Top Employer Award catching on


In a global labour market, where qualified employees are harder and harder to recruit, businesses that are recognised as using best workplace practices can often make a big difference in both the quantity and the quality of job applicants.

With this in mind, the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals launched the Top Employer Award initiative in 2009, with six companies attaining the standard that was presented at the inaugural black-tie gala dinner in March 2010.


The Top Employer Award initiative was a key project of CISHRP member Phil Jackson upon his installation as the organisation’s president in September 2008. After serving at president for two years and then sitting on the board as immediate past president for two more years, Jackson came off the board in September 2012, but he still heads the committee that oversees the Top Employer Award.

The competition is open to all private, public and non-profit organisations both large and small.

Most developed countries have similar programmes to CISHRP’s Top Employer Award, Mr Jackson said. Since Cayman has to compete for talent with these other countries, it made sense to have a Top Employer Award here, especially from the perspective of employers.

Not only do companies that achieve the standard benefit from the positive publicity, it aids them in their recruiting and marketing efforts and can even bring them business.

Having the Top Employer Award – and companies that achieve the standard – also reflects well on the jurisdiction, allowing people to see that companies in the Cayman Islands can and do take care of their employees, one of the things Jackson said was key to his initial desire to establish the initiative. “I wanted to highlight some of the exceptional things companies were doing here.”

Since the Award’s first year, the initiative has steadily gained steam. After six companies attained the standard in 2010, eight reached that level in 2011 and 12 organisations demonstrated they had what it takes to be a Top Employer in 2012. Jackson said his original goal was to have 25 companies attain Top Employer status by the fifth year, something he still thinks is possible.

“From the first year we’ve seen an increase in the number of companies that participate and better applications,” Mr Jackson said. “We’ve also seen more employers attain Top Employer status. So it’s catching on.”

But there have also been challenges, starting with finances.

“It’s been a challenge promoting it on a rather tight budget.” Although the Gala Award event usually sells out, the applications fee is $400. With the number of applications still relatively low – less than 20 last year – not enough money is generated to pay for a guest speaker and promotion. As a result, the initiative has lost money each year, something CISHRP’s Board of Directors accepts in these early years for the programme.

One solution would be obtaining corporate sponsorships, but Jackson said the CISHRP would like the programme to remain independent from even the perceived influence of corporate sponsors, especially because of the confidentiality aspects of the Top Employer Award.

Ultimately, Jackson thinks the best way of the programme becoming economically sustainable is getting more businesses to apply for the award. Jackson thinks the key to success will come from maximizing the benefits companies derive from attaining the standard. “Once we can show all the employers there are really tangible benefits… I think it will really catch on.”


The Top Employer Award is offered to two categories of companies: One for small to medium-sized companies with at least 10 and fewer than 50 employees, and one for large companies with 50 or more employees.

The employee survey, which Jackson said is conducted through the online survey service Survey Monkey, is confidential and individual responses are not analysed, reviewed or shared with anyone. However, a summary of the survey responses is shared with the applicant, but only the applicant.

Jackson stressed the importance of keeping the applications and survey results confidential. The names of the companies that apply and don’t get the award are not released.

Because the criteria of what is necessary to attain the Top Employer standard is spelled out on the application form, companies that apply know what they’re getting into. As a result, Jackson said a fairly high percentage – between 70 and 80 per cent – of the applicants achieve the Top Employer designation.

Although every company that qualifies as a Top Employer is a ‘winner’, all applicants are ranked inside their category by the total number of points scored, meaning there is a competitive aspect of the Award and those coming at the top of their category get bragging rights for the year.

“What we haven’t done and what they’ve done in other countries is keep track of companies that won the award and their financial results,” Mr Jackson said, noting that in other countries, there’s a definitive correlation between being a Top Employer and having better financial results in any given industry.

That task might need another champion, however, as Jackson said that after the 2014 award, his goal is to resign from the Top Employer Award Committee and let others take the reins of the initiative.

Mr Jackson believes, however, that the initiative will overcome its challenges and continue growing. “I think the Top Employer Award is one of the signature events of our society, along with our conference,” he said.


Top Employer Award applicants are scored on nine different dimensions of workplace environment. Including:

  • physical environment;
  • work atmosphere and camaraderie;
  • compensation and benefits;
  • management practice;
  • employee communications;
  • performance management;
  • learning and development;
  • community involvement; and
  • diversity.

The judging is done by three overseas judges with experience in similar programmes in the United States and Canada.

The scoring is weighted, with 30 per cent of a company’s score coming from its answers on the Top Employer Award application. The other 70 per cent of the score comes from the answers on a confidential employee survey.

To be eligible for recognition as a Top Employer, at least half of a company’s workforce must participate in the survey.


On Saturday 13 April, 2013, the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals will host their fourth Top Employer Awards Gala dinner. Instead of taking place at the Marriott Beach Resort, as the event did its first three years, it will be held at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, something that will add more ‘glitz’ to the Award.

The Top Employer Award will also get a new logo in 2013, moving one that said Top Employer–Cayman Islands to one that says “Best Places to Work–Recognising Top Employers – Cayman Islands”.

Mr Jackson said one thing the CISHRP would like to do in the future is to incorporate quantifiable benefits of being a Top Employer in its promotion of the initiative.

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