9 secrets of the world's ‘most attractive’ employers

Development, flexibility and plain old friendliness boost rankings.

9 secrets of the world's ‘most attractive’ employers

Earlier this fall, employer branding firm Universum released its 2014 rankings of the World’s Most Attractive Employers, based on surveys of more than 200,000 business and engineering students in the world’s 12 largest economies. According to the survey, a “creative and dynamic work environment” is the most sought-after attribute for engineering students. Here are nine ways an organization can make the grade.

They know themselves

“The best companies are digging into the data and understanding what their strengths and weaknesses are,” says Vicki Lynn, senior vice president of talent strategy and employer branding at Universum. “When they look at what they need to do to be more attractive to students, they know they need to be authentic and real about it, not changing every year.”

They’re flexible

It’s not necessarily about working from home, Lynn says. Instead, companies that focus more on results and project completion and less on how many hours someone sits in a chair get high marks from students.

They’re friendly

“Friendliness comes up a lot as well,” Lynn says. Companies that score high have a personal approach to recruiting — these organizations answer emails promptly and engage with people on social media. She says she heard of one company whose CEO planned on personally calling the top five MBA students they were trying to recruit that year.

They develop employees

Lynn says training, development and education are an important draw for new workers. That’s the case for Deloitte, which ranked No. 5 on the list, says Margot Thom, managing director of global talent for Deloitte Global. The company built a brick-and-mortar learning center in 2011, and added two more in 2013. “Deloitte’s member firms develop leaders who are not only technically excellent, but innovative at finding solutions to their clients’ needs,” she says.

They build their brands

“Deliver consistently on your value proposition and make it an integral part of everything you do, from university recruiting and internship programs, to online tools and resources, to media and communications,” Thom says. Encouraging employees to be brand ambassadors to others will help reinforce your organization’s image as a leader.

They invest in employees

“At almost any organization, its most valuable asset is its employees,” says Blane Ruschak, executive director of university relations and recruiting for KPMG, which ranked No. 4 on the list for business students. “Starting from that premise, a company needs to invest in recruiting, onboarding, training, and development of those employees.” Too many employers expect new employees to start working on day one without providing proper training, Ruschak says.

They know people change

Employers that have open discussions with employees about short-term and long-term goals, and then work with them to meet those goals, will have happy employees, Ruschak says. “Companies that offer rotations or other opportunities to explore different roles often find that people come back to their original roles rejuvenated. And those who do leave speak positively about the company, which helps attract better people,” he says.

They let employees explore their ideas

3M ranked 32nd on the list for engineering students. The company gives employees access to its resources and 15 percent of their work time to explore any topic that intrigues them, says Marlene McGrath, senior vice president for human resources. “This not only helps them learn and grow but it has also led to breakthrough ideas for the company,” she says. When people are encouraged to share ideas and explore new theories, it builds a dynamic workforce where people are passionate about what they do, McGrath says.

They pay attention to trends

While you’re focused on yourself, you still need to know what others are doing. “We want to attract and retain the best and brightest minds in the world, so it’s important to pay close attention to market trends and what draws your target job candidates,” McGrath says. “A company should continuously adapt its workplace to reflect both. For example, we’re seeing changes in the way people want to work, and we know that we need to support employee’s different work styles.”