Competition amongst employers to get the right job candidates is intense. It isn’t simply about wages, with more and more organisations looking to entice applications on the back of things like flexible working and promotion of ‘work-life balance’.
There are more things to life than money; although it’s usually the case that we don’t realise it until we’re trapped in a job without too many other options to consider. Whilst the money might be good, it can sometimes be mere anaesthetic as we attempt to blot out the pressure and stress of an otherwise bum rap. There must be other things to think about when looking at where you might want to work.
The old question remains: Do you want to work to live, or live to work? Work-life balance is important and increasing numbers of employers are actually recognising that far from being a distraction or an area where productivity might be lost, that it’s actually the reverse and well worth investing in.
Every company operates differently and will have its own traditions, ethos and working practices. Any outfit aiming to be in business in the longer term needs to adopt new ideas to stay competitive and ensure that they not only get the best staff but that crucially they help them to stay in their employ. The upside for business is that flexible working goes hand-in-hand with proven results in increased productivity, fewer sickness absences and higher retention of staff (which cuts recruitment costs).
One of the most enthusiastic supporters of flexible working we’ve come across is BT. According to a statement on their website: “If you work for BT, we believe you should be able to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of a healthy work-life balance. Which is why we actively encourage flexible working.
By working in partnership with each other, thousands of our people have already established alternative working arrangements that are making our business more productive, cost effective and energised.” In fact, such is BT’s enthusiasm for flexible working that they even offer a service to their business customers that helps them to see the benefits and put the ideas into practice. (And where business is involved this means outlining benefits and dispelling myths.) Incredibly, they’ll manage every aspect – from providing equipment to redesigning office space.
Barclays is another big employer that puts flexible working front and centre on its recruitment web page saying: “Employee benefits include performance incentives, private healthcare, flexible working and structured opportunities for personal and professional development”.
Best For You?
The best places to work will depend on your own ideas of the sorts of places that’ll suit you. If you’re not the chatty type, don’t become a hairdresser; the endless conversations about other people’s holidays would quickly drive you to distraction! Similarly, if scatter cushions and salad bars don’t do it for you, it’s likely that you’re not a fit in the ‘ambient media’ sector either. Fortunately, there are plenty of other choices.
Although, money isn’t ‘everything’, it is ‘something’. The reality is that the best place to work also needs to pay you properly for your services. There are fewer things more stressful than doing your monthly accounts, only to find that you just aren’t earning enough money to cover the bills. This can very quickly help to change your mind about what ‘best’ really means.
Even things that don’t sound particularly like perks can be very useful and help swing a decision regarding where to work. Training, for example, might not seem like anything but an employer’s duty but don’t underestimate the costs involved to them in time and resources and of course the nourishment to you own CV that it provides.
Different Types of Workplace
The vogue for finding the best companies to work for in the UK was founded by The Times newspaper and their famous ‘100 Best Companies To Work For’ lists. Interestingly, they are canny enough to provide several lists every year including: ‘Best Companies To Work For’, ‘Best Small Companies To Work For’, ‘Best Not-For-Profit Companies To Work For’ as well as other lists relating to graduate recruitment and so on.
This tells us immediately, and you knew this anyway, that there is no company in existence that has all the answers to being a good employer and that secondly, specific sectors are likely to behave very differently and that comparisons made between employees in a corner shop and a corporate bank just aren’t going to float.
This year’s ‘100 Best Companies To Work For’ frankly reads like a list of companies you’ve never heard of, with the most notable ‘household’ name in the top 25 being ‘Amigo Loans’ at number 23. (Apparently, the 81% positive score for employee satisfaction levels are kept up by serving free breakfast as well as classes in Yoga, self defence and meditation.)
It’s equally difficult to nail down sectors where you’ll enjoy working. Again, The Times’ list shows that most sectors are represented, making it clear that a good company to work for is likely to be the result of management and practices rather than what industry they’re involved with.
There are, of course, seriously good perks around, if you go looking for them, ranging from the solid stuff like money, hours, wages, childcare and so on through to flexible working, holidays and incentives through to discounts on products or prizes, parties, perks and freebies. Reading through a couple of the citations of the Times’ list, it’s clear that there are some really great employers out there, although it needs to be pointed out that every employer with a sense of management will direct at least some resources into making their employees happy in their work.