Richard Morgan: EVP should meet the needs of a multi-generational workforce

Richard Morgan

With factors such as technology and employee demographics reshaping the workplace, businesses are changing rapidly. Thanks to the removal of the default retirement age, employees are staying in work for longer, with some organisations now boasting workforces spanning five generations.

While there are numerous benefits, such as greater diversity and more retention of experience, this spread of ages brings its own challenges to reward specialists. It is unlikely that the same set of benefits will appeal to both a 21-year-old starting out in the workplace and their 68-year-old colleague.

In this environment, having an employee value proposition (EVP) that meets the needs of the workforce is a must.

Changing expectations

Age is not the only factor challenging reward specialists; employee expectations are also changing. Aon’s Benefits and trends survey 2019published in January 2019, found that the key demand from today’s employees is greater flexibility around working hours. Also making the list are agile and home working, better awareness and handling of mental health issues, and a stronger approach to diversity and inclusion.

On top of this, the way work is carried out has evolved. The roles required today have fundamentally shifted in the last five years, with technology creating positions that were unheard of a decade ago.

A good example of this is the banking sector, where staffing was previously focused on ensuring there were sufficient customer service employees in branches and call centres. Today, banks regard fintech as a key part of their offering, requiring many more technology specialists.

With workplace dynamics shifting so much, it is hardly surprising that Aon’s survey found that 60% of employers had already made changes, or expected to in the next five years. Furthermore, 89% recognised that they would need to change the benefits they offered to meet the needs of the future workforce.

Power of an EVP

In this environment, an EVP becomes an increasingly valuable tool. By encapsulating everything an employee experiences at work, from pay, job content and benefits through to career progression, culture and company values, it can help an organisation attract and retain the workforce it needs.

Although it is a relatively new concept, with only around half of employers having a clear EVP according to the Benefits and trends survey 2019, between 60% and 70% of early adopters said their EVP has had a positive effect on engagement, retention and recruitment.

Meanwhile, more organisations are becoming aware that they need an EVP, with a quarter of respondents indicating that they are planning to introduce one in the coming year.

Making it work

A good starting point when developing an EVP is to see it as a marketing tool. It is there to sell the organisation, which should be regarded as the product, with the employee or prospective employee being seen as the customer.

To get it right, it is important to understand the customer’s needs and expectations. Although it is important not to generalise, age will determine what is relevant to an extent. Younger employees may seek out values such as fairness and social responsibility and expect to have a more varied experience in the workplace. It is also likely they will be struggling with debt. Meanwhile, the sandwich generation may be juggling work with providing care for not only their children, but also their parents and partners.

Other characteristics of the workforce can also shape what is on offer. Providing a loan consolidation service to employees who have a lot of debt can be effective, for example, as shrinking loan repayments may be more attractive than the pay rise offered by a competitor.

Adapt and evolve

Against the backdrop of a constantly changing workplace, an EVP needs to evolve. Employees’ expectations will change, and so will the needs of the organisation.

Canvassing employees, through focus groups or surveys, can be invaluable. However, it is also important to have an eye on where the business is going, and develop an EVP that will appeal to a future workforce.

Even where wholesale change is not planned, taking a day out once a year to ensure the EVP is in line with the workforce’s needs is good practice. Not only is it easier to manage incremental change, but the exercise can provide valuable insight into operational requirements and the business as a whole.

Leave it longer, and changes in the workplace may render an EVP much less compelling, with significant cost implications for employers.

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Having the right employees is key to the success of an organisation; so, developing an EVP to attract, retain and engage those individuals is definitely a winning proposition.

Richard Morgan is principal at Aon