I was asked recently to explain the different roles played by an Employee Value Proposition and corporate values in enhancing employee engagement.
It was one of those questions where the answer appears self-evident but attempting to give a succinct explanation left me sounding like a stuttering fool so, naturally, I’ve been pondering it off and on ever since and these are some of my conclusions / findings:
In developing my ‘elevator speech’ in response to the above question, I first needed to define what I understand by employee engagement. The best description I found was in a White Paper entitled Developing Stronger Corporate Brands Through Employee Engagement by consulting firm Organisational Effectiveness Strategies. This identified two fundamental aspects of employee engagement: cognitive (intellectual) – when employees are sure about their job requirements and role expectations, and emotional – when employees feel they have good friends at work and are being supported personally as well as professionally.
In his article The employee value proposition: How to be an employer of choice, Stewart Black, INSEAD Affiliate Professor of Organisational Behaviour, identifies four main categories that a good Employee Value Proposition (EVP) should cover:
Leadership: Black highlights strong leadership as “the single most powerful feature in motivating and retaining employees”, and high potential employees will inevitably be interested in what the company is doing to identify and develop leaders from within.
Company: encompassing everything about the firm – reputation, values, culture and its contributions to the world and the community.
Job: in essence employees want to know how much freedom, autonomy, growth and challenge do they have in the job that they are asked to do? How interesting is the job?
Rewards: covering both the tangibles – wages and benefits, and intangibles such as career prospects, development opportunities and social contact with co-workers.
A good EVP will encapsulate the mutual expectations and promises agreed on by both sides. The best EVPs are versatile and can be customised for different groups of employees. Constant communication between employees and employers is required for this ‘contract’ to continue to be meaningful.
Corporate values, on the other hand, should be fundamental and enduring; core ideologies that indicate a sense of purpose beyond money-making, that will help steer the organisation through bad times as well as good.
However values, per se do not drive the business; they drive the people within the business. Research shows that employees who believe their company’s leaders support and live the corporate values are much more committed to the organisation. Values must be seen to be guiding the actions and behaviours of people at all levels of the organisation if they are to be a true differentiator and not just a compilation of platitudes.