The experience of the pandemic was a turning point for a lot of employees through all levels of organisations. As people confronted the realities of the workplace and even more existential questions around life and death, the feeling among some that they were giving so much to work without seeing much in return, struck a chord and ignited the “great resignation.”
However, similar to the customer value proposition - that you can’t just throw money at the problem and hope it goes away, just piling money in when the core offering is problematic will create a cycle of churn with those taking advantage of a sign-on bonus to resign once the contract period expires, says Darci Darnell, a partner in Bain & Company’s Chicago office and global head of its customer practice.
Fundamentally, the fight for talent requires you to rethink what it is your organisation can deliver for an employee that will be differentiated and inspiring, and how you can sustain that throughout the entirety of the employee’s career, she says.
In an interaction with People Matters, Darnell, who has served in multiple global leadership roles and today sits on the firm’s top elected governance committee, shares insights on improving employee retention through a good employee value proposition (EVP).
Here are a few excerpts from the interview.
How do EVPs help organisations/leaders improve employee retention?
In the same way you or I as customers stay loyal to the companies who deliver remarkable products, services, and experiences, we also stay loyal to our employers who inspire us every day beyond just the basic needs of having a safe work environment, fair compensation, or necessary tools to do a job.
One way to practically track delivery against EVP is again, a parallel to what we do with customers: get feedback!
Employee NPS, or what we call “Net Promoter for People,” is one way to do this. Forget about the metric—Net Promoter for People is more about the act of listening, learning, and taking action at a far higher velocity than is the standard HR-led annual employee survey type of exercise.
It’s also listening, learning, and acting at the team level that provides feedback to your direct supervisor and colleagues to celebrate one another or nip any emerging issues in the bud. Ultimately, this is the level that you retain an employee, and not necessarily something that an organisation’s most senior leaders can impact.
EVP included elements that became irrelevant due to the pandemic. What does a good EVP look like in a post-Covid world?
This is a highly relevant question and one that we at Bain have had to face head-on ourselves. One of the core value propositions we offer with a career at Bain pre-Covid - especially for those just starting out in their careers - is the excitement and fun of teaming and learning from working on a small case team in person. As a result of Covid, we had to change the way this worked and tried to infuse the model of teaming and fun into our virtual experience.
While many people were disappointed to miss out on the camaraderie built from the in-person experience, probably just as many have grown to enjoy consulting without the weekly flights or daily commute. The possibility of returning back to the office post-Covid made us have to rethink once again exactly what is unique and differentiated about Bain. Is it time to change our EVP and enable a fully remote environment for our consulting staff?
Here again is where it’s critical to revisit what it is that makes you unique and differentiated. As we determined what our policy would be post-Covid, we reaffirmed that in-person teaming and learning is part of our core DNA. A permanent fully remote model was off the table, but more flexibility was added to provide greater balance for those who sought it out.
Creating a great EVP - what do organisations need to consider?
- Revisit your purpose and supporting values – are they inspiring for the customer and employee?
- Commit as senior leaders to modelling and reinforcing these values every day with your words and actions
- Define what make your company unique and differentiated with employees, and amplify it
- Uncover and systematically eliminate those things what gets in the way of greatness – e.g., employee level KPIs that go counter to your values or a compensation structure that is unfair
Do financial rewards/compensation only make a good EVP or there are intangibles too?
There’s a great quote in the book that Fred captured in a conversation he had with Steve Grimshaw, the CEO of Caliber Collision, a $5B auto-body business across the US. “Fred, people work hard for a pay check, they work harder for a good boss, and they work hardest for a meaningful purpose.”
In practice, we can see this at some of the most prestigious public interest organisations. Graduating from a top law school in the United States, you’d be surprised at how competitive it is to get a job at one of the renowned public interest organisations such as Human Rights Watch. These candidates are not in it for the money – they are in it for the purpose.
For those running organisations who may not have as lofty a goal as defending human rights, there’s definitely still something to be said about having a culture committed to a clear purpose and lived through the practices of its employees up and down the organisation every day.
While you still need to be competitive with your financial rewards, those businesses with the best cultures that inspire the employee experience a lot less turnover, a lot more retained knowledge in the organisation, and ultimately happier customers.