We often receive annual appeal donations that include a matching gift from the donor's employer. Is there a better way to handle these other than creating a record for the employer, and soft-crediting the match to the donor?
This is highly dependent on your development department's workflow - but I'd say what you described is the most popular approach.
If you do go this route, you may want to consider installing an extension I wrote called Auto Matching Gift. It's mostly a labor-saver: When you enter the original gift, you select the Matching Gift organization from a list. A pending contribution will be created on their record, and it will be soft-credited to the original donor.
Note that this was developed for an organization that pays for a service of all organizations that match gifts - so if you have to create the organization first, it's not much of a time-saver. Hopefully one day I (or someone else) will improve it to allow adding organizations on the fly.