I’m woefully ignorant of sports (ALL of them) but when a player is named the MVP or the GOAT, I trust that person is a great athlete.
My taste for movies runs more toward “guilty pleasure” than to sweeping dramas, so I rely on the Academy Awards and Oscars to inform me what constitutes important cinema.
Thankfully, it has been a glorious 17 years since I’ve had to search for a job. BUT if I suddenly found myself looking for a new employer, I know where I’d start. By looking for companies that have earned “top workplace” awards, I could enter an interview with confidence that I’m talking to leaders who care about employee wellbeing and happiness.
I’m not unique in this. Since Access Perks (or more specifically, our parent company Access Development) began applying for and winning workplace awards a decade ago, those awards have attracted many excellent applicants. How do we know? They report on their applications that they heard about us through one award site or another. In fact, awards are the second most common answer. The top answer is that they were referred by a current employee. (Referrals consistently send us the most and the best applicants, but that is a topic for another article.)
From an employer’s perspective, the war for talent is a fierce competition. Workplace awards can be one more tool to help you win.
Why Pursue Workplace Awards?
There are a myriad of advantages that come from winning workplace awards. For example, workplace awards give you a pulse on employee engagement. They help build employee pride. They motivate conscientious consumers who want to support good companies. Learn more about each of these in this article.
By far, the area where workplace awards can have the most influence is on recruitment and retention. Recruitment has become a big topic of discussion for many years; and now, experts are predicting employee retention will surpass it in the coming years. Currently, there are a lot of companies losing great employees to the "great resignation," to the growing wave of Boomer retirements and more. At the same time, many are trying find a new balance regarding remote work.
The war for talent is inspiring businesses everywhere to get creative in their recruitment efforts. They’re offering more and better lifestyle benefits, they’re turning to gig workers, and they’re investing in a welcoming company culture.
Here are some key reasons workplace awards are vital in helping employers win the war for talent:
- People want to work for employers that share their values. 56% would even take a pay cut to work for one that does. Workplace awards act a certification of company values by an unbiased third party.
- Talented employees trust workplace awards to help inform their decisions. Among U.S. job seekers, 8 in 10 report they are at least somewhat more likely to apply at an organization that has recently won a great workplace award.
- Smaller, less well-known companies can gain the recognition they need to compete with the businesses that have instant name recognition, big shiny buildings and/or flashy perks. Winners get positive PR in trade publications, on social media and other places that expand their visibility to talented job seekers.
- Workplace awards inspire employee pride, and employees who feel pride in their company are more likely to refer their network to open positions (bonus: among new hires who were referred by friends, 50% stay at least 5 years and 86% expect to be happier than in a non-referred position).
How to Win Workplace Awards
We won’t sugar-coat it. Applying for workplace awards takes an investment of time, and in a lot of cases, money. It might be tempting to wait until you’re sure you can “win” every award you nominate your business for. The good news, however, is that even “losses” give you valuable information. This information can help guide future decisions in providing better company culture/benefits AND give you a better chance of winning on future attempts.
That said, we want you to have the best possible chance of earning the right to proudly display your awards on your website. So, for some expert tips, we turned to our own favorite HR professional, Lisa Oyler of Access Perks/Access Development. She’s done the work behind the scenes to nominate Access for a variety of workplace awards, many of which the company has won over the last 10 years.
Step 1. Choose which workplace awards to pursue
It may surprise you, but award selection most definitely warrants its own step. There’s a long list of national, well-known and highly publicized employer awards out there. Most of these evaluate overall employee satisfaction, though there are even more smaller awards with specific focuses. For example, some evaluate how well an employer supports mental health, some how many opportunities there are for women, and others focus on a certain region or industry.
Lisa’s Pro Tip: With the time, effort and investment needed for each nomination, it’s best to narrow your list to the ones where your culture is already strong. For example, at Access Perks/Access Development, one of the first awards we won was for the Utah Worksite Wellness award, which recognized employers committed to improving employee health and wellness. At that time (as we do now), we had many employees who were independently training for marathons and triathlons. They were already making use of the riverside parkway next to the office, and taking advantage of Access’ support of their efforts. Since health and wellness was naturally part of Access’ culture, this was an award we wanted.
Choosing awards based on your strengths helps justify the effort involved by increasing your chance for recognition. More importantly, you’ll attract the type of like-minded applicants who would fit in well with the existing culture.
Step 2. Prepare for Success by Getting a Baseline Through Internal Surveys
Workplace award surveys typically contain questions about employee satisfaction and engagement. Many will ask about work-life balance, about how well company goals are communicated, about fairness of compensation, about upward mobility, etc. You probably won’t know the exact set of questions until the survey is delivered to employees (which is a good reason to apply for the same awards year after year.)
What you can do is survey your workforce on your own. To get you started, there are a lot of sample surveys and suggested employee engagement questions available with a small amount of research. When employees point out weaknesses, you can work on those before you ever fill out the application.
Lisa’s Pro Tip: The goal is to BE a top workplace. Awards are useful as a way to quickly establish trust with potential employees. People overwhelmingly trust the endorsement of industry experts over a company’s own self-promotion.
The real magic, however, isn’t in the award itself but in the work that goes into always being worthy of the award. Winning captures the attention of talented workers, but living up to the award – proving every day that employees are valued – is what keeps them working for you year after year.
Step 3. Pay the Nomination Fee
Many of the most reputable and recognizable awards charge a fee. In return, the award team conducts a professional and extensive employee survey. You get the value of the fee back in the form of demographic information on your employees: a snapshot view of their answers. Even though this snapshot only includes a tiny percentage of employee answers – often only the sections where the company was rated highest and lowest – this can help you know where you’re falling short in your own employee’s eyes. Therefore, it can help know where to focus your efforts in order to win the next year.
Lisa’s Top Tip: In addition to the snapshot view of results, every year we are offered the FULL survey results for an additional fee. This is something you’ll have to decide whether or not to purchase. Access has chosen to only a few times, but each time we received valuable information in return.
With a price tag that can reach thousands of dollars, you may wonder why we would even bother. After all, we regularly survey our staff on our own – and I try to hold one-on-one conversations throughout the year (both on a casual and formal basis). The reason we did, and the reason why other businesses may consider it, is that employees feel more comfortable being 100% honest when they see that a third party is conducting the survey and their answers are guaranteed anonymous.
Step 4. Follow the Application Process
It (almost) goes without saying that you should pay close attention to all the requirements and regulations when turning in an application. After all, you hardly want to be disqualified because you submitted in the wrong format, or because you fall outside the award boundaries.
After the application process is complete, then the survey process begins. At this point, it’s all up to the employees.
Lisa’s Top Tip: As an HR professional or other business leader, you may be wondering if we have any tips on getting employees to rate you highly on these crucial surveys. There is no magic formula, though the tips we’ve given above (apply where your culture is already strong, be a top workplace, etc.) will get you some of the way there.
One place you may have more influence is encouraging enough people to complete the survey. There’s usually a threshold – a certain percentage of participation needed – in order to be considered for the award. We encourage our employees to take the survey while on the clock and make sure they have sufficient time. We also emphasize that the results will be anonymous, appreciated and used respectfully. Workplace awards honor employees and their efforts just as much as it does the company – reminding them of this fact is another way to encourage more participation.
Step 5. Accept (and Promote) Your Award
Workplace awards have the potential to influence every person who comes in contact with your business – clients, members, customers, job seekers, etc. The manner in which you accept and promote your workplace awards can have a profound affect on the way the world perceives your business.
First of all, if there is an award ceremony where you can accept the award in person, please do. These are great places to network with like-minded leaders. You’ll be surrounded by leaders who won the same award you did, but probably didn’t take the same path as you. Therefore, the ideas shared at these functions could be among the most innovative and effective in the market at the time.
Businesses that are leaders in employee satisfaction have even been shown to increase profits because the world cares increasingly about doing business with companies that treat their employees well. It’s also important to get the word out. The more you do, the more opportunities you have to build brand equity and elevate your image with your audience.
Lisa’s Top Tip: Once you’ve won a workplace award, it’s not the time to be shy about it. Of course, some publicity will come from being listed among the winners on the award company’s website, but you can reach a lot more people by spreading the word too. Some good avenues include press releases, blog articles, mailing lists, social media, etc.
When it comes to recruitment efforts, there are some specific places to list your awards. That way, you’ll place valuable credibility right where job seekers are likely to see it. At Access, we post them on the careers page of our corporate website, mention them in job advertisements, and list them on our “we received your application” emails.
When it comes to retention efforts, we love celebrating our wins with employees! It's a great reminder that the awards are for them AND because of them. Plus, it's just fun to bring in ice cream or a food truck and demonstrate how much you value their contributions.
Worth Pursuing? We Say Yes!
Workplace Awards are not the end-all of recruitment needs. However, one specific effect that the pandemic and economic uncertainty have had is to change the way people think about employment. They’re more willing than ever to switch to a new employer, and unlike years past, they’re not necessarily chasing a bigger salary. More than ever before, people are searching for businesses who share their values and for teams that share their talent.
According to Oyler, “Workplace awards are a trusted way to communicate what your company values are. Since job seekers are putting a premium on finding the right employer, your workplace awards will help you attract – not just top talent – but the RIGHT top talent. The type of people who are drawn to those awards are the type of people who will be happy in the culture that already exists, and happy among the people already in your employ.”