Too few companies ask why prospective employees would want to work for them. Here are four factors to consider.

Samuel Palmisano stood down as chief executive of IBM in January 2012, after almost a decade leading the venerable IT company. His aim had been to re-establish the firm as standard setters and, in an interview with the New York Times to mark his departure, he said he had done so using a guiding framework of four questions:

“Why would someone spend their money with you?”

“Why would somebody work for you?”

“Why would society allow you to operate in their country?”

“And why would somebody invest their money with you?”

Writing in HR Zone recently, Ron Thomas, managing director of the Strategy Focused Group, argued that the second question was the most important. He wrote: “Every organization should not only think through this powerful question but also needs to develop a mission statement that specifically focuses on why an employee would want to work with you.”

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The idea is one that many companies take for granted. They figure that if they pay sufficiently well and offer the right benefits package, then why wouldn’t someone want to work with them? But employees consider more than that, particularly today, when the most talented recruits have plenty of choices for where they work. Here are four factors that play a role in making employees want to work for you.


In a recent article for Quartz, Jaime Schmidt, former CEO and founder of Schmidt’s Naturals, considered whether the typical start-up focus on being ‘customer-obsessed’ could create a poor environment for employees. She was responding to the scandal surrounding Away, the luggage company that replaced its CEO amid reports of a toxic working culture.

It’s easy for a company to focus on sales, profits, growth or whatever other metric they choose and ignore the working environment that is created by this. A high turnover of staff is usually a sign that the working environment is not the focus of management.


According to PwC’s Workforce of the Future study, a quarter of workers say that they want to work for an employer whose values match their own. For millennials, roughly those born between 1981 and 1996, that rises to 88%. By 2025 millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce, so most workers will be seeking jobs at companies that share their values.

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That makes it more important for companies to show that their work has a positive impact and that they are driven by motives and beliefs beyond pure profit. Corporate social responsibility initiatives will become more important for attracting these employees.


Following on from that is a sense of pride. A 2017 study of Facebook employees found that “pride in the company” was the single most important driver of employee engagement. This in turn was typically driven by optimism about the company’s future, the extent to which they cared about its mission, and confidence that the company was making the world a better place.

The study’s authors wrote: “When people take pride in their companies, they internalize organizational goals as their own. Instead of focusing on their individual goals, they direct their energy toward doing what’s best for the organization.”

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Of course, in today’s working world employees know that they are likely to have several different jobs in their lifetime and that rapid technological change makes it important to continually upskill and reskill as the employment landscape changes. Therefore, employees will be more likely to ask whether their employers are investing in them. Are they getting the training they need to not only do their job but also to prepare them for future roles?

This is not only beneficial for employees – businesses need to continually develop their staff. In fact, that’s true of this entire list. The easier it is to answer the question “why would I want to work for you?”, the more likely it is that employees will be more engaged, and more engaged employees are more productive. It’s a situation where everybody wins.


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