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Kate Phelon

Sift Media

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Using reward to become an employer of choice


RewardsSylvia Doyle gives an insight into what it takes to become an Employer of Choice, and how best to reward employees to keep them on side.

How often do you hear companies talking about becoming an employer of choice? This is hardly surprising since there is growing evidence that links high levels of engagement typically with increased business performance. Of course engagement is only one of the benefits of achieving the much sought after employer of choice status. These organisations can expect to be able to attract and recruit candidates of first choice while retaining existing and engaging new staff. However the reality is that employers of choice do not get there by chance. And furthermore, as top winners of the numerous ‘best company’ or ‘great places to work’ awards will testify, there are no guarantees of maintaining that position over time.

So what common characteristics do employers of choice commonly share? Key factors such as personal growth, leadership and the organisation’s record for giving something back to society feature highly in the ‘Best Companies to Work For’ awards earlier this year. These are just three of the eight key factors or criteria that the Best Companies Awards uses to assess and ultimately rate employers. For example, employees at Heat, the 2008 winner for medium-sized employers, scored 77% on ‘giving something back’ and 81% on employee wellbeing. KPMG, this year’s big company winner scored top marks in ‘fair dealing over pay and benefits’, ‘relationships with my manager’ and personal growth. These factors are becoming increasingly relevant to the steady increase of organisations transitioning from a ‘pay and benefits’ package towards total reward.

But what exactly do we mean by total reward? We are talking about an approach that brings together reward components such as:

  • Financial reward – cash (base and variable pay), benefits (holidays, insurances etc.) & equity

  • Career and development opportunities – often includes personal skills

  • Work/life balance – takes account of organisational culture

  • Environment – this includes the job itself i.e. design, autonomy and working environment

  • Recognition – typically non-cash awards to recognise individual or team contribution

What differentiates total reward is that the resulting business impact is typically greater than that arising from a series of individual reward initiatives. By bringing these strands together and aligning them to your organisational culture and business objectives, total reward can increase employees’ performance and engagement levels.

However total reward should never be viewed as a ‘quick fix’ since it involves planning and commitment amongst other factors. And there are some simple and effective steps that will help you to become an employer of choice.

What five steps can help you become an Employer of Choice?

  • Know your current position: Do you know how effective you are in recruiting your first choice candidates or retaining your key performers? Are you clear on how engaged people are? Why does it vary across the organisation? Gather evidence on key factors that relate to recruitment, retention and engagement to build up a clear picture of your current position.
  • Have a clear vision and goals: This may sound an obvious statement though experience shows that it can get overlooked or the rhetoric does not always match the reality. Establish a vision which aligns to your culture, values and business goals. This is the cornerstone of building a successful organisation with a strong reputation.
  • Broaden your reward package: It may go without saying that pay and benefits need to be aligned to the relevant market. However, once the financial rewards are right, focus on the total reward offer as a way of differentiating yourself. In practical terms, this includes career and development opportunities; the work environment from the job role to flexible working, autonomy and of course recognition. Don’t forget about the importance of great leadership.
  • Involve your employees and line managers: To create a great place to work, you need to know what employees like about working for you. If good people are leaving, do you know the reasons why? Find out what your employees and line managers value when it comes to reward and wider people management practices. Always make sure that feedback is taken into account (especially that of line managers) when designing and implementing reward systems.
  • Live up to your employer brand: When it comes to differentiating yourself from the competition, building a credible employer brand that sets you apart is compelling. Make sure your reward policies and practices fully support the brand values. As an example, companies who showcase their green credentials need to ensure their car and travel policies actually support these values. If the policies don’t or they actually work against them, rectify this quickly.

Sylvia Doyle is director of Reward First People Consulting. Sylvia can be contacted at [email protected] For further information, visit and

One Response

  1. People work for people
    Simple advice is to use the two most valuable words in the language – “thank you”.

    Build on that to develop, promote and reward through the work.

    Thank you for reading my contribution.

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Kate Phelon

Content manager

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