Many of us in the talent space can probably agree that it’s a job seeker’s market right now.
There are plenty of open positions up and down the chain of command, but not enough skilled individuals to fill them. This is great for highly skilled job hunters as opportunities are out there for them, ripe for the picking.
But it’s not so great for employers. All organisations want to attract the best talent – but how do you stand out to job seekers on ever-more crowded and competitive job listing platforms?
The key here is to forge a strong employer brand: part of your corporate identity that showcases your organisation as a great place to work. Surely that will get the best talent beating a path to your door, right?
So before you even think of working on your employer brand, you need to do some important groundwork first. In order to truly become the forward thinking, benevolent employer that the modern talent market wants, you need to develop and implement a strong, meaningful employer value proposition.
It’s effectively an employer’s guarantee as to what benefits employees are going to get in exchange for working for them. Understandably this attracts new talent, boosts employee retention, and keeps morale high.
Nowadays, people want a lot more recognition and fulfilment from their work, which doesn’t always sit well with a company’s “old guard”!
Now more than ever, employees are acutely aware that they are forfeiting quality time with friends and family in order to work. With this in mind, employers therefore need to provide more than just a generous salary to keep their employees on side.
Lots of us personally identify with our jobs in many ways, and therefore seek purpose in our work, require proper recognition for a task well done, and feel a need to align with employers on shared social values. This might sound a little wishy-washy to some, but it’s genuinely what keeps people happy and satisfied at work here in the 2020s.
There are numerous ways to break this down, but I personally quite like the “Human Deal Framework” presented by Gartner’s Lily Mok in her recent webinar “Attract and Retain Top Talent With a Compelling Employment Value Proposition”. My interpretation of this framework is as follows:
Employees want to be holistically understood by their employer; be part of a positive, high quality team; need a sense of community and belonging; and need to feel supported within the context of diversity and inclusion.
Workers need the freedom to strike a work-life balance that works for them; they need to feel trusted and independent in the work they do; and the employer needs to be invested in their development as a whole, unique person.
Employees want recognition and reward for what they do, they want to achieve both professional and personal growth from their work; they want appreciation; and they want opportunities to progress and develop.
Employers need to meet employees’ physical and mental needs; workers need stability and security at work; and workers need generous annual leave and health benefits.
Employees want connectedness to what they’re doing; they want to feel the purpose behind their work; they want to align with employers on environmental, societal, and ethical grounds.
Some interesting food for thought here: according to an Aviva study, nearly two thirds of UK workers would willingly take a pay cut if they received other benefits like working from home or more flexible hours.
Before you improve anything, you need to know how well – or how badly – you’re currently doing. So before you act, you need to get your Sherlock Holmes hat on and investigate how well you stack up as an attractive employer right now.
The best way to do this is to simply ask your existing staff. Send them a totally anonymised survey that seeks to establish their current workplace satisfaction, their stress levels, what attracted them to the job in the first place (particularly important for new hires), what makes their working lives difficult, and what drives them to stay in your employ?
Exploring why team members take sick leave can also be enlightening, especially when that sick leave is related to stress and mental health concerns. These kinds of health incidents don’t always relate to work, but the stresses of work often don’t help in these situations. Are there any stress-related or wellbeing flashpoints that you can improve upon in the workplace?
Another excellent place to get a particularly warts-and-all view of your company as an employer is at exit interviews with outgoing team members. Aim to establish what has broken down between you and the employee, and what spurred them to consider their options elsewhere. Exit interviews are a great place to start shining a light on what makes you a less attractive employer compared to others.
Something that we advise all companies to do fairly regularly is to benchmark their diversity and inclusion efforts, especially across gender, ethnicity, and disability grounds. Just how equal are your equal pay efforts? How does your workforce split demographically up and down the chain of command? These are great questions to ask when starting to build a positive employer value proposition.
You may also find it beneficial to explore what former employees have said about you on platforms like Glassdoor – or perhaps even LinkedIn. These are the places potential employers will go to scope you out, after all! You might also be able to learn from other employers in your niche; what are they seemingly doing right for their employees and where might they be missing the mark?
Once you’ve gathered this information, establish what needs to be improved internally and create an initiative to do so. Set tangible and achievable SMART goals for this project and let these changes start to take shape before you progress much further.
Building a great employer value proposition should benefit all employees, not just new hires. So therefore, as you work through your above improvement initiatives and experiment with what works best for your teams, the first people to feel the ripples of these positive changes should be your existing team members.
Going back to Lily Mok’s webinar for Gartner, she reported that “The most progressive organizations focus 80% of their effort on delivering EVP promises, [and] only 20% on defining and managing the EVP”. It wasn’t clear whether this had any actual data to back it up, but it does stand to reason: actually delivering on the promises made by your EVP is going to take a lot more work than simply deciding what it’s going to contain.
This reminds us that simply having an EVP is just the start. Embedding it throughout the entire employee lifecycle is a whole journey. It’s not just a case of deciding how you’re going to attract new staff with a competitive compensation package – the real effort comes in turning it from empty promises on a careers page to a real lived experience for all team members.
Once you start to make positive changes to employees’ lives, they become perfectly placed to become ambassadors for your EVP – they’ve truly witnessed your “before and after” transformation, after all. And what goes around, comes around; the more valued people feel in the workplace, the better placed they will be to do their best work, and the more likely they are to spread the word about what a great employer you are.
One other interesting dataset from Lily’s webinar was how factors like work-life balance, health benefits, annual vacation/holiday time, and organisational stability varied in importance to employees of different age brackets. Bear this in mind as you take your first faltering steps into forming an employer brand that works for you and your team. This drive may require you to cautiously try new improvements to see how well they work, or whether they miss the mark for certain segments of your workforce.
Understand that people are increasingly working to live rather than the other way around. Showing an empathetic attitude to life outside of work is a good step. We’re not saying you need to give unlimited holiday entitlements or create an on-site creche, but remember that a job is just one part of the massive jigsaw puzzle that is every person’s life.
It’s also worth examining how well the EVP you’re creating overlaps with your corporate brand, mission, and values, as this will be essential for our next step…
Now you have a solid idea of what benefits bring out the best in your team, it’s time to start presenting it as a cohesive, public-facing employer brand. And in order to do that, HR needs to team up with an unlikely partner: marketing.
Actually building and enacting the EVP has likely been the responsibility of HR and hiring managers up to this point. But when it comes to communicating those benefits to the public, and putting it in the context of your overarching brand identity, it’s truly marketing’s time to shine.
Your employer brand should seamlessly weave the benefits of working for you in with your corporate brand identity as a whole.
Once HR and marketing have decided on the approach they want to take, it falls to the marketing department to build strong employer brand assets. This may include a careers page on your website, applicant-focused messaging on social media, an established tone of voice for your job ads, and a practical marketing process for advertising future roles.
Within all of this messaging, aim to weave in elements of your company story, vision, mission, and values. Stress how important your people are to you as an organisation, and how you actively compensate your team now your EVP plans are coming to fruition.
Think carefully about this messaging. What do you provide that makes working for you a better, more secure, more pleasant bet than working for a competitor? What total compensation do you offer – not just in terms of pay and physical perks, but also work flexibility, job security, great culture, fair pay, and professional development? Green company policies, equality efforts, and corporate social responsibility are also important factors to persuade and retain good talent.
If you have future plans for your EVP, it might be useful to create a publicly-facing infographic or report that highlights your EVP implementations to date and provides a roadmap for what you have planned in future; publishing updated versions and publicly celebrating when certain milestones are hit. This gives both existing and potential employees insight into what’s in store for them in future.
If your initial audits did uncover some detractors on platforms like Glassdoor, it may be worth claiming your profile as an employer on those platforms. This way, you will be able to keep a better eye on what’s being said about you and do some careful damage control when a bad review does arise. Platforms like these usually let the employer respond to reviews, so it gives you a chance to delicately add a positive spin to any critical narratives that may arise.
As you strive to become a more attractive employer it’s also important to become a more attractive hirer. We always advise that you hire cautiously on cultural fit, shared values, and individual potential, rather than binary hiring decisions that demand a certain type of experience or qualification.
As discussed in our recent article about racial equality in corporate leadership, people from diverse backgrounds may not have had access to the same opportunities and experience compared to what might be considered “the norm”. This may have also excluded them from certain areas of business, leading to the age-old cycle of “needing experience to get experience”. Good hirers are wise to this inequality
It’s essential that HR teams understand the skills and requirements necessary for each role – especially the more niche and technical ones. Case in point: nearly a third of professionals felt that their organisations “likely exclude” strong cybersecurity job candidates because HR departments don’t understand the skills needed to work in cybersecurity.
And remember, applicants are judging your company’s inefficiencies as much as you’re judging them!
Personally, I feel that a 3-stage process should be more than enough to hire a full time, senior member of staff. When you have a well-optimised process with set action points to be ticked off at each stage, you should be better suited to have a hiring process that’s more quality than quantity.