Four ways to be an employer of choice without raising salaries

Happy employees supporting their boss

While salary is important, it’s not the only way to attract and retain top talent. We look at four ways you can become an employer of choice and keep your staff happy…without breaking the bank.

In a competitive job market, achieving status as an ‘employer of choice’ means the best and brightest candidates will be drawn to your organisation and compelled to stay and invest their substantial talents into your business. Being an employer of choice means building and safeguarding an excellent work culture, where employees feel engaged in their roles, connected as a team, and empowered to progress their career within your organisation. It doesn’t necessarily take loads of cash or resources to transform your organisation into one that people are excited to work for and grow with. Here are four tips on how to achieve employer of choice status.

1. Allow work-life balance through flexible work options

COVID-19 has forever changed the shape of our working lives, as many professionals not only experienced truly flexible working arrangements for the first time, but also had the chance to re-evaluate what they want from their work and life. Research shows that globally, 74 per cent of people would quit their job if they were offered more flexible options elsewhere.

A 2022 survey revealed that 91 per cent of Australians see the value in being able to work from home, at least some of the time. With more than half the nation reporting they experienced work-related burn out in the past year (68 per cent), it’s clear to see why flexible working arrangements appeal. Less time and money spent commuting, more time for personal pursuits and connecting with friends and family outside of work means employees will achieve greater balance in their lives. It goes without saying that healthy, happy employees are the most productive and satisfied workers.

2. Encourage fun and connection at work

The average person spends around one third of their life at work, so establishing an enjoyable working environment and encouraging connection between colleagues has a tremendous impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing. An excellent way to encourage connection at work is to establish common areas (such as a lunchroom or breakout area) where employees can enjoy casual conversation outside of their roles. Taking breaks and meals together, celebrating birthdays and other occasions together and organising social events all help colleagues to bond and learn about each other beyond the scope of their job titles. Tiny measures such as taking the time to smile and say hello, sharing a laugh in the lunchroom, showing interest in what a colleague has shared about their life or checking on a colleague who seems stressed all go a long way to cultivating a positive work culture.

Building a friendly, non-toxic work environment where people feel safe to express themselves and connect authentically takes effort and strategic management, but has a direct impact on staff enjoyment, engagement and retention. We spent upwards of eight hours per day with our colleagues, so we want to enjoy their company!

3. Co-create a meaningful career pathway

An employee who doesn’t feel their work is meaningful or who can’t see a clear path forward is an employee who is halfway out the door. Taking the time to ensure your employee’s ambitions and interests line up with the organisation’s priorities and expectations is crucial, as is developing a career progression pathway which has input from your employee each step of the way.

Avoid making assumptions – not every employee might be interested in a promotion and in fact might be more interested in a lateral move into an area that is more stimulating/challenging. On the flipside, ambitious employees who are wanting to move up the ranks need to know that it is possible and that leaders support their growth and development. Right from the start, ensure your employees are aware of the different types of job opportunities or career paths available throughout the company and where possible, provide opportunity to develop the type of skills they wish to focus on.

4. Show credit where it’s due

Whether they are recognised publicly or privately, employees are more likely to be engaged in their work when their manager and team show appreciation for their efforts. In Australia, 37 per cent of employees report feeling most encouraged by personal recognition, and 66 per cent of workers say they would quit if they felt underappreciated – a statistic that jumps to 76 per cent for millennials. While recognition can include financial rewards and incentives, it can also be as simple as a thank you, a word of praise, or a positive shout out.

To avoid a toxic work culture, ensure prejudice is not getting in the way of giving credit where it’s due. If you see someone not receiving recognition (i.e. one person’s idea being ignored in a meeting and then the same idea embraced when presented by someone perceived as more powerful), be sure to acknowledge the original owner of the idea. When people feel seen and recognised, they will be more motivated, productive and inspired to grow.

It's a tough market for employers out there. Studies show that more than 40 per cent of the global workforce were considering leaving their employers during the past year. Luckily, the road to becoming an employer of choice does not have to be paved with bars of gold.

Does your organisation allow a little freedom and flexibility when it comes to working styles? Is your culture fun and friendly? Do employees feel empowered to develop their careers and focus on their strengths? Do you take the time to praise effort and achievement? These are all factors that top talent will weigh up when considering their next steps.




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