Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

What Does It Take to be a Top Employer?

It’s common in these days of start-ups to hear about funky workspaces, great coffee bars in the office, and a more relaxed atmosphere. These are great perks, but there is a lot more to being a top employer. To sum it up in one sentence, I’d say:

“Leaders of “top employers” treat employees the way they want to be treated.”

It’s the golden rule, applied in the office, or shop, or factory, or whatever other type of workplace you lead. Fair compensation and a welcoming work environment are table stakes.

As a leader, you need to take actions that show how much employees mean to you:

  • Respect employees’ skills and knowledge by allowing them to do their jobs: share the goals, work on objectives together and then play a supportive role.
  • Engage employees meaningfully in planning and decisions, even if it means getting on equal footing by using an independent facilitator.
  • Communicate openly, effectively and regularly across the organization: from presentation of results by leaders to team communication.
  • Provide opportunities for learning and development through assignments and training, and don’t just prescribe it: ask what they need and want.
  • Consider their personal needs and desires when it comes to recognition: we’re not all wired the same.
  • Take employee input seriously – investigate, change things, loop back to let them know what was done. Communication and collaboration go hand-in-hand.

Demonstrate you’re a top employer through your corporate values – make sure they’re meaningful and then live by them! Make sure they’re reflected in:

  • The actions of the executive team and managers
  • Policies and processes that support and align with those values
  • Recognition and rewards


“We treat our people like royalty. If you honor and serve the people who work for you, they will honour and serve you.”  ~ Mary Kay Ash, Founder, Mary Kay Cosmetics


Other Perspectives on Being a Top Employer

Tony Schwartz, the author of this Harvard Business Review article suggests we think of effectiveness as an employer in relation to our four core needs as human beings:

  • Physical needs, such as a living wage, our health and well-being
  • Emotional needs, such as feeling valued, recognized and appreciated
  • Self-expression through the use of our skills and talents – no micromanaging required!
  • Significance that what we’re doing matters


My former boss, CEO of Maritime Life at the time, Bill Black, was fond of saying that leaders are the servants of employees. It’s an intriguing way of looking at it.


I would love to share my experience and expertise to help your organization as it strives to be a top employer!