Your greatest assets come up and down in the lift every day
For John McGrath, business success comes down to one thing: people.
"Your greatest assets come up and down the lift every day," says the Chief Executive of McGrath Estate Agents. And when you have the best people working with you, and give them clarity about what is expected as well as the tools to perform, he believes they will rise to meet the needs of the other most important people in your business: customers.
The best people are more in demand than ever before – in every sector, not just property. Unarguably, this is a people business – we’re selling advice, energy and commitment, not widgets.
As Macquarie's Business Banking benchmarking data consistently highlights, finding and keeping the best staff is a constant challenge for businesses of all sizes. PwC's latest Annual Global CEO Survey found 73 per cent of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills, and a recent article in the Harvard Business Review called for leaders to focus on strengthening their ‘employer brand' if they want to win the ‘new war for talent'.
McGrath says he describes what it's like to work for his business to new employees during their first few days. "We see it as a ‘life success company'," he explains. "It's a high energy environment with high expectations, and I want them to be able to rise to their highest ability. If they ever leave us, I want them to leave as a better person – not just a better real estate agent."
He says an emphasis on personal growth helps him attract the right people. "The best people are more in demand than ever before – in every sector, not just property," he comments. "But unarguably, this is a people business – we're selling advice, energy and commitment, not widgets."
It's about more than money
So how do you go about defining and communicating what it's like to work for your business? One of the core components of an external-facing employer brand is your ‘employee value proposition', or EVP.
"An employee value proposition clearly articulates the implicit agreement between employee and employer around ‘what it's like to work here', explains Rosalind Coffey, Macquarie's Banking and Financial Services Group's Global Human Resources Director.
"It helps both potential and current employees understand what it's like to work here - what do we expect you to give and what should you expect to get in return?"
This means it's about much more than money. It answers the most important question for staff: what's in it for me? Experiences, opportunities, values and culture are often far more motivating than salary, incentives and benefits. All these things come together in a succinct, clear employee value proposition.
"People aren't just looking for the biggest pay cheque any more," McGrath comments. "Increasingly, they're looking for what we might see as old fashioned values: respect, care and family, balance and community."
So how do you define an EVP that holds true for all staff and all levels of the business, and empowers their performance?
1. Talk to employees
Whether through a formal focus group, survey or in a casual chat, the most valuable insights will come through open feedback. Ask what they like most about working there and what would they change to be more effective. Ask prospective staff what they have heard about you as an employer.
2. Find common themes, then test for what resonates
When Macquarie undertook this task a few years ago, it interviewed employees in all offices around the world. Coffey explains; "we then had to synthesise the feedback into key themes that reflected the employee experience of working at Macquarie."
McGrath says his business is part of his DNA, and the way it's positioned as an employer reflects his own philosophy. "For me, it's all about flexibility, high standards, fast growth and passionate customer service."
3. Re-test for more feedback
Next, you may have to consider if the insights provided by employees reflects what you want the employee experience to be at your company, and whether there are aspects of feedback you need to act upon for a more positive EVP. It may be worth engaging an organisational culture change professional to help you ensure that your stated employee value proposition actually holds true for the employee experience.
4. Ready for launch
Macquarie's employee value proposition is just two words: ‘Own it'.
"Our code of conduct asserts opportunity, accountability and integrity, so we say you own all of those things," explains Coffey. "You are accountable, you have lots of opportunity – and you own your career, your clients and your outcomes."
She says it has been embraced as a sentiment of empowerment as well as a way that Macquarie expects employees to act in their day to day, and that it particularly appeals to the next generation of graduates who want to be in charge of their own destiny.
5. Embed it within your employee experience
Just like launching a marketing brand, your employee value proposition needs to be part of all your staff and recruitment messaging. Coffey says it's very important to incorporate it into social media activities, as you can then build a pipeline of potential talent who will be attracted to your business for all the right reasons.
"Include your EVP in your social media strategy, so even if you're not actively recruiting, you'll find people will want to work with you before you ask them."
This will also make it visible to potential customers, bringing your company values to life through your people.
"If you've defined it correctly, your EVP should also appeal to your clients, because it will form expectations of their experience as a customer," Coffey comments.
McGrath says it's important to him personally to know he has "a group of people working together happily, and telling their friends and family what they do. If they really feel it, and they're talking about it, that means the environment is in a healthy state. And that's important for every business."
Finally, you need to keep checking your EVP matches the actual employee experience. Coffey describes your most recent recruits as the canary in the coalmine.
"You know you have a problem when you have high turnover in lower tenured employees, because something's not connecting. What you're telling them on the way in isn't what they're experiencing when they get there."
The business case for an EVP
- Attract the right talent for the right reasons
- Staff are more motivated and engaged when they understand ‘what's in it for them'
- Retain talented staff for longer, reducing the costs of recruitment