Leaders across industries are exploring how they can become an ‘employer of choice’ an employer that is resilient to demographic changes because they will never have a dearth of applicants seeking them out. 

Being an employer of choice is important because the labour force is actually shrinking, and as it does, the ways companies attract and retain talent will have to change. 

The 2023 Hiring and Workforce Trends Report from Indeed and Glassdoor economists shows that, economic uncertainty notwithstanding, an ageing population will result in less talent to go around. In many countries, the number of people of working age (between 15 and 65) will go down and, in the United States and the United Kingdom especially, the tightening is expected to be acute, with population increases driven only by immigration in 2025 and beyond. 

The war for talent and the Great Resignation, or the Great Realisation, as it has been called, that pummelled organisations in 2021 and 2022 are only omens of a trend that will accelerate in coming years. Companies that are hoping the talent landscape will return to how it was pre-2020 are in for a big disappointment. 

‘If you’re looking backwards, you’re dead in the water,” says Tonya Moore, SVP of human resources at Island Hospitality, which manages a portfolio of hotels throughout the United States. ‘You need to figure out what the path forward is.’

The key is employer branding. Think of your employer brand as what talent says about your company when you aren’t in the room. It’s what sets you apart in a jobseeker’s mind. And according to this Glassdoor survey with responses from professionals in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, 69% of employees want their employer to have a brand that they can be proud of.

So how do employers ensure they are an employer of choice this year? These five steps, from HR and talent acquisition leaders at Reckitt, Virgin Orbit, WIS International and Island Hospitality, are a good place to start. 

Treat salary as one piece of a larger puzzle 

Money and other perks matter, but they’re not the entire picture. Wages rose during the past few years, and at the end of December 2022 job postings on Indeed with salary information had 18% more started applications per impression. Today, reasonable pay, equitable pay and pay transparency are seen as a baseline, and candidates expect employers to build from there

‘Every company should ask themselves if they are doing the right thing with the basics first. Those are what I call the “hygiene factors”, like salary and benefits, that all of us need to pay attention to as companies’, says Christine Geissler, SVP of human resources at Reckitt, a global consumer goods company. ‘Then it is about what makes you unique to employees.’

In other words, salary is a great way to start a conversation with talent, but it won’t always be the make-or-break factor that gets your offer accepted. Look at what your company has to offer holistically. This is especially important for organisations that can’t increase wages and have to get creative with their compensation packages instead.

‘Others might be able to pay a little bit more, but maybe people will be more attracted to your benefits, your diversity and the work-life balance you provide’, says Joey Lee, Head of Talent Acquisition at Virgin Orbit. 

Cultivate a culture and mission that people can identify with

Make your company not only an exciting place to be hired but a wonderful place to work and grow a career. Workplace culture is more important than it has ever been, and employees expect greater happiness and wellbeing from their jobs. 

'We focus on the employee value proposition and make sure that it mirrors our vision and values. At Virgin, you come as you are; it’s a company with no ego. That’s the Richard Branson ethos', Lee says. 'We make that culture evident on all our external sites, and we look at the feedback on our Glassdoor and Indeed review pages to see what people are saying.'

According to Indeed data, 89% of people in the UK agree that how they feel at work impacts how they feel at home, and 40% say their expectations around happiness at work have increased in the past year. Stress and burnout lead employees to search for greener pastures and make them less likely to recommend your company to others.

'You have to be able to say that you’ve got your core values and you live by them', says Erik Kershner, senior director of talent and engagement for WIS International, a solutions partner for retailers and manufacturers. 'Are you going to hit those goals all the time? No, we all make mistakes. But you need to be able to showcase them as guiding principles.' 

Find out what advantages will be unique to your company

No company can be perfect at everything, of course. But you can strategically pick the areas you want to be great in. Maybe you can’t offer remote work, but you can offer generous paid time off, career development training or free meals. 

'Choose what you want to be known for as a company', Geissler says. 'What’s your employee value proposition? Maybe you decide you’ll have average wages, but you’ll be great at this other benefit that aligns with your purpose and what you want to be known for.'

She explains that at Reckitt, which is the parent company of the infant formula brand Enfamil, the organisation heavily emphasises being accommodating to parents.

'As an organisation that supports parents and their babies with our infant formula, we believe in parental time off, so we increased that', Geissler says of the change in policy that boosted paid maternity leave from 16 weeks to up to 26 weeks. Naturally they provide free infant formula as well; however, they also include training for new parents and how to assimilate back into returning to work. 'We go beyond the industry standard with this benefit because we want infants to get the best possible start in life.'

Develop an actionable DEI&B strategy and stay true to it

As the workforce collectively gets younger, priorities will shift. Indeed data indicates that the generational divide between workers will lead to differing attitudes when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B). 

Of workers aged 18-34 in the US, Canada and the UK, 72% would consider turning down a job offer or exiting a company if they felt the manager was unsupportive of DEI&B initiatives. Taking action toward building a diverse workplace and inclusive leadership, not just paying lip service, can be a way to differentiate from other companies looking for talent. 

'Is diversity a tickbox for you or is it something more?' Lee wonders. 'The expectations are higher now, and people expect companies to be more proactive and more on the offense. For us, it’s in our mission, it’s on our career site, and when people interview with us, the panel is diverse.'

Nurture talent within your company 

A classic rule of business is that it’s easier to retain the customers you have than to keep acquiring new customers. The same goes for your employees. 

Moore from Island Hospitality explains that her company’s pipeline programme allows them to accelerate internal transfers or promotions instead of only relying on external candidates. If someone is identified as a strong fit for a director or managerial track, they’re placed on that path.

'It makes us more nimble', Moore says. 'When there are opportunities, we do what we can to pipeline people through. We collaborate to make opportunities available and create more customised career paths. People are able to get where they want to go while remaining within our company.' 

The year 2023 is shaping up to be another challenging one for attracting and retaining talent. The definition of an employer of choice has changed with the times, and companies may need to look inward to really understand the value they bring to talent. By doing this, they stay competitive in this recruitment environment and continue to land the best and brightest the workforce has to offer.

Tonya Moore, Christine Geissler, Erik Kershner and Joey Lee are members of the Indeed Leadership Connect programme. See what they had to say about diversity and the future of work during a recent Indeed Leadership Connect event.