Redesigning an employee value proposition in today’s economic climate

Talent management is back on the corporate agenda, with organisations investing huge amounts of time and money in attracting and retaining the best people.

If you read nothing else, read this…

  • Regardless of what it offers, an employee value proposition (EVP) must be authentic and true to an organisation’s brand and culture if it is to attract today’s talent.
  • A compelling EVP is less about pay and financial reward, and more about workplace culture, work-life balance and career opportunities.
  • Employers looking to define the key components of their EVP will find the answers in feedback from staff surveys.Key to their success is an effective employee value proposition (EVP ) that communicates with absolute clarity what staff can expect from the organisation in return for their own performance.
Grass greener

However, what proved effective seven or eight years ago is unlikely to have the same impact on a new generation of recruits in the current economic climate. It is time for employers to rethink their EVP.

Legacy EVPs have done a great job in attracting and retaining baby boomers and Generation X, but their days of efficacy are numbered, says independent HR consultant Thomas Giles.

Generation Y and Millennials have different expectations

Research published by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2011 showed that by 2020, 50% of the global workforce will consist of people born after 1980. “These individuals, known as Generation Y or the Millennials, bring a new and very distinct approach to life and work, one that is markedly different from previous generations,” says Giles.

If employers hope to attract their share of this new talent, their EVP must meet the latest requirements. Generation Y are known to strive for great careers, with feedback, camaraderie and professional development, but they also want time to focus on family and friends. Work environments that demand excessive hours and long periods of travel away from home will be less appealing to them.

“They are natural users of technology, social media and the internet, are more attuned to what is going on in the world and are keenly aware of employer reputations,” says Giles. “They will disdain work environments that inhibit or discourage free expression through these mediums.”

Understand employees’ desired working environments

Employers also need to understand the type of working environment they need to provide. This is likely to involve moving towards more flexible-working patterns, employee empowerment and better recognition for employees’ contribution to the business. Organisations also need to differentiate themselves from other employers that are pursuing similar objectives.

Anatomy of a present-day EVP

This means there are big decisions for employers to make, says Iain McMath, chief executive officer at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services.

“Do they stay with a one-size-fits-all approach, or consider a more tailored EVP that reflects the ambition and needs of the individual?” he says. “Employers need to engage more effectively with employees to understand what drives them, and develop benefits packages that are linked more to the personal development and aspirations of staff. We are already seeing employees challenge the values and visions of organisations.”

There are also economic factors for employers to consider, although organisations rarely differentiate their EVP by financial means, says Stuart Hyland, business leader, UK Reward Solutions Consulting, at Hay Group.

A need for fairness of reward

In most cases, it is not about paying more than everyone else , but more about fairness of reward and how reward is distributed among employees.

“Differentiation is more likely to come down to an organisation’s specific legacy and its values,” says Hyland. “There has been a real focus on rebuilding trust with employees and, on occasions, with the market.

“Consequently, many more [organisations] are looking to restate their values and ensure they are brought to life through an appropriate EVP.”

An authentic and unique employer brand proposition, based on the organisation’s true culture, is a real USP for prospective and existing employees, but some brand elements can be real deal-breakers

Findings from recruitment firm Kelly Services’ 2014 Kelly Global workforce index , indicate that corporate values are lower on the list of priorities, with only 34% of those polled in the UK viewing this as an important factor in making an employer attractive.

Sally Hunter, senior director, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) practice lead at Kelly Services, says: “Our data tells us that while 80% of UK employees indicate salary as the factor that would influence their decision to choose one job over another, 59% count work-life balance as important and 57% say opportunities for advancement.”

Survey employees to identify what they value

Ideally, employers should survey employees to discover what motivates them and what they value about working for the organisation, before using the feedback to build a strong EVP. They then need to communicate exactly what that value means.

Hayley Fisher, people director at Thomsons Online Benefits, says: “Translating the value of benefits and educating employees about this value has a huge impact on how well an employee engages with their benefits, understands what is on offer and, ultimately, sees them as an essential part of their reward package.”

In both good times and bad, organisations need to nurture and, where necessary, reshape their EVP, says Giles.

“Retaining key staff through a challenging economy is a critical component of organisational perseverance and, unlike previous generations, Millennials are less likely to stay with a job, even in a recession, if [an organisation’s] culture and value proposition do not align with their own value structure,” he adds.

Case study: Kloud creates an employee value proposition to help recruit and retain staff 


HR consultancy Kloud has developed an employee value proposition (EVP) to meet the rigours of the current economic environment.

Claire Langford, resource manager at the organisation, says: “When it comes to recruitment and retention, we are up against the major league, so we’ve had to build our strong, flexible culture into our benefits suite because we can’t compete with the bigger players on salaries .

“Many employees would rather work for less money in a more intimate, relaxed environment, where they can make more of a professional impact and take advantage of SME [small and medium enterprise] staff benefits, such as flexible working.”

Because of its collaborative culture, Kloud engaged its entire 62-strong workforce in reviewing its EVP and benefits package. Using a simple survey tool, staff were asked to rank 15 potential new benefits in order of preference.

“Pub membership vouchers, dedicated CSR [corporate social responsibility] days together with long-service awards featured highly, so we are exploring ways to build these into our business,” says Langford.

Flexible-working arrangements, pensions , health plans and bonuses are core elements, as arechildcare-related benefits that appeal to staff with young families.

Langford adds: “Our consultants tend to be early adopters, so having access to techie-type products and tools, such as iPads, Skype and Yammer, also appeals.

“As we recruit more Generation Y employees into the business, we need to ensure our benefits remain attractive to them as well as our long-standing team members.”