Joining the 'Best' Crowd

A global certification organization has joined the field of "best workplaces" offerings, and is looking for companies that have the best HR policies and procedures for developing employees in the United States and around the world.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
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A global, Netherlands-based organization called Top Employers Institute has joined the "best workplaces" landscape to help gauge whether companies have the best HR policies and procedures for developing employees both here and abroad.

"I think what you see in companies all over is much more focus on return on capital investment. There's real focus on accountability," says Top Employers CEO David Plink. Now that many HR leaders have achieved the proverbial seat at the C-suite table, he says, "they have to compete with data. It's the global trend of 'data-fication' and accountability of HR that come together now."

That's the challenge Top Employers Institutes is designed to provide objective answers to, says Jennifer Ives, the institute's senior vice president in North America.

"When the chief HR officer is sitting with his or her CEO," Ives says, "they can then say, if we do X, we can calculate a 65-percent [reduction in] absenteeism, which results in Y to the company," she says. "The objective insights and feedback that these company decision makers are receiving results in the actual recommendations and numbers of quantitative objective data that they have been able to use in the C-suite.

"Companies in the U.S. have been saying to us that they want the objective data and insight," she says, "and they don't have a mechanism for doing so."

To date, Top Employers has certified 1,072 companies on a country level, 65 on a continental level and about 20 companies on a global level. (They focus on companies with 250 employees or more.)

In March, Top Employers announced its second year of certified U.S. companies: BSH Home Appliances, Chiesi USA, DHL Express, Dimension Data, Faurecia USA Holdings, JT International USA, Orange Business Services-USA, Saint-Gobain North America, Tata Consultancy Services, Technip USA and Valeo North America.

Additionally, companies such as Accenture, BASF, ING Group, PepsiCo, Pfizer, SAP, General Motors, Samsung, Volkswagen and Unilever hold Top Employers certifications at their non-U.S. operations.

Because Top Employers places such an emphasis on the HR-policy angle, Plink says, his organization makes a good complement to other programs such as Fortune's Great Places to Work list, Gallup's Great Workplace Award, Universum's global employer brand image program or's fee-free employee-satisfaction-based Best Places to Work lists.

To earn Top Employers certification, companies complete a research-and-evaluation process that assesses more than 600 HR best practices in nine areas: talent strategy, workforce planning, on-boarding, learning and development, performance management, leadership development, career and succession management, compensation and benefits, and culture. The program measures the same metrics over the global landscape, allowing companies to compare their performance with peer companies' benchmarks in their region and around the world.

For example, the Top Employers that offer a weight-loss program to support employees in their daily work, Plink says, have a staff turnover rate of 5.7 percent, in comparison to 6.7 percent for other top employers. "People feel they are being taking care of," he says, adding that "their value as employees is not just as a tool to get work done, but [they are] also deserving of investment in their personal health."

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Top Employers Institute began certifying companies around the world in 1991, but launched its U.S. certifications in 2014. This past January, it began partnering with the Human Resources Certification Institute and set up an Americas headquarters office in HRCI's facilities in Alexandria, Va.

The growing number of "best employers" lists simply adds to the data employees have at their disposal, says Lisa Holden, employer communications manager for Glassdoor, which means they can make more-informed choices about which company to work for.

"Employers that pay attention to what current and former employees are saying about them are in a better position to understand where they are succeeding and failing -- and what to do about it," she says. "Gathering the data is the first step. Next, employers can make informed decisions about what needs improving and communicate the plan to employees."

As for the lessons to be learned from a Top Employers certification process, Plink says that, following validation and an independent external audit, a company's performance scores are rated against an international standard of excellence. Every company participating in the certification process -- regardless of whether they achieve certification -- receives comprehensive feedback.

"Whether certified in Nigeria or Siberia or Canada or Germany, you are held against the same criteria," Plink says, "because we believe that most multinational leading companies can offer the same conditions regardless of the countries in which they operate, regardless of the local rules that apply."

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