Checklist of 53 Employer-of-Choice Engagement Practices

Because it is difficult to focus on implementing several practices all at once, you may wish to use this checklist to put items in order of importance or urgency as you begin to plan your employer-of-choice strategy.

The following checklist is adapted from The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act Before It’s Too Late. Copyright © 2012 Leigh Branham. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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To Match Candidates’ Expectations With Work Realities

  1. Conduct realistic job previews with every job candidate.
  2. Hire from the pool of temp, adjunct staff, interns, and part-time workers.
  3. Hire candidates referred by current employees.
  4. Create a realistic job description with a short list of the most critical competencies.
  5. Allow team members to interview candidates.
  6. Hire from the pool of current employees.
  7. Create a way for candidates to “sample” the work experience.
  8. Survey or interview new hires to find out how to minimize new-hire surprises in the future.

To Match the Person to the Job

  1. Make a strong commitment to the continuous upgrading of talent.
  2. See that all hiring managers perform talent forecasting and success- factor analysis.
  3. Cast a wide recruiting net to expand the universe of best-fit candidates.
  4. Follow a purposeful and rigorous interview process.
  5. Track measures of hiring success.

To Match the Task to the Person

  1. Conduct “entrance interviews” with all new hires.
  2. Work to enrich the jobs of all employees.
  3. Delegate tasks to challenge employees and enrich jobs.

To Provide Coaching and Feedback

  1. Provide intensive feedback and coaching to new hires.
  2. Create a culture of continuous feedback and coaching.
  3. Train managers in performance coaching.
  4. Make the performance-management process less controlling and more of a partnership.
  5. Terminate nonperformers when best efforts to coach or reassign don’t pay off.
  6. Hold managers accountable for coaching and giving feedback.

To Provide Career Advancement and Growth Opportunities

  1. Provide self-assessment tools and career self-management training for all employees.
  2. Offer career-coaching tools and training for all managers.
  3. Provide readily accessible information on career paths and competency requirements.
  4. Create alternatives to traditional career ladders.
  5. Keep employees informed about the company’s strategy, direction, and talent-need forecasts.
  6. Build and maintain a fair and efficient internal job-posting process.
  7. Show a clear preference for hiring from within.
  8. Eliminate HR policies and management practices that block internal movement.
  9. Create a strong mentoring culture.
  10. Keep the career-development and performance-appraisal processes separate.
  11. Build an effective talent-review and succession-management process.
  12. Maintain a strong commitment to employee training.

To Make Employees Feel Valued and Recognized

  1. Offer a competitive base pay linked to value creation.
  2. Reward results with variable pay aligned with business goals.
  3. Reward employees at a high enough level to motivate higher performance.
  4. Use cash payouts for on-the-spot recognition.
  5. Involve employees and encourage two-way communication when designing new pay systems.
  6. Monitor the pay system to ensure fairness, efficiency, consistency, and accuracy.
  7. Create a culture of informal recognition founded on sincere appreciation.
  8. Make new hires feel welcome and important.
  9. Ask for employee input, then listen and respond.
  10. Keep employees in the loop.
  11. Provide the right tools and resources.
  12. Keep the physical environment fit to work in.

To Reduce Stress from Work-Life Imbalance and Overwork

  1. Initiate a culture of “giving-before-getting.”
  2. Tailor the “culture of giving” to the needs of key talent.
  3. Build a culture that values spontaneous acts of caring.
  4. Build social connectedness and cohesion among employees.
  5. Encourage fun in the workplace.

To Inspire Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders

  1. Inspire confidence in a clear vision and a workable plan and the competence to achieve it.
  2. Back up words with actions.
  3. Place your trust and confidence in your workforce.

Leigh Branham is founder and managing principal of Keeping the People, Inc., in Overland Park, Kansas, which assists companies in becoming better places to work by conducting employee engagement and post-exit surveys, and training managers to engage employees one person at a time. He is the author of three books on employee retention/engagement, including his most recent -- Re-Engage -- and speaks internationally on these topics. Readers interested in taking Branham's “Decision-to-Leave” survey can go to and click on Resources, then Surveys. Branham's e-mail address is


6 Comments on “Checklist of 53 Employer-of-Choice Engagement Practices

  1. Thanks, Leigh. These sound good. A few things:
    1) Where did you get these from?
    2) Have they all been formally tested for their effectiveness?
    3) Finally, it seems that they are the kind of policies that many/most could agree with in general, but perhaps not in the specific- “the devils’s in the details”.

    Best of luck with your book sales,


  2. Thanks for your interest, Keith.
    I organized these practices over the past 17 years of researching what the best employers do to select, engage, manage, and retain talent. In addition, many of them were self-reported in employee verbatim comments captured either in 21,000 post-exit third-party from The Saratoga Institute or my own website– Many others came from analyzing 200,000 comments from the Best Place to Work surveys–2.1 million collected since 2004.
    I’m not sure how to answer your question about being formally tested. I would prefer to simply say they have proven their effectiveness in hundreds of organizations over the years. Many are just common sense, but, as we know, common sense is not always common practice because many managers and employers won’t make the commitment, which is mostly about time and energy, not money. Regarding the “devil in the details,” the list looks too general and simplistic without reading the detailed guidelines in the book for each of the practices. That’s where I tell stories and give examples from specific companies.
    The key thing for most companies to do is look at the list of 54 practices (not 53, by the way, as shown in the heading) as a menu from which they can choose the ones they most need to implement to meet their particular business practices at any given time.
    I invite readers and visitors to my website to take the Decision-to-Leave survey (with a previous past employer in mind) which allows me to continue my research into the REAL reasons employees leave. Thanks again,

  3. Thanks, Leigh. You clearly have done a great deal of work here. IMHO, the companies that would truly value these the most need them the least (they already implement them, either explicitly or implicitly), and the ones needing them the most are the least likely to use them. These latter companies (who often make positive and affirming statements like these to their employees and then do the opposite) would be well-served by at least three additional practices:

    1) Don’t have your executives and managers lie to, consciously mislead, or betray the trust of your employees.

    2) Don’t hire arrogant jerks or budding empire-builders however productive they are, unless they don’t interact with others.

    3) Listen to the people who actually do the work, and whenever possible: implement what they suggest.



  4. Leigh – I am an Adjunct Instructor in the Business School at the University of Colorado Denver – in the fall of each year I teach a combined Graduate/undergrad Staffing & Talent Management class – about 4 years ago when I was asked to teach it I decided to use you text – 7 Hidden Reasons 2005 edition as one of my primary texts – it has been just excellent – I start the class again tomorrow for this fall semester – I am now using your newest edition of the book — It is just a wonderful resource – I could not be more pleased with the value it has added to my class and to my students. Thanks much – keep up your great work!


  5. Virg, that is very gratifying to hear. Thanks so much for your interest. Have you taken the Decision-to-Leave survey?
    All the best for a great class this semester.

    Keith, I couldn’t agree more with everything you say. Your points 1-3 are also forcefully made in 7 Reasons (see chapters on Reasons 3, 5, and 7).

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