What Does it Mean to be a Great Employer Today?

Understanding this massive shift in perception is key for companies and business leaders to thrive in the future of work. — Contributed by Will International

What are the attributes of great employers today?

1. They champion social justice

Championing social justice requires a shift from a shareholder-first approach to a stakeholder-centric one. Business leaders need to put their employees, customers and community first in their decisions. This requires employers to be more flexible and observant about social issues and opportunities, including racism, gender inequality, mental health and healthcare availability. Employers must make sure that the measures and support they provide in the workplace manifest outside too, such as enriching employees’ work-life balance to improve quality of life. Driving social justice inside the workplace is proven to accelerate talent or employee value, which leads to an increase in profit and corporate responsibility.

2. They uphold responsible and accountable governance

Lack of responsibility and accountability in governance renders an organisation vulnerable to issues including corruption, fraud, data breach, employee mistreatment and even forced labour. Organisations now operate under a microscope, pressured by the public, government authorities, investors, experts and the media to do the right thing. Companies are being judged not only based on financial performance, but also on how they treat employees. Says Andrea McDonald, Director of u&u Recruitment Partners, “I believe in leading by example and treating our staff like customers. That leadership service mentality has served me well.”

Just 100 by Forbes and Just Capital evaluates and ranks organisations on how they address “matters of corporate justness.’ Another one is Corporate Knights’ Global 100 that recognises top organisations that outperform their peers through responsible governance and sustainable strategies. We are witnessing employer and shareholder activism manifesting across the global business landscape. Organisations are leading a new era of responsible, accountable and sustainable capitalism.

3. They advocate gender diversity in leadership and an inclusive culture

According to Catalyst’s “Women in Management” report, 40% of HR directors are women, making HR one of the most gender-diverse functions. This must not be taken for granted, because gender diversity across the board still has a long way to go. A trend we keep seeing is that the higher the corporate ladder, the fewer the women. Women are grossly underrepresented in business functions like operations, risk mitigation, technology and research — all significant areas of expertise for executive and board-level positions.

A great employer acknowledges that gender is never a barrier to hold women back from opportunities and achievements they deserve. Kate Coath, COO of DFP Recruitment, inspires other female leaders to act courageously. “We are at our best when we are challenged, embrace the hard stuff and grow stronger. Plan and act with purpose, communicate with care, and always remember, courage is contagious,” she says. These attributes are important because they impact employees, customers and the wider stakeholder community.

What does it mean to be a great employer today?

Leaders can start by asking the right questions. “What is the most meaningful support my employees need right now?” “How can I prepare my team for the future?” “How can we better serve our customers and communities during these trying times?” “What are the biggest challenges for my team moving forward?”

Will’s Stefanie Cross-Wilson, COO of ChapmanCG, summarises this, “Anyone in a leadership role should serve the people they lead – but always with confidence, compassion, and humility.”

A great employer is an empathetic employer that values human capital over financial assets. Financial gains will come as a result of employers taking a people-first approach.

No matter the size of your organisation or business, being a great employer is an unspoken responsibility of every leader. Great employers today inspire and guide the great employees of tomorrow.

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