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How to be an employer of choice – even in uncertain times


Getting excellent employees to work for your organization instead of your competitors has never been easy. Add in the disruption of a worldwide pandemic, and the challenge to recruit and retain top talent demands new, refocused energy.

What can you do to stand out during unpredictable times and show that you’re an employer of choice – and will continue to be one, come what may?

To answer that, we’ll:

  • Define what it means to be an employer of choice
  • Talk about practical ways to be one throughout different stages of the employee journey
  • Consider why bolstering your employer brand and support for your current team matters so much during times of uncertainty

What’s an employer of choice?

When you’re an employer of choice, you’re an organization that people have a strong desire to work for.

You’re thought of as offering the total package and are sought-after by employees in the marketplace. Maybe you’re even a “best place to work” according to the media or an industry group.

One of the keys to building your reputation as an employer of choice is consistently keeping the needs of your employees at the forefront, even (and especially) during challenging seasons in your business.

What being an employer of choice looks like

Let’s look at six different ways you can weave this empathetic mindset throughout the various stages of your employees’ journey with your organization – from their first interaction with your brand to their last day of service.

1. Community involvement

Giving back to the communities where you do business and giving your employees opportunities to do the same shows them you care – not just about them, but about where they live, too.

Some companies solidify this value by:

  • Providing employees with paid time off (PTO) to volunteer
  • Matching employees’ eligible charitable donations
  • Creating a fund for employees facing crisis or hardship

When you help your employees engage in community service, they share a positive first impression of your brand with the general public and gain the sense that you recognize them for more than just what they contribute to your company.

2. Competitive benefits

The core element to becoming an employer of choice is having buzz-worthy employee benefits. Nothing shows that you care for employees more than going the extra mile with the benefits you offer.

This can look like:

Also, make sure your employee benefits package isn’t kept secret. Share the details front-and-center on your website’s career page and in your job postings.

3. Work-life balance

For an employer of choice, perks that help employees strike work-life balance complement the traditional benefits in a big way. More and more, these extras are becoming a make-or-break piece of the benefits package that needs to stand up on its own.

Benefits like these show you prioritize employees’ needs as whole individuals:

And when life demands more of your workforce, employers of choice get ahead of the known employee stress factors and find ways to augment their support.

For example, you could:

  • Organize a task force focused on connecting employees with alternative childcare options.
  • Mail a game or puzzle to employees and their families.

Whether your solutions are strategic or simple, doing something extra signals that you are serious about making unfavorable circumstances better for everyone.

4. Development opportunities

Employers of choice are invested in their employees and continually provide them with professional development support such as:

  • Educational reimbursement
  • Access to training courses
  • Bonus pay for completing certifications
  • Internal job shadowing

Continuing to emphasize training and development during uncertain times:

  • Drives home your investment in your employees’ development
  • Highlights their role in your business’ recovery and continuity plan
  • Signals to your staff members that they don’t need to fear for their jobs

5. Rewards and recognition

Employers of choice don’t miss chances to recognize their employees.

They reward employee performance when it aligns with their mission and positively impacts the organization using incentives like:

  • Annual performance-based bonuses
  • Merit increases
  • Employment anniversary gifts

Of course, in a downturn or difficult period, employee recognition may look a little different.

It might just be thanking everyone for continuing to hang in there or keeping the employee spotlight section of your website up-to-date. Perhaps it looks like a virtual retirement party replicating as much of the fanfare of an in-person event as possible.

Continuing to recognize employees even when business is hectic shows that your regard for employees more than a goal – it’s a value.

6. Meaningful work

Empathizing with employees in everything you do as an employer also means recognizing their need for meaningful work as well as opportunities to innovate.

If there ever was a time to engage your employees in the challenges facing your organization and letting their voices be heard, a stretch of unanticipated adversity is certainly that time.

Is there a way to repurpose your product or service to quickly adapt to new demands from your customer base? How can you lighten the impact of the present challenge on your business? The answers may be among your employees’ ideas.

When your leaders tap into the knowledge of your entire workforce, you can meet business needs and employee needs at the same time.

You can foster this combined effort by encouraging employees to:  

  • Call in their ideas using a designated phone number.
  • Submit suggestions in an online form.
  • Complete surveys about how they’d solve your company’s challenges.

Becoming an employer of choice

The key to growth as an employer of choice is having a culture that focuses on the worth of each employee as much as it does the customer. Then you will have an employment brand that endures through good times and the hard times, too.

Do you wish you knew how to inspire your employees to give their best everyday? Download our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to being a best place to work.