All in to WIN-Elevate your EVP

By Archana Jerath December 21, 2017
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The one big issue that keeps HR and business leaders awake at night is employee retention. In a job market that is flooded with opportunities for those who are talented and motivated, employers are increasingly worrying about what it takes to retain a good employee. As per an article titled 'CEOs Need to Pay Attention to Employer Branding' in Harvard Business Review, CEOs who drive this message across through their communication are the ones who are able to address the challenge of talent shortage. 

At SHRM India's Annual Conference 2017, Dr. Brad Shuck, associate professor of Organizational Leadership & Learning at the University of Louisville, shared his expertise on how HR Leaders can focus on creating a sustainable Employee Value Proposition (EVP).  EVP lies at the heart of the employer-employee relationship and connection, and ensuring that it is strong enough, not only to attract but also to retain talent, is the role of HR.

Based on Dr. Shuck's talk, here are some helpful guidelines for creating a robust EVP that can enable organizations to create a strategy for better and higher levels of employee engagement.

1. Focus on the Principles - As Dr. Shuck said at the session, "Principles drive practice".  The core principles that drive EVP are what will translate it into practice.  Starting with the principles is what ensures that the process is robust. If HR leaders put practice before principle, they simply objectify the idea of practice rather than embedding the principles into the overall organizational culture. 93% people said that they put in extra effort or go above and beyond because of positive EVP. After 6 months, only 40% confirmed that they were still engaged, to the same level, as their first day at work. This tends to happen when the organizational culture emanates a "Dysfunctional EVP" and that is a result of lack of focus on the core principles. The negative effects of such an EVP get cascaded down.

2. Revisit the Messaging – A simple story by Dr. Shuck demonstrated how this is such a powerful game-changer from an EVP perspective. His daughter came home from her kindergarten class and was upset because the teacher told her that she couldn't be a pink elephant because they don't exist. HR leaders tend to do the same with employees by asking them to get back "inside the box" inside of thinking of ideas "out of the box". So transforming the way HR talks is important. That is what could make a talented person choose to work with or leave an organization. Dr. Shuck spoke about how 85% of the employees shared their best ideas and showed their creativity in a company with positive EVP. That is how impactful this can be.

3. Employees are not Prisoners! – As per a study, 8% of the employees in a typical organization are actively disengaged but have no intention to leave. This is a serious cause for concern since they are present within the organization but are not contributing to its growth or pushing themselves to put in extra discretionary effort. They are Workplace Prisoners, says Dr. Shuck, who emphasized that organizations need to ask themselves if they want to refer to their employees as prisoners and themselves, the employers, as their guards. More importantly, if they look under the surface, they will realize that the reasons for disengagement are often related to how the organization did not take the time to know their capability or notice their contributions. In Dr. Shuck's words, EVP is the responsibility of the employer, not the employee. That is the approach that organizations need to use.

4. EVP is transformational, not transactional – HR leaders need to be aware that Employee Value Proposition has to be transformational. It is not just an activity in the checklist or a transaction to be completed by HR or organizational leaders. If an organization's engagement strategy is transactional, employees also apply the same approach back to the organization. Irrespective of big processes, when crucial, human elements like satisfaction and commitment are thought of as a transaction by the employer, the employee replicates the same thing. So in effect, the entire relationship becomes transactional and the focus is only to get the job done rather than to do it well. As Dr. Shuck described it, "When we objectify the idea of value proposition, or employee engagement, we remove the human element from it".

According to Dr. Shuck, there are three principles that define a strong EVP–

  1. The Cumulative Principle – What this means is that a strong EVP gets built over time. Many small and continuous actions take us in a certain direction that we have defined. A lot of these are easy to do, and yet sometimes not so easy to do.  However, organizations and leaders need to invest in a gradual building process and not expect there to be a sudden transformation. In Dr. Shuck's words "Culture is intentional and not accidental".
  2. The Reciprocity Principle - When employees see how organizations treat them or value them, there is a proportionate effect in action. They freely give their commitment and effort to the organization, in equal intensity. This kind of reciprocity is the result of a belief that our organization has our best interests in mind. At any point in time, if an employee notices that the organization has lost interest in him or her, he or she automatically loses interest in the organization too.
  3. The Engagement Principle – In today's world, the business case for engagement is totally clear and no organization needs to be made aware of its importance. The important question to ask is why. Why are people engaged or disengaged? The reasons for this seem fairly simple. When employees believe that their work is appreciated and they see meaning in the work they do, they are engaged.

As leaders, these are the guidelines and principles that need to be demonstrated at all times when considering the Employee Value Proposition. Leaders need to constantly decide whether they want to treat their employees with what is defined as above the line behaviors, such as dignity and empathy, or below the line behaviors, such as humiliation. Studies have shown that engaged employees reported higher levels of healthy behaviours themselves. They are also known to be less prone to mental illnesses or physical ill-health. That is what organizations want for their workforce.

When we recruit talent, there is a significant amount of effort being spent in choosing the right person. The point to ponder is that if we are not recruiting the wrong person, there is definitely some other element that can go wrong while they are in the organization. That is what organizations need to be watchful of, because that aspect is the EVP and that is what causes the downward spiral in employee engagement.

"A Strong EVP changes everything," says Dr. Shuck. This is the principle that organizations need to apply.

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