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How to stand out as a preferred employer in your market

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

drawing of people all one colour except for one that stands out
These days employers need to clearly stand out

Recent conversations with business leaders reveal a common theme - there's a general difficulty finding, hiring and retaining good talent. Not that this is something new...just that lately, it's become even more of a challenge than usual.

Overseas, particularly in the US, the phenomenon has been given a name: "The Great Resignation". It's being called that because according to at least some of the research the proportion of the global workforce looking to change jobs post-pandemic is large. One study by Microsoft suggests the percentage of active job seekers could be as high as 40%.

So's large.

The question is, are the finding, hiring and retention stresses we're currently seeing here in Australia just the tip of the iceberg? Are things going to get worse? Are we headed for our own "Great Resignation"? Nobody really knows for sure of course but as ever, it pays to be prepared because quality, engaged employees are important contributors to sustainable business growth.

The numbers tell part of the story

Let's look at some statistics that suggest there's some legitimate cause for concern. According to the ABS:

  • 23% of all businesses expect to increase staff numbers during the rest of 2021; and

  • 27% of businesses report having difficulty finding suitable staff.

From the perspective of Australian employees, a study by Gartner found 24% are actively seeking alternative employment. Which is not 40% but still a large number.

And out of interest, here's the number of job ads appearing on SEEK at the moment in randomly selected industry sectors Australia-wide:

  • Financial services: 3,702

  • Accounting: 6,773

  • Engineering: 5,524

  • Construction services (not including trades): 7,807

  • Legal: 8,201

  • IT and digital communications: 17,257

Many sectors are facing hiring pressures

Hays Recruiting has also published a list of the most in-demand skills in Australia, which you can check out here.

Let's look at it this way...if you're a business operating in any of the industries mentioned here, you're most definitely in the proverbial "war for talent". That's on the finding and recruiting front.

To make matters even more challenging, from a retention point of view remember that 24% of the Australian workforce is actively looking for alternative employment. Could it be that this number applies to employees in your business? Maybe not, but what if it does?

What if 24% of your current employees are actively on the lookout for another job?

That would hurt your business. And if you're already looking to increase your employee numbers while a whole bunch of existing employees are looking to move on....well, you probably see the point.

What are employees saying?

The events of the past couple of years have made people think hard about what's really important to them across all aspects of their lives. Work - and what it means to them - hasn't escaped scrutiny and for some, it's top of the list for reassessment.

It used to be that there would be an implicit contract between employees and employers - employees would turn up to work when they were meant to, do the job they were meant to and do it to the best of their ability. In return, employers would provide a fair salary, some benefits, decent conditions and perhaps opportunities for progression. That was it.

Today, employee expectations have moved on. Reward for effort remains important, of course, but employee priorities are more complex than ever. As proof, consider the fact that 50% of employees would take a cut in pay to work in a job that they enjoy and is meaningful (HRDive)

Sign with two arrows pointing in opposite directions. One says excellence the other mediocrity
Employees have a low tolerance of mediocre leadership

And the number one reason Australian employees leave their jobs (according to research by SEEK)?

Because of "mediocre management".


As an employer, you need to stand out

We know that's obvious.

But how? That's the question.

First up, there's a tendency for some employers to blame the pandemic as the reason for not being able to find talent for your business. To be fair, that's probably true if your business is in hospitality, reliant on overseas travellers to fill casual and seasonal roles. That's not what we're talking about here.

As we saw above, there's high numbers of job vacancies across professional services as well. And all sectors report difficulty in finding appropriate people to fill the role. But don't blame the pandemic - we know that 24% of employees are actively looking for alternative roles.

The bottom line is, there's movement in your industry. People are switching jobs. If they're not coming to you, then you can safely assume they're going to a competitor - and not necessarily for more money.

Nothing works without clarity of purpose

A sense that their roles and day-to-day activity contributes to something beyond the creation of revenue and profits has always been important to employees. It's something that's become even more top of mind during the pandemic and will remain so into the future.

A growing proportion of prospective employees will simply refuse to work for an organisation that is unable to articulate a "non-financial" reason they exist. More particularly, if that purpose is not reflected in the actions of the organisation, it will be seen as little more than an empty and clumsy marketing tactic.

To stand out among potential recruits, be ready to discuss your business purpose, how it's embedded in the business, what it means to clients and how employees are recognised and rewarded (you read that right) for demonstrating commitment to that purpose.

small wooden blocks spelling out purpose
Employees value clarity of purpose

Not clear on your business purpose?

We suggest you do something about that if you want to attract (and hang onto) the right talent. Start with a workshop looking into the origins of the business and involving a cross-section of employees to define your purpose and document a purpose statement. Map out the steps you'll need to take to embed your purpose in the business and create an action plan to make it happen.

Your business purpose should become the validation for everything you do in the business, from strategy through to business planning and setting KPIs for individual employees.

Engagement is crucial

We've produced several Insights on the issue of employee engagement - you can take your pick from our Insights page.

Businesses with higher levels of employee engagement also consistently report lower rates of employee turnover, which is hardly a revelation. That's great for employees already in the business. But what use is that when you're trying to attract new employees we hear you ask...

Sure you can tell potential recruits all about how engaged your current employees are. But put yourself in the recruits shoes. How much of what potential employers ever told you during an interview did you ever accept completely without question?

Didn't think so...

Make recruitment a team sport

We suggest making recruitment a team sport by involving selected existing employees in the interview process. It works wonders. Recruits feel safer in asking potential colleagues questions they'd never ask you. And like it or not, the recruit is more likely to beli

The result?

Potential recruits will get a much better and more accurate feel for the level of engagement in the business - they can make their own direct assessment rather than taking your word for it. It also makes the onboarding process way more effective because there's already a level of familiarity before the new recruit sets foot in the office (or onto Zoom...) as an employee.

Just be sure to set some parameters for employees you select to participate - they'll need some guidelines about what's on- and off-limits. It might also be worth investing in some training on interview techniques, which can be as simple as some role playing or as involved as a formal training session. It's your call.

Create a clear Employee Value Proposition

The best way to think about your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is as a document that lets prospective employees know what makes yours a great business to work in.

Naturally, it needs to be clear about the tangible things offered by the business including:

  • Competitive salary arrangements;

  • A meaningful incentive program (where appropriate);

  • Training and development opportunities;

  • Career advancement opportunities; and

  • Flexible working arrangements.

Your EVP should also contain information about the intangibles. Here we’re talking about the culture within the business, maybe volunteering programs, social events and the like.

Your Employee Value Proposition is the perfect opportunity

to be explicit about your business purpose.

It’s the perfect way to let prospective employees know how they’ll contribute to something more than a financial bottom line when they work with you. Again, there’s no shortage of research showing how important this is for most people.

As we've pointed out, if you’re not clear about purpose at this stage, plenty of potential employees – probably great ones – will sidestep your business for one that is even if it means a lower salary.

Your EVP should spell out tangible and intangible benefits

To put it rather grandly - but appropriately - your EVP should be a “manifesto” that spells out the opportunity for employees and prospective employees to make a difference by contributing their talents and skills to the pursuit of a shared purpose.

It's an employee market

That's the reality right now.

The numbers are in and we know what employees want and value from an employer.

Of course in some professions and industries supply and demand will drive up salaries.

But the formula for business growth has changed, along with what it takes to attract truly great talent. So you may be surprised that even though you can't (or won't) pay as much as your competitors, you can still create a compelling proposition for recruits that gives them more of what they really want - work that's engaging, meaningful and is focused on creating value for clients.

And funnily enough, those are the types of employees your clients want to deal with.

Get this right and it will be a major contributor to sustainable growth in your business. And with that, financial will follow as sure as night follows day.

What about your business?

Finding the right employees?

And enough of them?

Feel like you could be doing better?

GrowthCatalyst can help address these issues and deliver what money can't buy: time.

We invite you to contact us to arrange a conversation, face-to-face or virtual.

Alternatively, you can book a time for an initial discussion here.

And how sustainable is your business growth?

If you're keen for some immediate feedback on how sustainable your business growth might be over the longer term, please follow the link to our "Sustainable Business Growth Health Check".

It'll take you no longer than three minutes to complete and you'll get your results instantly.

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