The making of a Top Employer

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Sidebar:Top Employer Awards 2010

Hiring the right people is an important key to success of any business in the world.

Here in the Cayman Islands, where a consistent labour shortage creates the need to import labour in addition to developing it locally, attracting the right people needed to make a business thrive has increasingly become a challenge.

Globalisation of the financial services and tourism industries has created competition for talent. In addition, various factors have combined to make Cayman, as one professional stated, “no longer the prettiest girl at the ball” when it comes to choosing a place to live and work.

The Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals, realising the importance of workplace conditions in attracting and retaining talent, established a way of recognising employers that shine in creating a good place for their employees to work. The inaugural Cayman Islands Top Employer initiative began in September 2009 with a call for applications and then culminated in March 2010 with a black-tie gala event that recognised six companies as top employers.


Society Immediate Past President Phil Jackson, who made establishing the Top Employer programme a goal during his presidency, believes recognising top employers is important.

“Unfortunately, there are a few unscrupulous employers who take advantage of and exploit employees,” he says. “By having a list of top employers, customers and the public know these particular employers create an environment where employees are respected and treated fairly, and will hopefully want to support their business,” he says. “From a job seeker’s perspective… to have the confidence that an employer meets a set of criteria or standards, makes you feel assured you’re joining a reputable organisation.”

Jackson says the majority of developed countries have similar programmes to identify top employers and that having the programme here will help Cayman “become known as a destination of workplace excellence”.

Top employer criteria

Since it is made up of human resources professionals in both the public and private sector, the CISHRP created the Top Employer competition to span across the various working environments in the Cayman Islands. The competition is therefore open to every private, public or non-profit organisation with 10 or more employees. There are two categories for the award: one for companies of fewer than 25 employees and one for companies with 25 or more employees.

“We look for interesting employers, both large and small, with innovative programmes to attract and retain talented employees,” the application form states.

The Society states that its definition of a top employer is one that creates a workplace where employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with. That premise is measured by the relationship between employees and management; the relationship between employees and their jobs; and the relationship between employees.

Jackson expressed some of his personal views of the criteria that makes a top employer.

“In my mind a top employer is one that creates a workplace where the majority of employees are really happy and proud to be a part of that organisation, where there is a definite sense of camaraderie and teamwork within the organisation,” he says. “A top employer is innovative in that they are seeking to improve their product and service, and will have open communication and suggestions from staff in how to achieve this.”

Benefits to the company

Jackson says there are several benefits of attaining the Society’s Top Employer standard, including recognition in the community.

“An employer that is recognized as a Top Employer will benefit from the publicity and be able to promote its achievement to support recruitment and marketing efforts,” he says. “The Top Employer logo will be available to all organisations that meet the standard.”

Jackson says there will also be recognition from customers/clients.

“Individuals and organisations appreciate doing business with organisations that are recognised for creating great workplaces for employees.”

Cayman National Bank, which was recognised by the Society of Human Resources Professionals as the Top Employer among large business in the inaugural awards ceremony, has seen tangible benefits, according to President Ormond Williams.

“The award has brought additional recognition of the high quality business we operate,” he says. “Clients and the public at large have ideas about our culture and commitment to our people, but the award from an independent organisation confirmed these ideas and increased the respect people hold for the organisation.”

Although recruitment wasn’t a big emphasis for Cayman National Bank during 2010, Williams says potential employees expressed the desire “to work for a company where its staff have publicly acknowledged that it is the preferred choice of employers in the Cayman Islands”.

The recognition also had positive benefits inside the company.

“The award has been useful to spread the ethos of the organisation amongst new staff, and existing staff have used it as leverage and peer pressure to ensure that colleagues conform to the expectations of the organisation,” Williams says. “The sense of pride and satisfaction staff hold for the organisation is heightened by the award, but goes beyond it as staff know putting people first is our philosophy.”


Potential top employers are scored on nine different dimensions of workplace environment. The dimensions include physical environment; work atmosphere and camaraderie; compensation and benefits; management practice; employee communications; performance management; learning and development; community involvement; and diversity.

Jackson says he thinks all of the dimensions are important.

“Each employer is unique and will score higher on some factors than others,” he says.

The scoring is weighted, with 30 per cent of a company’s score coming from its answers on Part II of the Top Employer application. The other 70 per cent of the score comes from the answers on an employee survey. To be eligible for recognition as a Top Employer, at least half of a company’s workforce must participate in the survey. The employee survey is confidential among the judges and individual responses are not analysed, reviewed or shared with anyone.

Inaugural event

The black-tie gala to recognise the companies that attained the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals standard as Top Employer was held at the Marriott Beach Resort in March 2010. In addition to Cayman National Bank and CML Offshore Recruitment receiving top honours in their respective company-size categories, other employers recognised included Aon Insurance Managers (Cayman) Ltd., HSBC, Deloitte and KPMG, which came in second for the top award among large companies.

In his address that night, Jackson noted that all of the companies being recognised were winners.
“There are no losers.”

On hand as the keynote speaker for the evening was Dan Ondrack, a human resources expert and professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Ondrack, who helped the Society of Human Resources Professionals create the Top Employer initiative and served as one of the judges, told of how espousing the kinds of criteria required to be a Top Employer could help the public sector as well. He told of how the Attorney General’s Office in Ontario, Canada was able to attract top law graduates even though it couldn’t offer the kind of salaries the private sector could by instead offering workplace conditions that were conducive to a better lifestyle with less pressure and fewer working hours.

The awards ceremony also included the playing of five-minute video profiles of all of the finalists, featuring interviews with management and staff.

The future

Jackson said feedback on the Top Employer initiative, which is planned to be held annually, was positive.
“Most think it’s a good programme and idea to recognise employers,” he says, admitting that it will likely take some time for the initiative to gain credibility to the wider business community. “The Society aims to improve and build on the programme so that it will attract more and more companies to enter.”

Cayman National Bank is one company that will continue to apply for the standard, according to Williams.
“It would be an opportunity for us to strive to be better every year,” he says. “For us this award is more like a journey and not a destination.”

Williams believes the Top Employer initiative will have benefits for the Cayman Islands.

“The award will raise the bar on human resources management and encourage organisations to adopt and practice policies which will create an environment conducive to people excellence that will then translate to enhanced business performance and added value for key stakeholders,” he says.

Society of Human Resources Professionals President Samantha Nehra says the organisation has historically focused on issues affecting its membership.

“The Top Employer Award spans broader than that and touches organisations that may not have individuals involved with the Society,” she says. “It also gets the CEO’s more connected with the people strategy. If we can contribute to improving the standards within an organisation and make Cayman a more attractive place to work, through the award, I will feel very proud.”