Making the “Nice” Lists

Many of my blogs tend to focus on the “naughty” employer behaviors that can result in liability. Considering I am running a proactive legal practice, this isn’t surprising. However, as I excitedly dive in to the 2019 Albuquerque Business First “Best Places To Work” issue (my FAVORITE issue because it warms my jaded little employment lawyer heart), it seems like the perfect time to talk about what these businesses have in common and how you too can make the “nice” lists (or, as we like to call it at Human Resources Experience, LLC, how you can create an exceptional workplace).

First, you may be asking yourself, why should I care about landing on some silly list? Why does it matter? In a period of remarkably low unemployment (current unemployment rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of August 2, 2019 = 3.7%), we are looking at a job seeker’s market. Low unemployment can be a driver of recruiting challenges if the employer is not focused on what job seekers want. As the demographics of the workforce shift (more baby boomers retire, more millennials and now Gen Z members enter the proverbial rat race), employee expectations with regard to job satisfaction have shifted. Job seekers are looking for intangibles like better work-life harmony over more traditional benefits. The criteria for these ‘silly’ lists such as the availability of development opportunities, a culture that supports health and wellbeing, a feeling that senior leadership values people as their most important resource, pride in the brand, and a good benefits package are the same as that which potential applicants are using to gauge your business.

A younger generation of workers has new priorities for overall job satisfaction.

But what if you don’t care how hard HR has to work on recruiting and you aren’t particularly interested in all that touchy-feely job satisfaction stuff? Well then, maybe you will be interested to know how much money you can save? We all know that employee turnover is expensive. The majority of the price of turnover lies in the value of the significant amount of time invested by Human Resources and operations employees to advertise the position, interview for it, hire, onboard, and train the new employee, all while productivity wanes whilst the position is vacant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median workplace tenure in the U.S. is 4.2 years, while Albuquerque Business First reports that the average tenure of employees at its “Best Places to Work” is nearly twice that at 7.5 years. That sounds a whole lot like over 40% savings on the cost of turnover. Now we’re talking! Bring on the lists!

So, without further ado, here are my suggestions to help your business land on all of the “nice” lists:


1) Be Creative in Employee Engagement Initiatives and “Perks”


Companies on the “nice” lists all have this in common: they offer creative and tailored engagement opportunities and benefits. By flipping through the Albuquerque Business First “Best Places to Work” issue alone you find companies offering all-expense-paid company retreats, unlimited PTO (and yes, people still come to work), free health club memberships, allowing children or pets in the workplace, cash awards for participating in culture initiatives, company-sponsored community service projects, holiday parties, and family picnics. Obviously, an employee engagement initiative or perk has to be compatible with your business (calm down, no one is asking you to allow pet llamas to come to work in a hospital, Sharon). Otherwise, the sky is the limit. I recommend some corporate soul-searching (i.e. let us put together an engagement survey for you) to learn about your employees’ values and to determine what benefits are truly important to your workforce. Then comes the fun part: get creative to serve those values. Perhaps you will be the first employer in your industry to allow a 1 hour paid break in the afternoon to allow parents to pick up their kiddos from school. Maybe you will even let them bring said children to your company-sponsored homework room (complete with snacks of course)? Or, maybe the afternoon is a busy time for your business, so you offer daycare reimbursement instead? The point is, you become a desired employer and reduce turnover by inspiring loyalty in your workforce through creative and tailored engagement initiatives and perks. I can’t wait to read about all of the amazing things you come up with, or, if you need a little help, I’m your girl.


2) Don’t Fall for Dumb Trends (I’m looking at you, open-office concept)

Open Office Concept image with a red X over the top.

Before you make your office open, consider if it will actually help your team.


Employees at the companies on the “nice” lists feel valued as the organization’s most important resource. They have no interest in feeling like guinea pigs. Do not make drastic changes to your team’s work environment or other terms and conditions of their employment to follow the latest trend. If it doesn’t seem logical that an open-office concept will increase productivity, that’s because it isn’t. I have watched too many business owners make terrible decisions with catastrophic cultural impact on the basis of what a seemingly more successful competitor is doing. The fact is, what works for others may not work for you for a variety of reasons. First, your company has its own culture that is absolutely unique to it. That is something to embrace! Second, your company has its own people who are absolutely unique as well. They are something to embrace (well, not physically…you know what I mean)! Following employee relations (or office furnishings) trends without collecting your own data from your own people is simply lazy and I can assure you that you will never make the “nice” lists by being lazy. Instead, be thoughtful, considerate, and innovative in your own way.


3) Invest in Internal Marketing


Research shows that companies currently spend on average around 11% of their total revenue on marketing, which is traditionally focused on promoting the business in order to inform and attract customers. I challenge you to shift a portion of your marketing budget to focus on promoting the business to your existing workforce with the goal of both retaining existing talent and attracting new talent. It is frightening how often employees seem to be the last to know about all of the amazing and incredibly generous things their employers are doing in the community (“I had no idea we were sponsoring that!”). So, not only do you have to follow my advice to create an exceptional workplace, but you have to tell everyone it is exceptional (again and again) too. An employee newsletter, when well-executed, is a great way to get the information out, but it can’t stop there. Think bigger.

For example, when you buy season tickets based upon dreamy images of satisfied clients happily toasting frosty beers and gushing about your business, I recommend that you also imagine your team in that environment feeling valued and included (and consequently also gushing about your business), and set aside a few nights’ tickets for your most important resource. Or, how about investing in your people by investing in development opportunities like an afternoon with a wonderful motivational leadership speaker? Hey, it could even be something as simple as hitting “add to cart” and ordering something useful for your team when you were already ordering 1,000 branded tchotchkes to hand out to customers anyway (who doesn’t love a branded lanyard?!).

image of young employees socializing at a bar

Treat your employees as well as you treat your clients and you may be surprised.

Who knows, you may even witness the exciting phenomenon of attracting new customers based upon how well you treat your people. In a world with seemingly unlimited options for consumers, I know that I am more loyal to brands that are known for being good to their people and I develop a bias against brands when I hear about a negative employment experience. Market to your people and make your people your best brand ambassadors!

At Human Resources Experience, LLC, we pride ourselves on helping businesses of all sizes cultivate exceptional workplaces through culture driven human resources initiatives and proactive legal assistance. If you need human resources consulting, employment law advice, or a plethora of ideas regarding the information above, please do not hesitate to give us a call.