the deep end’. When working on things that are a bit beyond them, their capacity is stretched and they learn far more in this practical way than reading a text book alone.   

Spend time identifying talent in your employees. Make sure you have career or development discussions with each one to understand their needs and their goals. It is a common mistake to fast track your best performers into leadership roles. Perhaps these best performers want to be deep specialists and have no ambition to become leaders. Perhaps the quiet graduate in the corner has a burning ambition to be a team leader, but does not know how to promote their visibility or does not know the different techniques to persuade and influence others.   

2. Offer useful feedback
People like to know how they are doing. It costs nothing to give somebody useful feedback and it is a great way to help employees develop and hone their skills on the job. Don’t wait for formal annual performance reviews to discuss this. 

By then it’s too late. Keep the discussion going throughout the year. An informal but meaningful ‘check in’ over a cup of coffee can sometimes motivate, encourage and inspire an employee far more than ticking a list of key performance indicators during the annual performance appraisal – an exercise usually dreaded by both employees and bosses.

3. Make space for employees to be innovative
Give them the permission to dream up new ideas and different ways of doing things. Give them responsibilities and give them the freedom to make mistakes that can be turned into learning opportunities. Everyone in the company is responsible for growing the business and servicing clients, not just the CEO and the sales guys.

Be open to their ideas on how to do this better. Trusting your employees with this does not mean that the manager abdicates responsibility and the employee is given free reign. That would be foolish and invite all sorts of trouble. The boss still needs to keep a bird’s eye view of what is going on and provide advice and guidance whenever necessary to ensure ultimate success.  

4. Make work meaningful
Most employees want to identify with the vision, the mission, and the goals of the company they work for. As an employer make sure these are communicated often. Make sure these are visible and on your website, discussed during the recruitment processes, evaluated during performance management, in fact permeating all cycles of the employees life in the company. Once their values are aligned with those of the employer, and the employee finds meaning and value in the work they do, the employer will have someone who is engaged, passionate, proud of their company, and wanting to go the extra mile for the company and its clients.  

5. Pay your employees what they are worth
Reward and recognition is still critically important in the workplace. The way in which employers reward and recognise employees comes in many different shapes and forms. Sometimes it can be a simple ‘thank you’ or a written acknowledgement for everyone in the company to see, other times it can be increasing responsibility, a promotion, extra time off, small financial rewards like a book voucher, or big financial incentives like an overseas trip with a significant other.

A fair trade is important to most people, however, and compensating employees fairly and appropriately is simply the entry ticket to obtaining the services of an employee. Whether compensation can be used to guarantee talent attraction, motivation, job satisfaction or retention is another debate entirely.  

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