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Opinion

How to win the upcoming post-COVID-19 war for talent

Employee value proposition (EVP) is crucial.

Gautam Sahgal

talent employee value proposition
Credit: INDRATNO PARDIANSYACH via Twenty20.

Unleash Your PotentialBut what must companies do to attract new talent and keep their best employees?

  • COVID-19 has changed the world of work forever.
  • There is now a need to cater more for employee preferences as companies navigate the future of work.
  • Here is some advice on how companies can better celebrate and empower their workforce.

The pandemic has both instigated and accelerated fundamental shifts in the labor market. Suddenly creating more time to reflect and a focus on how we live and work has provoked a collective re-evaluation of what people want from their careers.

In fact, according to one recent survey, 41% of global workers are considering leaving or changing professions this year, having reconsidered what they want from their employer and career.

Dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’, this phenomenon is creating especially high levels of competition within the jobs market, and at present, the balance seems tipped in job seekers’ favor.

Because of this, employers can no longer simply rely on bolstered pay packages to attract and retain the talent they need.

In fact, given the disruption many have faced during the pandemic, many may not be able to afford this anyway.

Instead, attention should be turned to developing a standout employee value proposition (EVP) and experience which both existing and potential talent can’t ignore. But how can companies achieve this?

Show, don’t tell

The past year has challenged people’s physical, mental, and emotional wellness in ways we couldn’t predict.

With the initial panic of lockdowns, followed by long drawn-out periods of uncertainty, it is not surprising that many of us are looking to our employers to genuinely show that they understand the personal and professional challenges we may have faced, and that they care.

And as many return to the workplace, there’s a clear moment in time for employers to demonstrate that they care for employees.

There are universal wellbeing issues for employers to consider – such as a suitable work environment, a flexible yet strategic model of work, the encouragement and support of regular exercise and a healthy work/life balance.

Yet the key to evolving the employee experience for prospective and existing workers will be understanding and accommodating the pressures and responsibilities that are unique to each employee.

As a result, we’re seeing a greater range of support being offered.

For example, accountancy giant PwC announced this summer it will grant its employees of any gender eight days of paid leave for fertility consultations and appointments.

While it may seem bold for businesses to involve themselves in sensitive issues such as fertility, addressing external factors that can cause significant distress and ultimately impact employee performance signals that employers understand the positive role they can play in their workers’ lives.

Offering meaningful wellbeing support, with high-quality and easily accessible insights and information on related topics, will drive greater understanding and engagement.

Cater for employee differences

Since the first UK lockdown, how people have been impacted by and responded to the pandemic has both differed and fluctuated over time.

As we opened up our laptops and inadvertently invited our colleagues into our homes – virtually – the pandemic shone a light on the differences that exist within our society and workforces.

For example, while 18-to-29-year-olds are the age group most interested in hybrid work set-up, they are also grappling with a less spacious, and often shared, home environment.

Within this context, and with 78% of employees viewing benefits packages as a significant deciding factor on whether to accept or reject a job offer, employers simply cannot afford to push a one-size fits-all rewards package.

Each person’s circumstances are different. Employers need to respond to this and offer a package which reflects that reality. This is best done by creating a flexible proposition that can effectively meet each employee’s needs, whilst simultaneously delivering a clear EVP.

Offering a centralized platform that offers employers access to a host of rewards and benefits empowers them to choose the support that’s most relevant to them and from which they feel they will get the most value.

It also provides support as these needs adapt to reflect wider life changes such as getting married, moving, starting a family or preparing for retirement.

Not only should this be an effective way of offering personalized support to a workforce, but it can also create a consistent experience for all teams, no matter where they are.

It is vital that reward and benefits are harmonized across entire organizations, whether employees are working from the head office, home, in frontline people-facing roles or – crucially in today’s context – in different locations around the world. 

Celebrate Employee success stories

Creating an environment that prospective and existing employees want to be a part of is also necessitates regular praise and recognition. It’s more important than ever – and can have a huge impact on morale.

This means adopting an open culture that celebrates great work and takes the time to acknowledge all that employees put into an organization.

For example, legal firm Eversheds Sutherlands, repurposed its in-house social media platform to not only keep employees socially connected, but to encourage them to share praise for their co-workers with public messages of virtual thanks.  

Whether being ‘publicly’ acknowledged in virtual or face-to-face company meetings, in a one-to-one setting or through internal channels that allow you to digitally share praise – however companies choose to do it, the benefits can be far-reaching.

Not only does this drive motivation, but it binds employees together. It can lead to greater engagement – individually and between colleagues – productivity, and company loyalty.

If people feel acknowledged and valued by their organization, they are much less likely to consider moving to a new role.

And for global enterprises, establishing a location-agnostic hub that congratulates employees on a job well done can help strengthen cross-company connections, enabling leaders to recognize and reward all of their people.

Create a sense of unity and purpose

With many returning to people-facing roles while others adopt hybrid working and some even embark on a permanent remote setup, it could be easy for employees to feel disconnected from each other and their organization. It’s therefore up to businesses to find ways to rebuild and recommunicate their company culture.

Embracing flexibility will go a long way to ensuring that everyone feels they have a place within an organization that recognizes their unique situation and supports it. But above all, it’s essential that employers know what their people want and how those needs may be changing.

Establishing open discussion forums for feedback, conducting regular anonymous surveys, communicating news of initiatives and perks frequently, and leading by example when it comes to playing back feedback and sentiment, will help to encourage a considered, inclusive working experience within a competitive marketplace.

Finally, it’s also about purpose and storytelling.

Talent today – employed and candidate alike – is asking; what kind of person fits within this company? What is it trying to accomplish as an organization? Does it reflect the world and the people around it?  What change is it making on the world? And, as a result of these answers, do I want to be part of it?

Transmitting organizational culture and purpose – what makes your company unique and relevant to society – in a remote world no less, takes careful consideration and strategic alignment between HR directors and business leaders. But defining and communicating this vision, with credibility, is a huge differentiator in attracting and retaining the right talent.

Moving forward

It’s a new working world and relationships between employers and employees are changing. Businesses no longer have to be offering the biggest pay packets to attract the best and brightest, in fact, that’s not what many are looking for.

Embracing flexibility, encouraging a culture of recognition, praise, and purpose, and adopting platforms that unlock personalized support and benefits for employees, wherever they are, is the order of the day and can make all the difference in attraction and retention.

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