Flexibility, diversity are the hallmarks of top employers

The Cayman Islands offices of BDO and KPMG took first place in this year’s Top Employer Awards, hosted by the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals.  


Financial services firm BDO placed first among a field of four designated ‘top employers’ in the small-to-medium company division, while consulting firm KPMG placed first among eight in the large company division. 

Cayman’s competition is based on Canada’s Top 100 Employers contest. University of Toronto professor Daniel Ondrack sits on the advisory board of the Canadian competition and is one of the judges for the Cayman awards. 

Ondrack, academic director of executive development programmes at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, delivered the keynote address at the awards ceremony at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort in late March. Ondrack said his research shows that companies listed as being ‘top employers’ have better odds of performing at an above-average level, with the trend being more pronounced in regard to customer service. 

In his speech, Ondrack, who also lectures at the University College at the Cayman Islands, discussed flexible work scheduling and workplace diversity, and their impact on attracting top talent and increasing employee performance. 


Flexible scheduling  

Companies offering “flex-work” encourage employees to work where and/or when it makes the most sense, whether that is at the office, at home, Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, on the weekends or in the evenings. He said flex-work arrangements can be particularly attractive for young employees with families, or older workers who don’t want to retire completely but don’t want to work 40 hours a week. 

“It doesn’t mean nobody works at the office anymore. It means be flexible,” he said. “Companies that offer flex-work do a lot better in attracting talent and getting better performance from their employees.” 

In addition to being able to adjust work schedules to make room for family obligations, employees with the ability to do flex-work can, for example, work from home for a few hours in the morning and then commute to the office in order to avoid rush-hour traffic. Not only does sitting in traffic result in a complete loss of productivity, but it can be extremely stressful. 


Workplace diversity   

Meanwhile, having good workplace diversity is more than just having a mixture of races and sexes at the lowest levels of a company, Ondrack said. Having a high level of diversity means that all levels throughout the company have representation from different genders, ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds 

Top employers in diversity tend to attract better talent, and also obtain better performance from their employees. Some reasons for that include a larger talent pool from which to draw; that immigrants tend to work harder when they are given jobs that suit their qualifications; and organisations and societies that are more diverse and tolerant tend to be stronger in terms of innovations, development and creativity. 

While research backs up the existence of the last observation, the scientific basis for it hasn’t yet been clearly established, Ondrack said. One theory is that if people have the opportunity to be exposed to different cultures and types of people, perhaps it stimulates the brain in a way that encourages more creativity, he said. 

In Canada, the old way of thinking was that a job applicant with only international experience was considered less desirable than an applicant with only Canadian experience. Now, as companies realise the importance of diversity, the policy has been completely switched around, so that a worker with only Canadian experience is seen as lacking an important part of his/her resume, he said. With the globalisation of business, companies want their employees to have prior experience working with different types of people in different parts of the world. 


Why aim to be a top employer  

In the Cayman top employer awards selection process, companies are awarded points in nine different ‘dimensions’, including compensation/benefits, diversity, employee communications, learning/development and physical environment. The company submits an application and its employees are also surveyed. 

A primary driver of a company’s total composite score was how well the employees’ survey responses back up the company’s claims. 

Being seen as a top company to work for is especially important for businesses whose success hinges upon the quality of human employees rather than the amount of money invested in mechanical or technical equipment. “More and more companies are becoming human-capital businesses,” Ondrack said. 

Having a good reputation becomes more important as the physical place of business becomes less important, especially in industries involving data, data transfer and data processing. 

“The geographic location doesn’t really matter anymore. What matters is whether it’s a good place to work,” Ondrack said. 

Human Resources Society Immediate Past President Phil Jackson, who initiated the Top Employer Award during his presidency, said via email, “This award is really about recognising and celebrating some of the things which makes these organisations some of the most admired and Best Places to Work in the Cayman Islands. The Top Employers truly demonstrate a commitment not only to their staff, but have a positive impact in the community.” 


Cayman top employers  

BDO Cayman, the first-place winner in the small-to-medium company division, employs about 40 people. Managing Partner Glen Trenouth and Partner Paul Arbo said they don’t know exactly what their employees said on the competition survey, but they think one thing that might have tipped the scales in their favour is the firm’s contributions to the community. 

For example, BDO is the presenting sponsor of the 2012 Cayman World Open, the largest tournament on the pro tour of the Women’s Squash Association. The Cayman Islands National Squash Association will host the tournament in December. 

Trenouth and Arbo also credited BDO’s practice of ensuring that employees have input in all significant company decisions. 

“When the staff is doing the employee survey, they’re sort of grading themselves and their capability to make the company better,” Arbo said. 

KPMG Cayman, the first-place winner in the large company division, also sponsors a major sporting event in Cayman, the KPMG Legends Tennis Tournament. KPMG has nearly 200 employees. 

When accepting KPMG’s award at the ceremony, Managing Partner Roy McTaggart said being named as a top employer lends tremendous credit to a company’s reputation. 

“Truly it’s worthwhile, and it’s an honour to be associated with you who are all top employers,” McTaggart said. 

In order of how they placed, top employers in the small-to-medium division (fewer than 50 employees) were BDO, CML Offshore Recruitment, SteppingStones and Caribbean Publishing Company. Top employers in the large division were KPMG, Scotiabank, dms Management, Caribbean Utilities Company, Aon, Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort, HSBC and RBC Wealth Management.