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The Employer Brand Secrets Behind the Best Companies to Work For

29th November 2018
What makes somewhere a great place to work? We’ve analysed The Sunday Times’ list of the Top 100 Companies to Work For in 2018 and the word that appears time and time again is ‘culture.’

Culture encompasses so many aspects of a business; from your company values and goals to the look and feel of the environment, the attitudes and values of your people and the experience you seek to provide them.

With this being said, how can HR professionals improve the culture of their company and strive for a coveted spot on the Top 100 Companies to Work For list? The answer is by thinking like a brand marketer.

Your brand is everything

In 2018, people expect the companies they work for to fulfil an increasing range of needs. We’ve moved beyond price to seek value; it’s as true of us as employees, as it is of us as customers.

We want companies to recognise us as individuals, give us opportunities to try new things and inspire us. We want them to communicate clearly, help us to lead healthy lives and reward us for what we contribute. We’d also like them to help us feel part of something meaningful.

Essentially, we’re all hungry for a great brand experience in every part of our lives.


Here’s the list of categories The Times uses to judge the employee experience for its annual rankings:
  • - Leadership
  • - Wellbeing
  • - Giving something back
  • - Personal growth
  • - My Manager
  • - My Company
  • - My Team
  • - Fair Deal[i] (Note that pay and financial benefits come last)

You can utilise the principles of brand marketing to translate the judging criteria into an employee engagement strategy that positions your company as a great place to work. 
It’s time to start thinking of your employees as customers and invest in giving them a brand experience that makes them feel valued and appreciated. Having a strong employer brand strategy will help you attract and retain top talent.

Tip #1: Think creatively about how you structure your investments in people, including personalised offers and rewards

While 89% of employers assume their employees leave for more money elsewhere, only 12% of leavers actually earn higher salaries from their next company[ii].

It’s important not to make the mistake of thinking that paying above the market average means you can afford to be half-hearted elsewhere or that offering a lower salary is an automatic barrier to engagement.

Consider alternatives to investing everything you’ve got into salary. Are there personal milestones when a lump sum or gift would go further to make someone feel valued? Or would regular savings on a brand or experience mean more to them?

Ideas from some of the best companies to work for:
Lingerie company Bravissimo’s #10 ranking in The Sunday Times’ list for 2018 was, in part, due to their practice of making staff feel special.  Birthdays are celebrated with a gift, and long-serving employees are personally visited by one of the directors with a present and an invite to a celebratory event.

Make it happen now:
  • A pre-loaded Pure Reward card is a hassle-free way of welcoming new joiners, marking service milestones or recognising outstanding performance.
  • Help your staff save money on experiences they love, including eating out, days out and cinema visits with lifestyle benefits.  


Tip #2: Help your people live the lives they aspire to

Take the time to understand the personal motivations of your workforce and identify what you could do to make it easier for employees to achieve their personal ambitions.  How can you help your people stay healthy and well? Could you give them more opportunities to learn and develop in the ways they want?

Employees also want to derive meaning from what they do[iii]. Think about your company values and how these are translated into day to day life. How do you as an organisation give back and how good are you at recognising these positive contributions in meaningful ways?

Ideas from some of the best companies to work for:
Steak restaurant Hawksmoor was recognised for taking 300,000 disposable drinking straws out of the refuse system in 2017 alone after it banned them from its restaurants. The company’s environmental credentials are source of pride for staff, who scored them 81%.

Meanwhile, Barbon Insurance Group won The Sunday Times’ Best Improver special award for its concern for staff wellbeing and for the environment. To reduce workplace stress, the company introduced a wellbeing room for people to relax or get ready to go out after work. They also arranged for a visiting therapist to provide aromatherapy and reflexology treatments during office hours.

Make it happen now:
  • Encourage employees to build regular exercise into their week by getting more active on their commute. You can help them to save money on a new bike and accessories with Cyclescheme. And why not bat away any maintenance worries by offering free bicycle repairs at the office, like online game developer Jagex, too?
  • A Spafinder voucher allows employees to choose the wellness experience that suits them best. Whether they want to destress or reenergise, they can pick from thousands of locations and will return to work feeling valued.

Tip #3: Be honest about what your current brand looks like versus the brand you’d like to be. Use your gap analysis to identify where you need to make changes.

If you’ve been reading this article thinking this approach only works for companies like Google, think again. The top-ranking company on The Times’ 2018 list? Chess, a telecoms reseller based in Alderley Edge.

Every company has the potential to be a great place to work. Take some time to consider where you’d like to be in a years’ time and start your journey now.


If a weekly beer trolley isn’t right for your company then don’t have one. But be absolutely sure before you rule things out. As you look to recruit the next generation into your workplace, you might need to make some changes to meet new breed of expectations. And don’t be too quick to assume your existing employees, however young or old, wouldn’t welcome the changes either.
Ideas from The Times’ Best Company to Work For in 2018:
This year’s #1 company, Chess, boasts a network of 55 employees who come together as “cultural architects” for the company. They produce weekly morale scores for their business area and feed back to senior management at monthly meetings. They also offer advice on everything from office amenities to charity fundraising.  

Make it happen now:
  • Speak to your employees about their needs and interests, opening up the conversation shows that you value their needs.
  • It’s important to review your benefits package regularily so that you stay up to date with the current needs of your workforce. For example, you can bring your proposition bang up to date withTechscheme, which provides your employees access to the latest tech whilst saving money through salary sacrifice.  

If you are interested in how we can support your business attract and retain customers please get in touch so we can discuss how we can support you, fill out the contact form or call one of our team on 0207 419 8191.
[i] The Sunday Times http://www.b.co.uk
[ii] Hawk Incentives http://hawkincentives.com
[iii] https://hbr.org/2011/09/the-twelve-attributes-of-a-tru.html

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