What does it mean to be an “employer of choice?” Does it mean the same thing to all companies, across industry and geography? And what essential qualities are found in an “employer of choice?”
These questions drove the discussion we had with three experienced HR leaders on HRTM’s Connect & Learn webinar on Wednesday, September 26th. The webinar was moderated by Brent Kleiman, founder of HRTM LinkedIn Group and CEO of Argosight. Brent, along with Kathy Cullen-Cote (Corporate VP of HR, PTC), Jill O-Connell (most recently SVP and Head of Talent, Cengage), and Karen Sarappo (most recently Business Management Director, BCG) touched on topics all HR leaders wrestle with: company culture, employee engagement, recruiting and retention, benefits, learning and development, work/life balance, diversity, and more. From their experience spearheading programs that effectively managed the talent in their organizations, Kathy, Jill and Karen offered these three tips and techniques to help your organization become an employer of choice.
- Always be listening
Knowing how employees feel about the culture of the company and what they want from their employer is important. This goes beyond conducting annual surveys; it requires continuous feedback from employees, managers, and executives.
Karen mentioned that at BCG, every consulting project ends with a two-way feedback—one from the Consulting Associates and the other from the Partner. This feedback allowed her to track the performance of the Consulting Associates and work with them to create development opportunities within the organization. Since BCG is a service organization, the quality and productiveness of each employee is essential to the success of the business.
Acknowledging that an organization may have thousands of employees to a handful of HR professionals, Kathy talked about how she invited all employees to share their stories of working at PTC. She also identified volunteers to become PTC changemakers in their local offices. These changemakers are an extension of the HR team and they help her listen to the needs of employees globally. Kathy talked about how employees in Israel were complaining about how the office teapot was not heating up properly. Once the changemaker identified the issue, Kathy was able to replace the teapot and improve the daily life for employees in that office.
- Engage leaders and hold them accountable
The culture of the company starts at the top. For the organization to be a place that is attractive for candidates and employees alike, leaders need to take an active part in cultivating that culture.
The engagement of business executives was integral to the transformation work that Jill did during her time at both Cengage and Fidelity. Jill talked about how she developed talent management programs through partnering with business leaders, and tying the success of those programs to business initiatives.
When Kathy embarked on the journey to transform the culture at PTC, she created a board to be accountable for the success of the PTC 20/20 initiative. The initiative was announced companywide by management, and management was committed to the goals of the program.
- Prioritize and communicate achievements
While it’s important to listen to employees, showing employees that you took action on what you heard is even more significant to their satisfaction with their employer. This effort shows that they matter in the organization and that management cares about them as employees. Understanding that there may not be enough resources or time to accomplish every ask, HR needs to prioritize the list and address efforts that would bring about the quickest or most impact to the organization.
Having a list of employee challenges to address is something Karen, Kathy and Jill are familiar with in their work in HR. For Karen, the challenges were around growth opportunities and professional development for Consulting Associates; Kathy struggled more with diversity and inclusivity in the PTC culture; and Jill’s obstacle was bringing organization, process and transparency to talent management. All these challenges may sound insurmountable when looked as a whole. However, all three developed incremental programs and prioritized what needed to be done.
Kathy shared how she reworked job descriptions and retrained hiring managers on how to interview to diversify the type of candidates they brought into the organization. This effort led PTC to hire employees of different skills and backgrounds, expanding the diversity of the company.
Karen commented that even within a top-class organization like BCG that’s been on the “Best Places to Work” list for years, figuring out what employees need to grow and implementing programs that would help them remain a challenge. She constantly worked with Managers and Partners to develop efforts to improve growth opportunities and engaged with consultants to let them know what was available.
Becoming an “Employer of Choice” is a journey, and one that requires continuous effort. To get there, Kathy recommends that everyone be their authentic self at work. Additionally, Jill recommends executives be transparent and share the people plan; it is not a marketing effort.
If HR leaders stay connected to employees and ensure that the organization is offering employees what they need in order to perform, grow, and be happy, the organization is one step closer to becoming the desirable “employer of choice.”
We thank Jill, Karen and Kathy for sharing their experience and insights with our HRTM community. We hope HRTM members continue to connect and learn from each other, and join us on future Connect & Learn series webinars!
Also thank you to our partner and webinar sponsor, Saba Software, a provider of performance, learning, and engagement solutions to help leaders build a thriving future for their organization.