Do you have the WOW FACTOR? Become an Employer of Choice

Last updated on 31 October 2022

The WOW FACTOR framework is described as the “nuts and bolts” of how to be an Employer of Choice by Laura Sutherland (pictured). [Source: Above and Beyond Group]

As aged care workers remain hugely in demand across the sector, providers are competing with each other to hire valued frontline workers- and keep them! 

Becoming or being an Employer of Choice (EOC) is something all providers in this climate would no doubt like to be, but in reality it is only the top few % that can actually call themselves an employer of choice, especially as a provider.

An EOC refers to a provider that has fostered a workplace environment that attracts and retains employees, making them the top choice that people want to work for. 

As an EOC, you may find it easier to hire and retain staff due to having a good reputation among frontline workers – saving you on recruitment costs and scrambling to fill job gaps in your business.

It is important to get the balance right between retaining your current workforce, optimising them by investing in employee development programs, and attracting new staff to your workplace. 

Using the WOW FACTOR 

Laura Sutherland, a Workforce specialist, Leadership and Career Coach, and the Director and Founder of recruitment organisation Above and Beyond Group, advocates for providers to use the ‘WOW FACTOR’ framework when assisting organisations in becoming an EOC. 

The framework can help providers cover all the bases needed to work towards becoming an EOC.

The framework is based around implementing “parallel approaches”, where strategies like staff attraction and retention are worked on at the same time, as they often interplay with each other.

The framework spells out as an acronym, which stands for:

W – Why, or the meaning and purpose of your business
O – Opportunities for staff
W – Who, or your workplace culture and values

F – Flexibility, for staff to maintain a healthy work-life balance
A – A+ leaders, to pave the way for the business
C – Collaboration, between staff and management
T – Trust, management trusting in staff and staff being able to trust their management
O – Ongoing feedback, open two-way feedback between staff and management
R – Rewards for staff to acknowledge and incentivise good behaviour

Clear out the old ways

Ms Sutherland has seen the most change fall under the ‘O’ section of the framework – opportunity for aged care staff.

This refers to giving workers equal opportunities to excel further up in the business and segue into other care settings that share similar qualifications, often called “cross-pollination”. 

“Where I’ve seen [trend] shifts in recent years as new generations are coming into our workforce is [toward] offering more diverse opportunities,” she said. 

“We need to think more sideways and get away from the traditional career ladder and hierarchy structure of career pathways. 

“Some people don’t want to just be siloed to aged care for the rest of their life, so it’s important to offer opportunities to move sideways to lead into disability care or child care.”

The benefits of opening up these subsections of care means frontline workers feel that they have diverse career options, are being provided more opportunities for further qualifications, and allows the aged care sector to pull from similar care industries to fill job shortages. 

Providing more opportunities to staff can also be in the form of evolving and refining care roles to optimise the type of care being provided to older people – allowing them to focus on developing soft skills to improve their quality care such as resilience and empathy. 

Carers have different needs to be met

While some traditional practices may still be relevant and applicable to aged care providers, it is important to listen to frontline workers’ needs and establish a compromise with them. 

How people work has changed a lot, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, so remaining flexible with staff often means they will do their best to be flexible for their workplace in turn. 

Work-Life Balance

Carers and nurses often still work to a roster, but Ms Sutherland said offering the opportunity for a staff member to start a little later and finish a little earlier can provide some flexibility and breathing room for staff to juggle their work-life balance. 

Frontline workers have different needs, and allowing a little more flexibility to this cohort is something that is appreciated. 

For example, looking at what jobs can be done from home, like virtual training, triaging and formulating care plans – all jobs that traditionally required carers to be at work to undertake. 

“What things can be done to encourage more work-life balance, because we know the next generation wants more of a blend of work and play,” Ms Sutherland said.

“We’re seeing a huge need for flexibility for the emerging generations.”

This may mean providers need to augment and blur care roles to accommodate staff’s needs effectively.


The second ‘W’ in the WOW FACTOR framework refers to an ideal workplace culture, its environment and other employee benefits that keep frontline workers satisfied with where they work.

There is no specific way to establish the ideal workplace and culture, as it should be true and unique to your business’ values.

Equally, if the culture is not where you would like it to be, it is important to be real and truthful about it when attracting staff to your business. 

The aged care workforce is a relatively small sector, and aged care workers talk about where is good to work where is not. 

With this in mind, it is wise for providers to invest in culture, and implementing the WOW FACTOR can help change things for the better to become an EOC. 

“You can say ‘you seem to have the values we’re looking for, here are our values, we’re not quite there yet but can you help us with our culture drive and performance improvement plan?’,” Ms Sutherland explained. 

“Having a plan on how you’re going to make those improvements is obviously important too, which articulate the behaviours that demonstrate the culture you want.”

Recognition and Reward

When it comes to perks of the job, most people think of what financial benefits are on offer. 

But once remuneration is fair and equal, increasing pay does not necessarily increase employee engagement. 

Using recognition and reward to acknowledge good behaviour in the moment with a voucher or a wellbeing day can be the best way to make staff feel appreciated and happy, adhering to the ‘R’ of the WOW FACTOR acronym – reward.

Rewards should be tailored to how individual workers feel recognition and reward, as this can often be different amongst different employees, so it is important to ask. 

“You shouldn’t need to wait for the end-of-year review for recognition and should receive feedback at the moment,”  said Ms Sutherland. 

“You need to ask how they feel rewarded, because how Jane feels about being rewarded may be different to Bob, and Bob is motivated differently.”

Using the WOW FACTOR framework can be an easy and effective way to ensure you are on your way to becoming an EOC.

By integrating these facets into your business model, frontline workers will naturally gravitate towards you out of the pool of local providers as the best place to work. 

How are you becoming an employer of choice? Let us know in the comments below.

aged care
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Above and Beyond Group
Caring for older people
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