Shifting the employee value proposition (EVP) to recruit and retain talent

Zone’s Marketing Executive, Rianna Mitchell, shares what she learned at the CIPD Festival of Work 2022 on shifting the employee value proposition (EVP) to recruit and retain talent.

Hosted at Olympia London, the CIPD Festival of Work was a conference and free exhibition for professionals, business leaders and organisations to discover the new world of work and gain advice on adapting to the modern workplace. It’s an occasion to explore organisational challenges, such as employee experience (EX), plus insights into learning developments and skills from industry leaders.

Conference at CIPD Festival of Work 2022

Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Advisor at CIPD, chaired a discussion on converting the EVP to recruit and retain talent. The conversation foregrounded how organisations can create compelling offerings post-pandemic and during the current cost-of-living crisis to fulfil employee demands and enhance their loyalty. The panel — Lisa Scales, Head of Talent Acquisition at Nestlé UK&I, and Haithem Albalawi, CHRO at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare — touched upon these core subjects, including questions posed by an inspired audience:

As society adjusts to post-pandemic life, there has been a diversion in how people want to live — and the employee is no exception. The relationship between people and their job is evolving, and employees are re-evaluating what they desire from their work lives, pressuring the EVP to reflect these unforeseen changes, which has proved an uphill battle for many organisations.

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Scales believes that companies need to gear their focus on the “human and not the employee”. Essentially, this involves customising the work experience by ensuring the EVP orients toward employees as people, not workers. Organisations that fail to regard work as a subset of life and not a separate entity risk demoralising employees, as workers seek emotional value, enabling them to feel more understood, autonomous, cared-for and appreciated at work. The workplace must overhaul the EVP so that value is set upon employee feelings and company features that are compatible with their needs.

But this comes with its own set of challenges. Albalawi points out that a multi-generation workforce can make it difficult to provide benefits packages that satisfy all employees, as they wish for different things. He states that “as people get older, their mindset changes”. Employees that are family-focused want deferred benefits that lead up to and after retirement, whereas younger generations are interested in incentives around money, immediate reward, and immediate recognition. He suggests that marketing an organisation’s offerings “correctly” — appealing to a multi-generational workforce and not a one-size-fits-all approach — is vital to recruiting and retaining talent.

It’s no longer effective for companies to adopt a ‘nice-to-have’ approach to employee wellbeing; it needs to be integral to their business goals and day-to-day operations, both in and out of work. The blurred boundaries between home and work have taught people the importance of establishing a healthy work-life balance and preventing stress and burnout in the workplace, and millions of people are willing to switch jobs in pursuit of it. Scales expresses that employee wellbeing is not just about their physical welfare, but their mental and financial health too. Organisations risk an unengaged workforce if they lack effective financial wellbeing policies to alleviate cost of living concerns, as people begin to rethink their careers.

Scales advises company leaders to “talk openly” about issues triggered by the pandemic while demonstrating compassion and role-modelling healthy working practices. Fostering a sense of psychological safety for employees to feel comfortable to speak their minds and seek help should be integrated into company culture. From an employer’s perspective, Scales warns companies must comprehend that productivity is “directly linked to wellbeing.” A workforce with wellbeing at its core unlocks productivity, and consequently, profit.

A big question was: How can organisations that can’t offer WFH compete with companies that do? In a nutshell, organisations need to change their attitude. As many industries, such as the hospitality sector, are unable to change the makeup of how work is done, Scales suggests that organisations need to be “clear and honest with their intent” and emphasise the benefits they do provide to keep employees and candidates attracted. She urges that companies should never shy away from not being able to provide a WFH policy, as “employees appreciate transparency and authenticity” in the workplace.

Keeping employees and candidates on side also means finding ways to “create passion for the job”, says Albalawi. He believes we’re overselling WFH, and the same tone needs to be adopted for all working patterns. Similarly, when it comes to employees choosing one organisation over another, he advises that word of mouth is essential. When employees vouch for you, candidates trust you more. But how employees market the company as advocates will depend on whether you have a positive and dynamic company culture.

Beyond free coffee and fresh fruit, employers need to consider new and adequate benefits packages that will entice employees to stay, as well as focus on what they can achieve to find and retain top talent. Actively listening to employees and being open to suggestions for future work arrangements shows that a company cares about staff wellbeing and job satisfaction.

As the economy recovers, the tables have turned; the employer-led market has now shifted to a candidate-driven market, as the number of vacancies outweigh the number of top-tier candidates. Employers are forced to compete for top talent in their industries while lacking bargaining power, as the huge hole in the labour market has provided jobseekers with more choice.

Preventing candidates from ghosting during the recruitment process relies on authenticity through marketing (mentioned earlier), and how managers are coached in hiring plays an essential part too, believes Scales. Managers that hire usually do this alongside their main role, “impacting the focus and effort for hiring candidates effectively”, she says. Scales is also convinced that candidates need to be communicated with throughout the recruitment process and in a way that suits them, even if its via WhatsApp. This is imperative for building a reputation for treating people well, which potential employees admire.

As candidates now have the upper-hand, employers need to adjust their hiring strategies to accommodate the new type of market, even if that means offering better benefits than competitors to attract and retain valuable candidates.

Scales disclosed that the top reasons employees leave Nestlé, according to a company survey, is due to salary and career development. Many reputable organisations are often seen as a “springboard” by young talent looking to kickstart their career and build a reputation for themselves to climb the ladder of success elsewhere. As workplaces are generally left coughing up the bill for extra training and recruitment, a strategic learning and development plan will make a difference to help retain talent.

“People want to be spoon-fed”, Scales argues. But encouraging people to self-serve and take charge of their own career is important to weave into company culture. She stresses that the EVP should advertise that employees can have a long-term career and their role can vary in the organisation. Albalawi agrees, as he’s convinced that changing the language from “learning and development” to “learning and potential” shows that companies are helping employees reach their “potential” whereas enforcing “development” signifies spoon-feeding.

Supporting employees in voicing their needs and encouraging them to be proactive and seek opportunities for career progression is fundamental for retention.

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