Is Your EVP Still Relevant in a Post-COVID World?
As a recruiter, you’ve probably spent a lot of time pointing to your employee value proposition (EVP) in your outreach and communications with talent over the years. An EVP is the unique set of benefits employees reap in return for the skills, experience, effort, and other contributions they bring to your company to help it succeed. It distinguishes you from your competitors while answering the question—from both prospective candidates’ and employees’ perspectives—“What’s in this job for me?” Your EVP demonstrates your organization’s commitment to meeting employees’ needs and desires in exchange for their day-to-day efforts. You’ve probably thought of it as a two-way contract between your organization and its employees. And you know that, when done well, your EVP has helped your company attract the best talent, retain it, and improve engagement among existing employees.
But it’s possible that your org’s EVP included elements that became irrelevant once COVID-19 was upon us: in-person social events, gym memberships, and magnificent office spaces are no longer things you can promote in your outreach or your conversations with talent. Prior to this year, it would’ve been easy to argue that a company’s EVP should be robust enough to last through good times and bad—demanding only minor adjustments over the years. But few of us could have anticipated the shift in cultural attitudes and values around work that this pandemic occasioned. In many ways, companies have been asked to rethink both the purpose of work and how-and-where work gets done; and we don’t imagine there will be a return to “the old ways of doing things” in a post-COVID world. What talent values and prioritizes in work, as well as the factors they consider when making career moves, has actually shifted. Your EVP needs to evolve alongside those new values and priorities.
Of course, things like meaningful work, career development, engaged and supportive leadership, and competitive salary and benefits all remain table stakes. But in this social, economic, and health crisis, other things have come to the forefront. It may be up to recruitment to stay awake to, and aware of, talent’s changed needs. And it may be up to you to initiate a conversation with leadership to talk about the ways your EVP needs to mirror the new reality.
As of this month (September 2020), employee engagement is up 11%, and employees’ desire to stay at their current companies is at an all-time high. Naturally, talent is less likely to want to explore new job opportunities during an economic crisis. But if you hope to engage talent down the road—talent that’s less likely to want to leave their jobs, especially if their current companies survive this crisis while treating them well—you may have to refine your EVP. Here are some elements worth considering:
Employee well-being covers everything from mental health to work-life balance to stress management to non-traditional forms of wellness, like mindfulness or financial wellbeing. Companies that take a human-centered approach to well-being think about their employees holistically: from psychological, physical, spiritual, intellectual, and financial perspectives. Viewing employees holistically is perhaps particularly crucial right now since, in this era of remote work, our personal and professional lives are no longer compartmentalized (if they ever were).
More than half (53%) of companies recently surveyed said that they’re altering their EVPs to promote work-life balance and wellness so that talent doesn’t feel like they have to grind in exchange for remote work. This trend is worth jumping on the bandwagon for, since we’re all more acutely aware than ever of our wellness. But whereas companies once had the luxury of offering quirky well-being benefits, post-COVID benefits need to add real value to the lives of their employees. Think teletherapy stipends. Think education on financial well-being. Think clear guidelines for your employees about when the workday ends. Think monthly “wellness days” that the entire team has off for self-care. If your company is offering these things during the pandemic, don’t retract them on the other side. Actively incorporate them into your EVP. Forefront them in your messaging. Talent will be looking to see if you’ll prioritize employee health and well-being over the long-term.
It’s an understatement to say that COVID has created an environment of uncertainty. Talent is not going to forget the anxiety this pandemic has brought on; and it’s likely that the stability a company has to offer will be a fundamental element of career decisions for decades to come. We’re noticing it in our conversations with prospective candidates at Gem; and the sourcers and recruiters we’re speaking with say the same. Candidates are asking questions about stability that they’ve never asked before: How likely is it that the role we’ve sourced them for will be impacted long-term? How has the pandemic impacted our business performance? Is there any imminent restructuring of teams? What do severance packages look like?
If you can demonstrate company stability as part of your EVP, assuring candidates that they’re not stepping onto a sinking ship—whether by revealing more about growth plans or company financials—do so. This is perhaps especially true for smaller companies. As Alex Zapesochny, CEO of Clerico Vision, recently observed: “It has now become important to not only explain why your company will continue to be well-financed but also explain why your long-term revenue prospects and business model will not be harmed, no matter how long it takes for life to go ‘back to normal.’” Consider the data you have at hand that indicates your company is healthy and robust enough to weather this storm, as well as forthcoming storms.
Even prior to COVID, remote work and flexible work arrangements had become increasingly meaningful to talent. But the pandemic has shattered long-standing assumptions about where work gets done, and talent has now experienced the benefits of working remotely. In fact, a recent IBM survey found that most employees prefer to stay remote: 80% of talent wants to continue to work away from the office at least occasionally after COVID, while 58% wants to continue working from home indefinitely. Forbes adds that only 10% of employees desire to return to their workplaces full-time. Talent wants flexibility; and we’ve seen how possible it is. “That’s not how we operate” may not hold up as an argument anymore.
73% of companies who have reiterated on their EVP in light of COVID say their value propositions now include providing flexibility with remote work hours. Guaranteeing remote work is ultimately as good for your company as it is for your employees. It allows you to cut costs. It allows you to diversify your workforce and create economic growth in smaller towns and economically-challenged cities. It allows you to address inequality and barriers to inclusion (think caretakers and talent with disabilities). Women who work remotely receive 20% more promotions than those who work in an office environment. (Men see an 8% increase.) And across the board, remote employees are more likely to feel that there is room for growth in their current roles. We gather this is because the majority of employees say they’re more productive when working from home.
Of course, to make your EVP particularly competitive for remote employees, maybe you offer benefits like a monthly co-working space or coffee shop stipend, an annual stipend for home office needs, or an internet reimbursement stipend. Check in with leadership to see what’s possible.
Corporate Social Responsibility, Mission, and Values
Philanthropy, ethics, and a sense of purpose all fall under this category, which is the emotional or “heart element” of your EVP. As we the boundary between our work lives and personal lives has shrunk, it’s as important as ever for workers to feel aligned with the mission and purpose of the companies they work for—your (and their) “why.” Recent surveys show that an employer’s sense of purpose or impact on society is the second-most important criteria for young talent when considering new jobs; and according to Accenture, two-thirds of consumers want companies to commit to higher ethical standards in the wake of this pandemic. They expect them to be increasingly responsible to their employees, their customers, the environment, and society.
So if your company is doing what it can to reduce its carbon footprint, engage in volunteer efforts or charitable giving, make environmentally- and socially-conscious investments, or otherwise offer employees a sense of meaning and purpose, share that out with talent. If these actions were prompted by COVID or the Black Lives Matter movement, write them into your EVP so that they don’t become short-lived and reactive activities. If you have a Corporate Social Responsibility team, collaborate with them on how you can showcase what they’re up to in your outreach and recruitment messaging. And if CSR or philanthropy hasn’t been a priority for your org, it might be worth initiating a conversation with leadership to brainstorm what that might look like for you.
Diversity and Inclusion
With the renewed visibility of Black Lives Matter in the midst of the pandemic this year, companies no longer have the option of not attending to matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Nearly 60% of companies who revised their EVPs this year did so to emphasize diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. Do you have top-of-funnel diversity initiatives in place to bring underrepresented talent into your org? Are you providing the same level of support to all employees once they arrive? Are your benefits inclusive? Are underrepresented employees being promoted at the same rate as their majority peers? Are you using your platform to give voice to social justice issues? Whatever your company is sincerely up to, make those efforts visible—on your careers page, in your job descriptions, in your outreach.
Give Talent The EVP They Want
Our strongest recommendation is to collaborate with HR to get a read on what your prospective candidates and employees now value. What motivates them in the wake of COVID? What are candidates’ top concerns as they consider their next roles? What’s kept your employees at your org through COVID? What do they wish your company would have done—or was doing—better? Of course, your EVP needs to be authentic if it’s going to have any impact; so leadership should strongly consider what’s possible from a business perspective, what they’re willing to offer in response to changed concerns and priorities, and how those offerings align with company values.
Recruiters, partner with marketing and comms where you can to ensure the org is speaking to its EVP as a single, unified voice. Update your talent acquisition team’s FAQ so that sourcers and recruiters have consistent answers to prospects’ and candidates’ questions. Employees shouldn’t only be involved in reiterating on your EVP, but also in promoting it. Point to employee-generated content that contains employee perspectives in your outreach.
Above all, keep listening. This time has shown us the speed at which attitudes and values around work can change. As a talent acquisition professional, you want to have an ear constantly open to how you can help your company respond to those shifts.