Monday, October 20, 2014

Future Workplace | Best Employers

What does it take to be a preferred employer; a workplace of choice in the ever more competitive quest for talent. What do you need to do to keep your top talent on board in the knowledge industries?

Perhaps a funky office fit-out, free lunch, pool tables or an x-box in the on-floor coffee bar? Corporate discounts, the newest smart phone, a seat in the corporate box at the football?

There are already so many think pieces on this in the business media from better thinkers than me, so rather than theorize, I'm just going to share. These are the things that I look for in a workplace, and which would help convince me to work for you.

In my view, strap-on benefits (gadgets, discounts and games) can help, but they can't make up for getting the fundamentals right: pay, time and culture. And I think, importantly, the communication of pay, time and culture...


When it comes to remuneration, I want to know that you, my prospective employers are not taking the piss.

It never ceases to amaze me how wrong companies can get it when it comes to remuneration and how the framework for performance and remuneration is managed. It is the one criticism that has recurred in every workplace I've ever been... And it is seldom just a question of how much people earn, but an understanding that they are being looked after.

Let's be clear: I am not interested in working for a company that does not pay competitively, does not provide transparency of how pay is addressed and does not conduct itself with integrity in how remuneration is managed with employees.

What remuneration transparency means to me is:

- a quantitative industry assessment of pay at my grade;

- company data for pay at each grade (not individuals, but useful statistical data, including level, gender and location);

- a high level breakdown of company costs; salaries, cost of doing business, other costs and profit target.

It must be clear that what I earn is commensurate with the industry, the broader company and that the balance of the business is such that the fruit of my labour is not wasted.

And when putting in place performance management processes, the link between performance assessment and remuneration must be crystal clear. There must be no 'black box' where some assessment of performance goes in, and out comes a remuneration outcome that cannot be explained.

With pay, context makes up for a lot. To be considered a preferred employer, you must show me how my remuneration is competitive; in the industry and the company.


When it comes to time, I want to know that you value my time.

Time really, truly, is limited - it is the one thing that you can never get back. So a company that does not value my time, does not value me.

In the creative industries, overtime is a fact of life - we are not a strict 9-5 industry... Project workloads are not smooth, so there is an inevitable need for some time of pushing the edges to meet the requirements of the business. But if this is not balanced by an equivalent flexibility, then I remain unconvinced of a company's 'preferred employer' credentials.

A business that structurally requires extensive overtime to be profitable is not a business I want to work for. It is evidence of poor management that it is only profitable by extracting value from employees.

To show a respect for my time, an employer of choice would:

- avoid a culture of showing face - where assessment is based on how late employees stay, or proxy metrics like 'after hours pizza orders'; and

- seek to build a culture of delivery-based performance and assessment.

In many respects, efficiency and profitability run directly counter to excessive time at the office. A business that communicates its focus on delivery rather than time is on the path to preferred employer status.  


Culture is perhaps the biggest contributor to being a preferred employer as it encompasses both pay and time, but it is much broader than that. There are a few other key indicators that your company has the culture of a preferred employer:

-   diversity; you must disclose your employee breakdown along gender and minority representation lines (company-wide, within your executive suite and the gender current pay gap at each level);

-   sustainability; you must disclose your position on key sustainability issues and show how you address those issues in your operations;

If you do not have a progressive attitude to women, minority groups and the environment you cannot be considered a preferred employer. And woe betide you if your executives make racist or sexist jokes assuming I'm in on it - culture is always easier to spot than to describe, always easier to break than to make.

Once you have these core things in place - transparent remuneration processes, delivery-focused time management and an office culture that celebrates diversity - the other things can have their turn in the sun.

That being said, a few things to be wary of:

-   don't dress cross-corporate advertising up as benefits; marginal special offers on other corporate products (gym membership, insurance etc) is not a benefit, it's just a marketing gimmick. We all have enough of those. Benefits must have real value and no hidden agendas.
-   don't link benefits to charity events and other initiatives to enhance your corporate reputation. If we want to give, we will do so of our own accord. Corporate social responsibility is your responsibility, and while it's important, it is not a direct employee incentive.
-   make sure you have decent to coffee - there's really no excuse not to.

All this really just boils down to a creating and communicating culture of shared values and authenticity. These are things that are valuable to me and I value a transparent, authentic approach to them...

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