, Singapore

Top Employers Institute celebrates 30 years of helping organisations enrich the world of work

The company is looking forward to another 30 years of striving for the best in HR.

It has been a promising year for Top Employers Institute, as it celebrates its 30th anniversary of helping organisations enrich the world of work. It is the global authority on recognising excellence in people practices, and so, Singapore Business Review sat down with David Plink, CEO of Top Employers Institute to share his thoughts on the organisation’s past, present, and future.

“Thirty years ago, whilst a company’s culture, values, and style were implicitly important, it was a subject [of] little coverage in business books. Today it is difficult to find a business book that doesn’t recognise the centrality of people to business performance,” Plink said, comparing the business environment then and now.

The company, established in 1991, was registered under a different name, Corporate Research Foundation. During its first 13 years, it produced publications focused on outstanding employers, leading managers, and companies with strong human resource strategies. 

According to Plink, the pivotal change in the company happened between 2010 and 2014. “That was when we updated our strengthened methodology and validation system.”

“Thirty years ago, we focused on relatively simple questions, such as what made a company attractive to work for or what it would be like to be part of an individual business as an employee. These were brand new questions back then, but to be able to answer these questions today is an obvious prerequisite for any business valuing its talent,” said Plink.

The Corporate Research Foundation changed its policies and practices, together with its name. Now called Top Employers Institute, a huge transition took place, and the company went from being a publisher to a certifier. The institute created the now iconic Certification Seal along with the annual certification cycle. It also introduced a new dedicated research methodology for HR Best Practices across the industry.

Between 2013 and 2016, the Top Employer Institute focused on expanding internationally. From servicing just one country three decades ago, it now certifies best practices in over 1,691 organisations from 120 countries all across the globe, including APAC's most advanced employers, each demonstrating exceptional employee conditions. Top Employers Institute was able to enter a new era, expanding internationally and kicking off a digital transformation. 

“One constant factor that shapes our company, in summary, is the continuous efforts made for improvement and betterment. Of our company, of the way we work, and of the world of work at large,” Plink said.

Now, Top Employers’ certification programme has become increasingly valuable to Top Employers, as it influences companies in the world to recognise their values and give them importance. 

With the four pillars—Brand, Benchmark, Align, and Connect—underpinning the institute’s certification programme, certified Top Employers are able to strengthen and leverage their brand; benchmark themselves against global standards; make sure that HR policies and practices are aligned with business needs in their respective regions. Because of the recognition they receive, the Top Employers are assured of their credibility to connect with their peers as they share their insights, knowledge, and success.

Adapting the best practices in the new normal

Of course, all the success had not come without challenges. Today, COVID-19 proves to be one such problem, disrupting offices all over the world at short notice. But, it has also served as a good realisation.

“In a way, the challenge of the pandemic was enormous for us, as for others, but it also showed the real strength and value of our purpose. When faced with mass disruption all over the world at very short notice, it turned out that our Top Employers were already best prepared to transform themselves and adapt at scale and speed,” said Plink. 

“The last few years have caused a massive rethink within every Top Employer around what HR best practice looks like. Our Top Employers have had to adapt quickly to blend people and technology together more effectively – and they have. Recent challenges have therefore shown HR what is achievable. The profession must take on that challenge during what we all hope are now times of greater prosperity,” he said.

As the pandemic introduced a new working environment, it has also opened up many possibilities and opportunities for the future. Figuring out this new environment will be Top Employers Institute’s next task.

“To prosper in the period ahead, it’s clear that Top Employers need to make a few key considerations in the upcoming years. As we start finding some sense of normality, we need to map out how we navigate a new world of work. This work will include reconsidering what makes people happy, healthy, and hungry to perform at work. In turn, we will need to evaluate what HR’s role is in aligning with these issues. And as we do this, we need to think about how the role of HR has changed because of the global health crisis and how their changing role impacts the organisations they work in,” Plink notes.

As a player with 30 years in the business, the company has come a long way, but it’s still far from finished. Despite the current situation, there are still lots of projects in store and goals to be accomplished.

“The coming period is a chance to build a far higher profile for strategic HR, to go above [and] beyond ‘functional excellence’ and to find new ways to add value,” says Plink.

As the Top Employers Institute looks forward to another 30 years to come, it aims to continue upholding its purpose: accelerating the impact of people strategies to enrich the world of work. 


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