The war for talent is not a new phenomenon. But the battle ground has changed. In the recent past, a winning strategy largely boiled down to ‘who’s going to pay the most?’. These days, people are willing to take pay cuts if they believe in the company — what it stands for, and the value it can bring to them, their families, their customers and the local community where they work.
Pay and benefits are still important, but people also expect their employer to offer a socially responsible strategy, ethos and culture, flexible working, and maternity and paternity benefits. And they want to advance a clear, fully supported career trajectory in an office environment that oozes work-life balance. It’s all or nothing when it comes to wellbeing — the total package has to include honest investments in employees’ total health, financial security and career growth.
But how on earth does an employer show this to employees before they’ve joined the company? The key is ensuring the internal and external brand is one and the same. Once defined by marketing and advertising, that brand is now the product of employee and customer perspectives. What job seekers buy must be what they see: a strong brand promise.
Consider the Apple experience. The true soul of the company isn’t its products, but rather how customers feel when they use and interact with the product technology and service. This can also be seen in Apple’s stores, through their people — how they’re hired, trained and taught to engage with customers in a way that recreates the product and marketing experience.
Apple sells more products by building relationships. Those connections ensure that when customers buy one product, they’re wedded for life. Of course, this approach only works if employees trust and believe in the brand. That’s why Apple delivers a unique and personalised employee experience, too.
Today’s younger workers aren’t as motivated by pound signs as their work- hard, play-hard parents. They’re much more focused on work-life balance. Beyond what’s typically expected, they want to know what intangible goods and services a company offers: a mark of the ‘what’s in it for me?’ mentality.
In order to have any influence over brand perception whatsoever, organisations need a strong employer value proposition (EVP). This may be defined as ‘how you want to be seen’, and it must be articulated and lived from the CEO down.
Time to remove barriers
This is a bold challenge. It involves laying the company bare and shouting: ‘This is who we are!’ It’s the kind of stuff someone might consider doing on a fifth date — certainly not the first. But considering the huge popularity of recruitment websites like Glassdoor, which rely on warts-and- all reviews from people who’ve been there and done that, a strategy around EVP has to be thought about now.
Every area of the employee experience has to be examined — almost forensically. From initial perceptions during the job hunt and the look and feel of the first interview letter, through the benefits offered and the office environment: all of these touchpoints should directly amplify the company culture. It’s not unusual to find chill-out areas and coffee shops in the workplace. The message is ‘don’t go out; stay here, kick back and chew the cud with your colleagues’.
Say it, see it, sort it
Once a true EVP is in place and driven from the top down, success then largely boils down to good communications. These efforts will help current and prospective employees understand the company’s strategy and direction. But, perhaps more importantly, they will also articulate how — through everyday experiences — employees can expect to live and breathe the EVP.
How to demonstrate EVP during the recruitment journey
- Use social media channels to showcase the internal as well as the external — and have the confidence to take the lid off
- Engage recruits through all the usual business focused elements of marketing that revolve around new products, services, initiatives and financial results — but include a softer side, too
Encourage staff to organise charitable days and post about them, or simply share photos of what they’re doing in and out of work. People trust their peers, so encouraging a narrative online will help instil confidence that the company is a great place to work.
Recruitment and Onboarding
- Have fun with the ways the company image is allowed to come through to prospective and new hires — even if it usually conveys a stricter corporate vibe
- Look at the company’s culture and how teams are working together — and build this experience into the interview process
Change up the interview approach. Don’t just say: ‘Here’s the job spec, and now we’re going to grill you’. Instead, challenge the format, communication and location to bring the company’s culture to life. A totally different experience at this early stage shows prospective hires that the organisation is unique and better than competitors.
- Think about, and act on, ways that the company could do better to live up to the promise set out at the start of the recruitment journey
- Capture the enthusiasm of new recruits — and commit to a course of action that keeps this energy from dissolving over time
- Prepare line managers to guide the employee experience along the route mapped out by HR and leadership — and support their efforts with great communications
EVP won’t matter a jot without strong leaders. So first, invest heavily in leadership, which is a specific skill at all levels. Line managers are the most visible and accessible human touchpoint for employees on a daily basis, and employee career development relies strongly on their engagement. Firmly committing to learning and development, alongside coaching and mentoring programmes — for line managers and their employees — can deliver some of the biggest improvements.