Three key principles top employers live by

Research and experience is showing that employers of choice manage to attract and retain top talent by sticking to a few simple principles and embedding them throughout the company. It’s in their DNA.

Samantha Crous – the regional director for Africa and Benelux for the CRF Institute, a global organisation that measures, audits and certifies top employers – believes that becoming a sought-after employer “boils down to the implementation of a few simple principles”. These include embracing change, respecting social and environmental principles, and investing in people.

The CRF Institute compiles an annual list of top employers in over 45 countries around the world.

“In a world where top talent is in short supply, there is intense competition amongst businesses to attract and retain the best people,” says Crous. “But it is more than just about employee benefits.”

The key lies in creating a winning corporate culture that adheres to the basic principles of success and that people want to be part of, she adds.

1. Embracing change: adapt or die

The first of these principles is to embrace change and capitalise on challenges. “Many of the apparent hurdles in an industry can unlock great business innovations,” explains Crous, citing communication technology as an example.

“The rise of social media can seem threatening as marketing managers effectively lose their grip over what is said about their brand, but top employers are embracing new communication technologies. Many top employers now use social media to their advantage.”

Entrepreneur Mike Stopforth puts it as follows: “When technology leaps forward, find a way to harness and leverage it; don’t avoid the trend – you will regret it later.”

Crous agrees. “An example of a company that has embraced change is technology company Avanade, which launched its own internal social media platform to advance communication within the company. They use Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to promote the company, providing rewards for those who attract the most followers or have the most popular or insightful posts.”

In fact, embracing this kind of technological leap can do a company enormous good, believes communication specialist Amanda Laird. “Internally, technology-driven communication has far more benefits than risks,” she writes. “You make your employees feel heard, you can promote new products and services, reach staff faster, build relationships, increase internal brand awareness and advance your organisation’s thought leadership.”

“It can bring an unprecedented level of interactivity that can increase employees’ pleasure and pride in their work, as well as improving communications,” says Crous.

2. Invest in your people: they will thank you for it

The second area in which top employers excel is to boost staff morale through investing in people, says Crous. “This may be as simple as skills development, which in South Africa can step into the gap left by sub-standard tertiary education.”

Companies such as Vodacom, DiData, Accenture and others are providing scholarships, learnerships and incubation programmes, as well as continued development opportunities at all levels of the company, she relates.

“People determine success,” she says. “Invest in people, and you invest in your success.”

3. Respect society and the environment: be part of a new wave of business for better

The third area in which top employers outperform others is looking outward – and responding to the social and environmental concerns in their context. “For example, a large percentage of top employers are investing in environmentally-conscious practices that not only protect the planet, but also embody a more sensitive, respectful approach that is likely to resonate more with employees than a profit-grabbing corporate machine,” says Crous.

Companies such as Nestlé and Group Five have explicit policies, for example, to limit travel-related carbon emissions by holding meetings electronically and they are also investing in state-of-the-art green buildings designed to use less power and create less waste.

This may particularly resonate with South Africans, Crous believes. South Africa is 14th on the list of countries with the highest carbon emissions; a few paces behind Japan, the UK and South Korea.

“This is probably a talking point for some employees,” says Crous. “No doubt many of them will feel some pride as ambassadors for ‘green’ companies that are making a difference. They may even Tweet about it.”

“The bottom line is that it will rub off on the image of the company and staff happiness. That is what makes a great employer: the kind that people really want to work for. These three DNA markers make all the difference.”