Analysis - October 29, 2007



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October 2007


Print Human resources,

“Employers of choice” or the art of attracting and retaining employees (Conference summary)

Roles are being reversed in today’s working world. Now that the pool of available workers is shrinking and managers are plagued by fierce competition from other economic sectors, it is no longer employers who select employees, but rather employees who select their employers. This means that businesses must not only work to attract and encourage loyalty among customers, they must also appeal to workers by becoming an “employer of choice.” Three tourism industry managers discussed this very topic at the 7th annual HR day organized by the Quebec Tourism Human Resource Council (CQRHT).

Self-promotion, third-party recognition and advertising

According to Adèle Girard, Executive Director of the CQRHT, though “employer of choice” may be a vague concept, the term itself is very popular. Some businesses resort to self-promotion and advertise themselves as such on their Websites, while others earn third-party recognition on a national, provincial, regional or industry-wide scale.

A business can obtain ISO certification or endeavour to make the list of “Canada’s Top 100 Employers” drawn up by Maclean’s magazine; they can attempt to meet the challenge of the Défi Meilleurs Employeurs organized by Affaires PLUS or enter the ranks of the “Top 50 Dream Employers” in Commerce magazine, a list based on a survey of university students; or they can try to obtain the title of “Employer of choice” from the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council or as a Canadian small or medium-sized business.

The procedure differs from one program to the next: evaluation committee, anonymous employee survey, etc. Some organizations have received more than one form of recognition.

One such example is KPMG, a Canadian firm that provides professional services. Its Website features the employee benefits it offers and the recognition it has garnered as an employer of choice.

The tourism industry itself also has some programs to recognize such employers:

  • Défi Meilleurs Employeurs
  • “Employer of Choice” from the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC)
  • CTHRC Award for Excellence in Human Resources Development, TIAC National Awards
  • Qualité Tourisme certification
  • Emerit National Business Recognition

All of these awards have the same goal: attract and retain the best potential employees.
Some surveys have shown that the employees of businesses with official recognition are more motivated. They have good things to say about their employer, would like to remain with the organization and strive to excel.

It is not enough to call oneself an “Employer of choice”

Human resource management is an ongoing process: administrators must constantly update, change with the times and work to develop an employee-centred corporate culture.

In the same way that businesses work to attract customers, they must develop a brand image among potential employees and highlight the benefits of working for the company. Used thousands of times on the Internet, the term “employer of choice” is not enough. A business must be able to follow through on its promises because negative word-of-mouth travels quickly, thanks to the Web, and the effects can be devastating and hurt the company.

Wanted: Extraordinary employers

The following are examples of practices that can be used to attract workers and increase employee motivation and loyalty.

Christian Champagne, Executive Vice-President, Pacini and Commensal restaurant chain

Through various efforts, Pacini has succeeded in cutting its employee turnover rate from 150% in 2000 to 50% today.

With Mr. Champagne’s assistance, the president of the company personally met with employees from the various branches to hear and discuss their concerns, without the participation of any supervisors or managers. Then, they implemented an employee recognition program based on years of service, team spirit and achievements related to the company’s strategic goals.

Some other examples:

  • Organized social activities enable employees to chat in a relaxed atmosphere
  • Top employees are rewarded with winery tours and cooking lessons in Italy
  • Employees who develop new recipes are given the title of maestro de cucina and a special mention in the menu
  • Thanks to team work, average spending per guest has increased and helped raise kitchen worker salaries

Guy Granger, Assistant General Manager and Vice-President, Finance and Administration,

The administrative team of this four-season resort is passionate, dynamic and focussed on human resources. Employees are an integral part of Ski Bromont’s corporate culture and philosophy. The concept of customer service applies to both employees and customers, because internal clients (employees) are just as important as external clients.

When job applicants attend a meeting at the company, the relationship established with the employer is often much more influential than the salary offered because it gives potential employees an opportunity to size up the company.

All things being equal, the difference between two companies is in their employees!

The administration has created a dynamic, open workplace that emphasizes the importance of having fun at work. Throughout the chain of command (from top to bottom), consistency is key and managers work to set a good example.

  • Transparency, clear communication of goals and encouragement to work together as a team – biannual meetings to present the company’s performance
  • Consultation – meetings with employee to find out their needs and more clearly define job descriptions and tasks
  • Productivity bonuses – employees receive 40% of the profits earned above the targeted goal, in accordance with specific criteria
  • Importance of expertise – employees must leave having learned something
  • Training, follow-up and coaching

Marie-Claude McDuff, Executive Director, Auberge de La Fontaine

The administration at Auberge de La Fontaine has adopted the Ministère du Tourisme’s Démarche Qualité program. This program offers clear, consistent procedures to help organize the management of human resources.

The mission is to ensure the well-being of both customers and employees, and the goal is satisfaction. Compensation is not the only thing that counts; other working conditions are important too. For this reason, the Auberge has implemented the following measures:

  • Managers act as models for employees because the type of management is reflected in employee behaviour – transmit the passion
  • Communication of assessment criteria
  • Productivity bonus and pro rata bonus based on sales volume and hours worked
  • Group insurance covered 50% by the employer
  • Employee empowerment
  • Flexible scheduling – 4 days a week
  • Cross-training that enables employees to do more than one job – versatility and a break in routine
  • Integration program for immigrant workers
  • Hotel room exchange during the Christmas holidays – opportunity to compare
  • Social activities: Happy Hour, BBQ, Christmas party – get to see managers and colleagues in a different light
  • Massage room – relaxation

Like satisfied customers, contented employees are your best ambassadors. Be sure to use them!

– Girard, Adèle, Christian Champagne, Guy Granger and Marie-Claude McDuff. “Employeurs de choix,” 7th annual HR day of the Quebec Tourism Human Resource Council, La gestion du changement pour réussir le virage techno en RH, held in Trois-Rivières, September 26, 2007.

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