4 keys to becoming a best employer

There are four hallmarks of best employers

Understanding the impact of change, developing a cohort of engaging leaders, valuing employee contribution and engagement, and developing an attractive employment brand are four hallmarks of best employers, according to Aon Hewitt.

The current rate of change in the business and economic environment is unprecedented, and Stephen Hickey, partner at Aon Hewitt and employee engagement lead, said it is more important than ever for companies to focus on their talent agenda.

In announcing the winners of the 2014 Aon Hewitt Best Employers study, he said understanding the impact of change is a first step, but building the capacity to withstand change and use it to advantage is what sets best employers apart.

“Drastic change doesn’t need to impact employees adversely, the key is to communicate clearly and constantly through times of change and to understand the drivers of engagement within each segment of the workforce,” he said.

“For example, the myth that it is almost impossible to engage young workers is just that, a myth. Best employers are able to maintain high levels of employee engagement regardless of age group by understanding that there isn’t a one size fits all solution, and targeting different age groups differently.”

“Understanding the impact of change is a first step, but building the capacity to withstand change and use it to advantage is what sets best employers apart”

The 2014 Aon Hewitt Best Employers study, which assessed data from 120 organisations and more than 70,000 employees, found a second hallmark of best employers was the crucial role played by leaders.

Best employers were able to develop a cohort of engaging leaders within their organisation and to enable and encourage critical leadership behaviours, such as being open and honest and maintaining visibility.

Leaders at best employers were able to connect their employees to the vision, strategy and purpose of the organisation in a meaningful way, said Hickey.

“Leaders in best employers have a fundamental belief that people make the difference to the success of the business. Importantly, they also consistently make good business decisions and hold each other to account,” he said.

A third hallmark of best employers is that they outperform and create high performance cultures by valuing employee contribution and engagement.

The study indicates that creating a high performance culture depends very much on specific performance management processes, including setting clear expectations, offering real career opportunities and differentiating rewards.

“True engagement really means that every employee, at every level not only knows that their work has a critical impact, but also exactly how they contribute to the strategy and ultimate success of the business,” Hickey said.

“Engaged employees are great advocates for the business, attracting great people”

By way of example, Hickey cited National Transport Insurance, this year’s winner of the best of the best status, an organisation which, despite its relatively small size, engaged employees across the board and was particularly creative with career development options for employees.

“National Transport realised that with only 200 employees, career options within the company could be limited.

“As a result they partnered with their shareholders, two of Australia’s largest financial institutions, in order to open up a wealth of opportunities, including secondment placement, outside of their immediate business,” Hickey said.

The fourth important hallmark of best employers is that they are able to develop an employment brand that acts as a magnet to attract and retain high quality staff, which in turn ensures a continuous supply of qualified talent.

“Engaged employees are great advocates for the business, attracting great people,” Hickey said.

“And the same goes for corporate culture, which also plays a large part in maintaining engagement. Companies which are at the forefront of contributing to positive social change via connection with the community were able to increase the credibility of their employment brand.”

The 2014 Aon Hewitt Best Employers are (in alphabetical order)

  • National Transport Insurance (Best of the Best accreditation)
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Chorus New Zealand
  • DDLS
  • DHL Express (New Zealand)
  • FedEx Express (New Zealand)
  • Fiat Chrysler
  • Frucor Beverages New Zealand
  • Hilti (Aust.)
  • Peoplebank Australia
  • Select Solutions
  • Smartsalary
  • Starlight Children’s Foundation
  • Swinburne Online
  • Wood & Grieve Engineers