IN A world where you may wake up one morning to hear that your company and job have disappeared overnight, it is no surprise that most employees, especially top talent, are responding to this by continuously learning about their industries and updating their job skills.

Rather than seeking security from their jobs, they focus on remaining marketable in the event of a voluntary or involuntary job change.

Employees also place high value on the intangibles such as career advancement and learning opportunities, work-life balance, recognition and being treated with respect.

While there is no magic formula or one solution that fits all, human resource solutions provider Hewitt has discovered - through its research on the ongoing Best Employers In Asia project - that in placing a high value on employees' needs, companies are able to inspire employees to do their best work, motivate them to stay with the company and cause employees to promote their company to their friends, family and customers.

These are behaviours that any company hopes to see in their workforce of today.

The study also found that there are three common characteristics that all Best Employers exhibit, and they are:

1. Inspired leadership

Dedicated to success for all concerned, leadership teams set the example for commitment to their companies and their employees.

Chief executive officers and senior leaders believe that their most important asset is their people.

For example, Raffles Hotels and Resorts, in partnership with Cornell University and eCornell, have developed Raffles Univirtual to provide education to employees at all its hotels and resorts.

Employees will be eligible to earn certificates from Cornell University in the fields of hospitality management, food service management, financial management, proactive leadership, executive leadership, supervisory skills and human resources management.

To meet the unique needs of employees in the hospitality industry, employees will be able to access Raffles Univirtual any time and anywhere, ensuring learning at their fingertips.

2. Unique company culture

Best Employers are articulate about their unique organisational culture, and they hire people for "culture fit".

McDonald's recruits people "with ketchup in their veins" - people who will be proud to go the extra mile to make their customers feel special and to provide an exceptional McDonald's dining experience every visit, every time.

Potential candidates are screened for evidence of team-working skills and an understanding of customer service. This is followed by an online personality questionnaire, a one-day group assessment based in a restaurant, and, of course, a final interview.

All these steps serve to ensure that the right people are brought in, and potential candidates know what they are in for even before joining the company.

3. Aligned HR practices and effective execution

Best Employers do not necessarily have more or fancier people programmes than other companies.

However, these programmes are aligned with business strategies and executed effectively.

At Diageo, social responsibility underpins everything that the company does.

Being in the alcohol industry, Diageo has recognised that alcohol may be consumed irresponsibly, creating problems for individuals and for society as a whole.

Thus, it has taken active steps to work closely with the Government in educating the public and providing support for the less fortunate.

Diageo also participates in corporate social responsibility programmes such as Water Of Life - projects that protect the environment or improve access to safe drinking water in developing countries, as well as Disaster Relief - the corporation's response to major disasters across the globe.

Motivated workforce

Other than the obvious benefits of having a workforce that is motivated, Best Employers have consistently outperformed their peers on a number of common financial measures.

In Asia, Best Employers' average annual growth is approximately 15 per cent compared to 10 per cent for other corporations.

They also have lower turnover and receive twice as many unsolicited job applications than the rest, translating into lower recruitment costs for the companies.

Challenging commitment

With all these advantages towards becoming a Best Employer, why are there not more companies striving to be one?

The reality is that becoming - and remaining - a Best Employer is not easy.

It is not enough to have a flashy communication initiative and some new benefits; the commitment to employees has to be relentless.

Companies that have managed to cement their status have managed to do the three things stated above well and not waver regardless of economic situations.

For a company starting its journey to becoming a Best Employer, it may be best to take stock of current people practices and leadership effectiveness and then evaluate employee engagement at the company.

While the journey cannot be undertaken overnight, the benefits of doing so are great for employees, customers and stakeholders.