Why is it becoming so important to be an employer of choice?


Why is it becoming so important to be an employer of choice?

Care is the crux.

Employees now have more options for their career moves than ever before, and for the employees that are highly skilled, it’s their call on where they want to work and where they think the grass is greener. Gone are the days of working for one company your whole life. So, what attracts and retains employees?

These days, businesses are realising they need the ‘Employer of Choice’ badge to attract and retain good talent. The ‘Employer of Choice’ title speaks volumes to prospective employees, often more than the salary does. Employees no longer just chase the salary carrot; it’s not enough. This is why employers are seeking new ways to increase their value proposition by implementing initiatives that qualify them as an ‘Employer of Choice’ to rise above the competition.

“For employees being an ‘Employer of Choice’ is a sign that you care about your people. More and more, employees are choosing to work at organisations they feel are going to support them – their lifestyle, wellbeing and career. So, seeing the ‘Employer of Choice’ status can positively impact the decision-making process – particularly when candidates compare you with a competitor.”

Ryan McGrory, Founder of exsona

The ‘Employer of Choice’ award is such an attractive accolade that there are more than seven prestigious peak bodies in Australia that allocate these awards every year. Through the years, the criteria to be nominated has evolved from basic factors like safety, satisfaction levels, remuneration packages, education and training opportunities, tenure and turn-over rate, to more evolved factors. These include having good leadership (as rated by employees), mentoring pathways as well as innovation and employee growth opportunities. Within the last couple of years, the criteria have elevated further to focus on wellbeing, flexibility, work-life balance, diversity and inclusion. So why has the ‘Employer of Choice’ criteria changed in this way and why are these new criteria so important?

“Winning awards can increase the patriotism people feel inside an organisation – affirming their choice to join and to stay – but the real work is creating an environment that cares for employee wellbeing, which starts long before the awards. They’re just the icing on the cake once you create something special.” 

Rhonda Brighton-Hall Founder and CEO of Mwah

The evolution of the criteria shows that employers are listening to or need to listen to what employees want and, as a result, companies are finding they get a return on their investment. But what do employees want? Employees, in every industry and role, ultimately want to know the company they work for values them. Thus, the employee’s contribution and loyalty to their work organisation (the return on investment) is heavily tied to how valued they feel.

A big shift is that employers are realising they can only show their employees they are truly valued by having a personalised and individual approach. Caring and valuing each individual employee is a challenge, because it takes time and, sometimes, resources to understand each employee’s personal circumstances.

Scaling this personal approach is not easy in organisations of any size, but it isn’t impossible if the right leadership, management structure and tools are available. Employees have family and personal lives, social lives as well as health and financial influences that impact them – these all factor into an employee’s overall wellbeing and engagement at work. Ultimately, employers need to provide support for all of these different elements to demonstrate they care, and in return they achieve the loyal and highly engaged workforce that they’ve desired.

According to a study by Gallup, companies with high employee engagement rates have lower turnover rates. The study found that engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their job than those who are not engaged – and, of course, an employee’s health and wellbeing is directly correlated with their level of engagement. (1)

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this paradigm with such clarity, that it is now beyond clear that all employers must take an active, long-term sustainable role in their employees’ wellbeing to survive and, if done well, it will meet the current criteria to be nominated as an ‘Employer of Choice’. Wellbeing initiatives such as maternity and paternity leave, wellbeing leave, EAP services, diversity and inclusion programs aren’t new, at least not amongst progressive employee-centric businesses, but the impacts of COVID-19 revealed huge gaps in what was missing. This has given rise to increased investment in employee wellbeing strategies and the establishment of conferences such as the Workplace Wellbeing Festival.

As part of the next phase of ‘Employer of Choice’ criteria, employers are now being asked to do more to provide support for the mental and physical health of their employees. Our mental and physical wellbeing comes with us everywhere we go; we can’t just leave it at home. For years, companies have seen the benefit of providing private health insurance for their employees and a number to call when crisis hits. But is that the right approach?

In our fast-paced work and personal lives, it leaves very little time to make it to appointments for our own self-care, and it’s often only until something becomes a crisis then we are forced to address it.

Take for example, someone like Laura who has been trying to fall pregnant for years but there have been repetitive complications causing her physical pain, depression and anxiety – but when she’s at work she just has to pick up and carry on. Or Gareth, that just graduated from university and started an internship at a new job but he’s suffering from life-impacting physical symptoms and is trying to get a diagnosis whilst finding relief – but each day he has to pick-up and carry on when he’s at work. Or Alex, who has been trapped in a toxic relationship and doesn’t know who she can turn to and find the right options to get the best help for her and the kids – yet everyday she turns up to work carrying a heavy burden of fear and despair.

“The fundamental aspect of caring about your people, wanting them to live happier and healthier makes sense not only to the individual but also for the business performance. People who are cared for at work and feel appreciated will perform better, experience less absenteeism and presenteeism, be more productive and give an overall greater performance back to you as an employer. It’s a win-win-approach.” (2)

Helene Westerlind, CEO of Zurich LiveWell

Now, to become an ‘Employer of Choice’, employers need to show they care and value each individual employee by demonstrating a sustainable commitment to the welfare of their employees’ work and personal lives. In the workplace, this commitment can be demonstrated by prioritising: a psychologically safe work environment and having zero tolerance for toxic behaviour, ensuring hiring policies are inclusive and diverse, implementing learning and development programs that assist employees in understanding how to manage different personality types and traits, providing a welcoming and comfortable office environment, and ensuring that remote and virtual work is well supported. Beyond these strategies, the employer needs to provide support for employees’ personal lives to proactively reduce the chances of employees reaching social and health related crises. Most important of all, all these initiatives need to be provided by the employer in a way that is discrete, personalised and does not stigmatise.

“If a worker left a company pre-pandemic with the objective of entering a new workplace with more ‘fun’ benefits and perks – such as a gym membership, free food, and cold brew on tap – it is likely that the shine would have rubbed off once the worker realised these benefits and perks provide limited real long-term value.

Workplaces can appeal to ex-hires by reviewing their policies and ensuring they implement benefits and perks that actually matter. This could include more flexibility, travel and living stipends, mental and physical health initiatives, mentorship, and extra paid holiday leave.” (3)

– Michael Osmond is the Head of People at JobAdder


Ultimately – it’s not the ‘Employer of Choice’ badge that is important, but it’s what sits behind it – truly caring and valuing your employees. Subsequently, this will deliver more loyal and engaged employees resulting in a strong employee value proposition and culture that attracts and retains good talent thus providing the business a return on their investment.


(1) https://www.gallup.com

(2) https://www.zurich.com

(3) https://www.hrmonline.com.au