Employers have standard questions and tests they use in their hiring processes to identify job candidates that they think are a good match for them.
Whether you’re actively looking for a job or toying with the idea of looking, you need your own well-researched list of questions, the sum of which serves as a litmus test for a good employer.
The essence of being a good employer is finding the intersection between engaged and satisfied employees on the one-hand, and highly effective and productive employees on the other hand. Employers who are able to successfully pull off this balance are the ones that are well positioned to be around for the long haul – and provide stability and prosperity for their employees.
In other words, don’t just look for an employer where you can be happy. Also look for an employer seriously focused on creating a highly effective organization – one that can truly use its people as a source of sustainable competitive advantage.
Most organizations are not so good at this. Under the leadership of the HR department, many focus – almost obsessively – on employee engagement. In and of itself, this can be a counterproductive focus. It tends to obscure the fact that there are important deficiencies in the organization putting it – and therefore its employees – at risk. Other organizations focus too much on creating “efficiencies” through cost cutting, with little or no attention to what this does to the people side of their business.
A really good employer knows it’s important to get the balance right. In Chapter 7 of Good Company: Business Success in the Worthiness Era, we lay out a framework that helps employers get this balance right.
Here is the employee-equivalent of that framework, in the form of twelve questions to ask about an employer:
- Are people at all levels in the organization held accountable for producing quality work?
- In what ways does this organization demonstrate its commitment to employees?
- Does the work environment support people in producing great results?
- Does the organization’s hiring practices result in the best people getting the job?
- Do people’s jobs make good use of their talents and skills?
- Are there processes in place that help people get their work done efficiently and effectively?
- Is the organization focused on processes helping it be both highly attuned and responsive to the needs of its customers and marketplace?
- Do managers and leaders throughout the organization exhibit principled and ethical behavior and focus on helping employees to be successful?
- Is there open and honest, two-way dialogue between front-line employees and leaders?
- Is training and employee development valued by the organization?
- Does the environment foster teamwork and learning?
- What, if anything, about this organization inspires the best efforts of its employees?
Admittedly, the perspective embedded in these questions is somewhat contrarian. It suggests that you need to look beyond what will make you “happy.” Rather, it will help you identify employers where you can be happy AND productively employed for years to come.