Are you an Employer of Choice?

January 29, 2015

Supply and demand for engineering talent weighs heavily in favor of engineers for most disciplines in the US and Canada. Engineers are in demand, at times commanding enormous salaries, and thus can afford to be choosy about where and whom they work for.

According to Randstad, engineering jobs in the US stay vacant for about 49 days, “which means that one unfilled engineering job can cost a company an average of $7,600” – and over $14,000 if a position stays vacant for three months or longer.

If you’d like to lower talent acquisition costs and improve the quality of your talent – your best option is to become an employer of choice.

What does it Mean to be an “Employer of Choice”?

Before people start work they have to want to work there.

To become an employer of choice you have to create an environment people choose to work in over competing organizations because they believe your company will offer them a better whole experience. This includes compensation, benefits, training, opportunities, development, and culture – in equal measure.

Strategies to Become an Employer of Choice

There isn’t a company out there that wouldn’t prefer talent competing to work for them than the other way around. Here’s how you can build that reputation:

Employ a Recruitment Process that Stands Out

Last year Stacy Donovan Zapar, Zappos’ Social Recruiting and Employer Branding Strategist, made waves by announcing that they would eliminate all their open job listings. In its place they created an internal network (dubbed the “Zappos Insider Program”) to source future hires.

The reasoning? Giving future hires an opportunity to talk to Zappos employees creates more informed candidates and makes it easier to stay in touch. Zappos, in turn, cultivates a talent pool and funnels people into their CRM long before jobs are open – then runs “targeted ads aimed at passive jobseekers and fans of our great company.” [Source]

The result is that future employees are both interest and credential vetted… and they’ve established rapport / built relationships with potential co-workers long before they onboard.

While this leap may not be attainable for companies with lesser employer brands than Zappos – it’s a great lesson in the power of thinking outside the box for your own recruitment process. Zappos’ move won massive press, brought national attention to what it’s like to work at the company, and engaged thousands of would-be employees who may not have previously considered working there.

Understand that Compensation is Not the Holy Grail

While compensation cannot be overlooked, it is just one factor of many. In our survey of 1,816 engineers taken last year 60% of engineers responded that work/ life balance was very important when considering a new job offer. Compensation was rated “very important” by 51% of surveyed engineers, but fell behind both location (57%) and training & development opportunities (55%) in order of priority.

Employers must “provide an engaging and rewarding work environment to retain the talent. There are simply too many opportunities for top engineers to seek employment elsewhere if they are not happy.”

Craig Fouts, Sales Director for Aerospace & Defense at Yoh

In Good to Great Jim Collins points out that there is no solid link between compensation level and employee performance, anyway. “A good paycheck was designed to keep the right people in the company not to spur good performance from the wrong people.”

Regularly Say “Thank You”

“The largest threat to happiness and retention is always respect.”

-Jeremy Bennett (Addison Group)

Recognize your employees – not just with fair pay but also with rewards for work well done and loyalty to the company. Recognition can come in the form of perks, flex-time and bonuses, but even a hand-written note can go a long way. Don’t overlook this.

Give Engineers Agency and Opportunity

Great talent loves agency and opportunity.

Even with a good salary, a job where you can’t speak up loses its appeal quickly.

Developers love to have as much agency as possible – they like to be able to pick their own tools, take out chunks of time to work on open-source code, and have a say in company decisions.

– Olex Ponomarenko, Software Engineer at Thinkful

Top engineers are best engaged when they are working on projects they consider interesting and fun. Assign your best and brightest talent to the most promising opportunities, not your most pressing problems.

Make Work Fun

This suggestion seems like a no-brainer but it’s probably the easiest to forget.

Employers that everyone seems to want to work for; companies like Google, SpaceX, Disney – the whole experience of working for them is what makes them attractive. What do they do differently that you can incorporate for your own company?

Can you cater lunch once a week? Host happy hours on Friday afternoons? Allow employees to bring their dogs to work? Set up a ping pong table in the break room?

According to Kenexa, turnover among managers who feel pride in their company is 21% lower than among those who don’t. Adds CEO Rudy Karsan: “When you’re in a job that you enjoy and you’re good at, you’re not just a better worker. You’re a better spouse, a better parent, a better citizen.

Source: 10 Ways to Make Your Office More Fun

Use your imagination. Have fun with it (pun intended)!

Quick Note for Start-Ups and Small Companies

The first 50 people you hire are the most critical. These hires will establish your company culture and become the standard by which future hires are measured.

Your current employees are your most effective brand advocates and should be involved in the recruiting process. According to UndercoverRecruiter employee referrals “have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate – only 7% apply but this accounts for 40% of all hires.”

The faster you can get to employer of choice status, the better, as ideally you’d like talent competing for a coveted spot at your company rather than competing for talent with goliaths of your industry.

Final Thoughts

Employers indicate it’s easier to retain top talent than it is to find, recruit, and hire them. Do the hard work up front and you can reap the dividends for years down the road. Better talent creates more engaged employees and that will lead to higher retention, lower hiring costs, higher productivity, and – eventually – greater profits.

Are you an employer of choice? Let us know in the comments what works for you.


Photo Credit: Flickr/ Janusz Leszczynski