Future 50: How to become an employer of choice

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People make a business – so how can yours become the place where talented people want to work? Future 50 companies found out. 


East Anglia’s Future 50 high-growth business programme continued this month with an online workshop looking at HR and talent, organised by Birketts. The webinar began with employment lawyer Jennifer Leeder looking at how to become a leading employer. 

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The Future 50 programme is supported by the partner businesses - Credit: Archant

“The employment relationship is like any personal relationship,” she explained. “First it’s about finding the right person, then it’s about hanging on to them – but if you do part company, it’s about doing so in a positive way.” 

To build your profile as a great place to work, she recommended using social media like LinkedIn. "Take advantage of the tools that are out there to enhance your reputation and make you an employer of choice,” she said.  

Birketts senior associate Jennifer Leeder

Birketts senior associate Jennifer Leeder is a specialist in employment law - Credit: Birketts

As the economy unlocks, competition for the best talent will increase – but recruitment has changed over the past 12 months, with the rise of the Zoom interview. Jennifer stressed the importance of finding a process appropriate to your business.  

“You want to differentiate yourself and your organisation," she said. “You want to be memorable for all the right reasons.”  

She emphasised the importance of making the recruitment process enjoyable for applicants – who will be assessing whether they want to join your business while you're deciding if you want them. 

“Make sure the people doing the interviews understand the legalities of recruitment,” Jennifer counselled.  "And that they think carefully about the questions they ask.”  

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Right-to-work checks must be completed and terms and conditions must be in place before an employee starts. The offer letter is a great way to not only include the T&Cs but also to welcome people positively. “It’s about keeping it personal, no matter how big you become,” Jennifer explained.  

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Successful recruitment should be followed by an impressive onboarding process that makes the new employee really feel a part of the organisation - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The onboarding process needs careful consideration. “You want to impress people,” Jennifer said, adding: “It’s not just about day one, or day five. It’s about day 30, month three, month six... You want people to feel they have become part of your organisation.” 


Staff retention 

“Culture is huge,” said Jennifer. “Set up your culture in a really positive way so people understand what makes your organisation tick.” This needs to evolve as businesses grow and the people plan should be a core part of the business plan.  

Communication is equally essential. “As employment lawyers, we know that a lot of employee difficulties and disputes begin with poor communication,” Jennifer warned. “It’s important that you have a really good method of communication and style within your organisation and that it develops as you grow.”  

She also recommended employee engagement surveys, such as the Best Employers Eastern Region programme (see www.best-employers.co.uk). 

Managers play a crucial role in staff retention. Business leaders not only need to consider their own management style but also invest in training for their managers to make sure they have the right skills – both to have difficult conversations, if they’re needed, and to keep people working as one cohesive team and feeling valued. 

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Great managers are essential for staff retention and keeping people performing as a cohesive team - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jennifer stressed the importance of building in opportunities for progression, training and development to help retain and motivate staff. “Make sure people don’t just know the technical stuff about how to do their jobs but also that they develop other skills as well,” she said. 

“Benefits are crucial but your reward package won’t just be about pay,” she added. “It will be about other things like holiday entitlement, death-in-service life assurance, company bike schemes, company cars...”  

Birketts’ Lisa Hayward also outlined how share-incentive schemes can help retain and motivate staff – but also stressed the importance of having taking advice when establishing them, to ensure they benefit the business without creating possible problems in future. 


Letting go 

“People will leave – that's part of employing people,” said Jennifer. “You have to come to terms with that, so you can manage it in a good way.”  

Sometimes the reasons for staff leaving can be positive. “It can often be that they seek opportunities elsewhere that don’t exist with you,” Mrs Leeder said. She recommended keeping in touch and staying on good terms. 

“Sometimes your former employees can be your greatest advocates and they can really champion their experiences in your organisation,” she said. “That can be a fantastic recruitment tool.” 

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