Comment: Four ways to become an employer of choice

There is no set formula for becoming an employer of choice, but there are always areas to improve upon, says Marion Forbes. Picture: Contributed
There is no set formula for becoming an employer of choice, but there are always areas to improve upon, says Marion Forbes. Picture: Contributed
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It is welcome news that Scotland’s unemployment rate dropped slightly to 4.2 per cent between April and June. According to The Office for National Statistics, the number of Scots aged 16 to 64 who are in employment rose by 17,000 to a working-age rate of 75.2 per cent.

However, for employers looking to expand and recruit, this trend brings additional challenges as the pool of job seekers shrinks. So, how do employers make themselves more attractive to potential employees? I believe the answer lies in building their brand as an employer.

A few weeks ago, Mactaggart and Mickel Homes achieved something that no other Scottish housebuilder has done, and which only one other UK housebuilder has accomplished. We were awarded Investors in People (IIP) Platinum accreditation, the highest level which can be achieved. Only 2 per cent of IIP-accredited organisations in the UK – 78 companies – have attained this standard.

As a director of Mactaggart and Mickel Homes with responsibility for human resources, I welcome this recognition. But, the truth is, we didn’t set out to gain IIP Platinum. Our objective was, and remains, to be an employer of choice. Gaining IIP Platinum tells me that we are heading in the right direction – but the journey is not over. In fact, it should be a lifelong journey for all responsible employers who wish to recruit the best talent.

How do you become an employer of choice? There is no set formula, but here are four areas that have proved to be instrumental for Mactaggart and Mickel Homes.

Firstly, give your staff a voice. Make a sustained effort not only to listen to what your people are saying, but be prepared to act on that advice. Mactaggart and Mickel have Employer of Choice champions across the business – our eyes and ears, if you like – and we also hold regular “spotlight” lunches where employees discuss ideas with our CEO. One suggestion was to introduce a charity volunteering programme so staff can make a real difference using their varied skill sets. We plan to launch this programme in the autumn.

Secondly, identify your future leaders. We have an emerging leaders’ programme which brings together talented people to hone their skills by addressing a specific business challenge, most recently looking at customer service before, during and after a home purchase. In fact, the changes we implemented as a result of their work were a key factor in us achieving a five star rating from the Home Builders Federation for the sixth year in a row. This is voted for by the people who buy our properties, so it means a great deal to us.

Thirdly, think continuous improvement. It’s tempting to pay less attention to the areas of your business that are performing well. Management focus tends to be drawn towards the challenges and how to overcome them. But, to become an employer of choice, you need to be able to show improvement across the high performing areas, too. It’s about being fit for purpose next week, next year and in ten years’ time.

Finally, plan for sustainable growth. Quick wins are welcome, but IIP assessors and potential recruits are looking for something more; evidence that business strategies are robust and taking the business forward. Our expansion into the English housebuilding marketplace was a landmark strategy for us and, together with our continued diversification into new markets such as the private rental sector, has been key to us being able to showcase our progress to our teams.

There’s no silver bullet that will ensure that the brightest talent chooses to join your business rather than your competitors. But committing to programmes such as Investors in People is a good place to start on your own journey to be the employer that everyone wants to work for.

Marion Forbes, director at Mactaggart and Mickel Homes.