It has been called the Great Resignation, evident in the ‘help wanted’ signs in gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores across the country.
Office workers are also in high demand, with some 4.3 million people in the US quitting their jobs in August. Overall, more than 20 million workers left their jobs in the second half of 2021. The Delta and Omicron variants, child care issues, and a widespread re-evaluation of goals and values have all been cited as possible factors propelling the churn.
Less often mentioned is employee experience — a major issue even before the pandemic.
Whatever the root cause (or causes) of the historic shift in the current labor market, employers are eager to innovate to attract and retain talent. Brands are also realizing that what’s good for employees is good for the company, because miserable, disengaged employees certainly won’t help the brand’s bottom line or reputation.
Most brands know far more about their audience than their own employees.
Instead of designing exclusively around consumer needs, it’s an ideal time to think afresh about shaping your company culture, defining your purpose, and keeping the employee experience top of mind. Here are 5 ways to do it:
1. Money talks, but it’s not the whole conversation
Everyone appreciates a pay raise, of course, but that’s only one way to ensure employees will stick around. In the pre-pandemic era, even if brand and employee values were misaligned, an employee might have stuck around because of location or health insurance. But that’s not the case today when you can live in Boise and enjoy a low cost of living while working full-time for your dream company in the Bay Area.
With remote and hybrid work becoming the norm in white-collar sectors, employees have a lot more leverage. The scarcity of labor means that employees in service jobs can also afford to be choosy.
2. Reassess those surveys!
Assume that everyone wants a decent salary and good benefits, then probe a little deeper. There are plenty of tools available (like pulse surveys) to assess employee mood and engagement.
But while it’s useful to know whether employees are satisfied with their health insurance and prefer Zoom or Teams, you need to go beyond the basics. You can’t expect to learn much simply by sending out a quick survey here and there, or holding a 20-minute Town Hall.
You no doubt conduct in depth interviews and focus groups to learn what your consumers want — why not give your employees the same attention? Talk to them and learn what they need to thrive.
If you take money out of the equation, what’s important to your workers? Do they want growth? Respect? Fun? Flexibility? Camaraderie? Do you know how you’d provide any of these?
3. Make sure your brand values are clear
A whopping 90 percent of Gen Zers believe that brands should address social and environmental issues, so they’ll certainly prefer working for such companies they see as responsible and ethical; but many brands still treat values like a window dressing exercise.
When articulating your values, don’t be lazy: employees will roll their eyes if you talk about generic values like “hard work.” Brands such as Patagonia, for example, have clearly stated values that are clear and resonate. Employees can feel excited about goals such as “cause no unnecessary harm” and “use business to protect nature,” and feel good that they’re working for a company that cares about saving the planet.
Remember to focus on values that are a natural extension of your brand and fit well with your target audiences, countries of operations, and current products and services.
4. Find your purpose
Make sure you understand the difference between your brand’s mission (what your brand does and for whom) and its purpose (why your brand exists) – and that employees are on board with both!
Your purpose needs to make sense: if you’re a coffee company, suddenly announcing that you want to ‘save the whales’ will come out of left field. You can’t expect your employees to believe in and embody a purpose that seems completely disconnected from your brand.
Almost 90 percent of people need purpose in their lives, and 70 percent find that purpose at work. If your employees have no idea what your purpose is, their experience working for your brand will inevitably suffer. And while you’re honing your purpose, make sure it’s not a C-Suite exercise: employees company-wide should be a part of this process.
5. Develop your Employee Value Proposition
Once you feel confident that your mission and purpose are clear, and you’ve learned firsthand what your employees need to thrive and grow, you’ll be ready to hone your employee value proposition (EVP).
Define the commitments and behaviors that you’ll make in order to deliver. In addition to basics like compensation and benefits, your EVP should address issues like work-life balance, diversity, and how the brand will foster a culture of stability and respect.
- Get to know your employees as well as you know your consumers.
- Once you know what they want, think about solutions to effectively empower your people to thrive.
- Make sure you understand the difference between your brand’s mission (what your brand does and for whom) and its purpose (why your brand exists).
- Make defining your purpose a collaborative, company-wide initiative.
- Develop and deliver on your employee value proposition.