What makes a good employer?
What makes for a good employer and how do you spot one? As an employee looking at thousands of job adverts, and even after an hour or two of job interviews, it’s hard to tell which companies are the shining stars who’ll go the extra mile to look after their people through thick and thin and which are the nightmare employers who do the minimum they can get away with. Here are our top five things to look for in choosing a good employer based on our own experience as employees and employers.
And employers take note, if you want to stand out from the pack and attract the best job seekers, take these as five top tips to make yourself a genuinely attractive employment option for candidates.
What Makes A Good Employer?
These are 5 things that make a good employer:
- They’re honest and straightforward
- They offer good pay and benefits
- They offer a good working environment
- They properly meet their legal obligations
- They share when times are good
1) Honest and Straightforward
It is usually a good sign if a company that is up front and honest in the recruiting process about what the job involves and how the company works. Job ads that clearly explain the role, how it fits in with the company and what’s needed to be successful are a good start. An interview process that gives you time to ask questions and find out what working there is really like. And people that answer questions honestly – give you the bad as well as the good.
Big screaming alarm bells should go off in your head if the employer is evasive about the company’s prospects, previous employees or exactly what they want you to do when you join them. If in doubt, chat to some of the company’s current and more junior employees who are not trying to sell you on anything and ask them what they think and see if it’s the same as management told you – over a quiet pint or glass of wine if necessary.
2) Good Pay and Benefits
It’s obvious that you should only consider joining an employer if they pay well for the job. Check other job advertisements for similar positions and see if others are paying more, less or the same for the same kind of work. If it’s a lot more or less you should make sure you understand why – they could be trying it on, or alternatively there could be something that is ‘too good to be true’ about this job. You should also look at the lowest paid people in the organisation – are they paid the minimum the company can get away with or a more reasonable living wage?
Pay is about a lot more than just the basic salary. Is there a bonus scheme and does it usually pay out? Is there a pension scheme and does the company contribute to it? What about life insurance, health insurance, charity schemes or even childcare and gym membership discounts? For any but the smallest companies, the provision of these benefits may not be worth that much in itself, but they can be an important signal that the company believes in investing in its people. Even if companies don’t have huge budgets, they can still get imaginative and offer unusual perks that can make work that much more enjoyable.
3) Good Working Environment
A good working environment is key to people being happy and productive at work. In an office environment, this might mean having decent computer equipment, comfortable chairs or separating noisy sales people from finance and technology workers. In a factory environment, it might mean having the right equipment or playing music. Some modern media companies take this to extremes, from space hoppers to pool tables and fussball in the office. Check out our latest list of the coolest offices for some of the best examples, but bear in mind not every employer can be expected to go quite this far!
What sets aside the best employers again is that they listen and care about these issues. They are not in business to make a quick buck at their staff’s expense, but understand that improving the working environment will ultimately mean a more successful organisation that brings rewards for employer and employee.
4) Properly Meets Legal Obligations
A good employer goes beyond the absolute minimum, and takes the spirit as well as the letter of their obligations, but a bad employer may not even do the legal minimum. There is a lot of government legislation and regulations affecting jobs, much of it designed to protect workers, and you can see a useful summary around terms and conditions, health and safety and family rights on the direct.gov website.
Good employers will tend to know about the most common of these regulations (if not the detail of every one) and be able to talk about how they interpret and publicise them to the benefit of their staff. They might have health and safety information on the wall, an employee handbook that outlines parental or compassionate leave policies, or training and development schemes that go well beyond the minimum requirements. Bad employers will tend do the legal minimum, and often only do that grudgingly and if prompted.
5) Share When Times Are Good
If things go badly in a company or employer, it is often the staff as well as management who suffer, through low morale or even redundancy, so it is important for the good employer to share in success as well. In a small rapidly-growing business or one backed by private equity firms this is typically done by issuing shares or stock options to employees so that they literally become owners in the company. This benefits workers as they share in profits and success, but also benefits the company because staff are motivated to act like owners.
But this can also be done by large companies and other organisations in a number of different ways. See for example Tesco’s staff share scheme where employees can put some of their salary into company shares, or the more generous set up at John Lewis, where the employees actually own the company. Even if they can’t give away shares, an organisation can pay bonuses for meeting overall targets, or even just put on a party with a glass of champagne to celebrate successes with those who made it happen.
When you’re looking for a job, keep your eyes and ears open for these signs of what makes a good employer, and ask the right questions to determine whether this is a company or organisation you really want to be a part of.
If you are an employer yourself, think about what else you can be doing to make your workplace an attractive one; being seen as a good employer will get the best candidates applying, and keep your current team motivated and loyal.