Lunch and Learn with MCS Group: Having their Cake and Eating it – The Need for Branding & EVP During a Tight Labour Market

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 9 November 2022
Ryan Calvert
MCS Group
Issues covered: EVP; Recruitment; Branding

Grab your lunch and join Julie Holmes, Knowledge Partner at Legal Island and Ryan Calvert, Manager of HR Recruitment for UK and Ireland, as they continue to discuss the key trends emerging in HR recruitment.

In the current labour market, candidates can have their cake and eat it too. How can your organisation choose the best candidates and more importantly, keep hold of them? Join Ryan as he provides food for thought on Employee Value Proposition to attract talent and the importance of the employee value proposition in key sectors. Lots to get your teeth into!




Julie:  Good afternoon, everybody. You're very welcome. My name is Julie Holmes, and I'm part of the Knowledge Team here at Legal-Island. And today we're talking about EVP, Employee Value Proposition, and how this is vital in attracting staff in today's labour market.

So this webinar is expected to last no more than 30 minutes. There will be a Q&A session if you like, so we're going to do that at the end of the webinar. You can ask the questions at any point. And to do that, just use the chat facility, which is on the right-hand side of your screen.

I'm joined today by the engaging and knowledgeable Ryan Calvert from MCS. Some of you will already be familiar with MCS because they help people find careers that match their skill sets perfectly, as well as supporting employers to build high-performing businesses by connecting them with the most talented candidates in the market.

So Ryan completed a psychology degree before carving a successful career in recruitment, particularly within the HR market. As part of the growing professional services team at MCS Group, Ryan manages HR, legal, and compliance roles. His approach is highly personable and customer-service-focussed, and he builds sustainable working relationships with both candidates and clients at all times.

So in today's webinar, Ryan will provide some strategies and tips on how you can attract and retain talent, even if you're not paying the highest wage.

Speaking of recruitment, Ryan will also be talking about recruitment during our Annual Review of Employment, which is 16 and 17 November in NI, and 30 November and 1 December in ROI. So, Ryan, we're keeping you very busy over the next little while.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Julie:  So, to start off, we're going to launch with a poll question. Christine, if you could launch that for us, please. So what we'd like you to do is indicate, first of all, what you think is the most important aspect of your rewards package. And we have some options there for you. We'll give you a couple of seconds to look at that, and then Ryan will start off with his slides and discussion for you.

Christine, whenever you're ready. All right. Great. So a little bit split there, Ryan, already. All right. So benefits, holidays, retirement, and flexibility at 22%. Culture, firm, and goals, both at 22%. But the work environment . . . Interestingly, salary at 13%.

And we'll now pass over to Ryan to see what he can tell us about EVP and whether that matches his experiences at MCS Group. And I'll see you in a little bit.

Ryan:  Perfect. Thank you. Yeah, thanks so much obviously for the warm welcome, Julie. I think, for me, today's topic is so topical over the past number of years for so many employers because it's just been so difficult to attract and retain top talent, and employers are struggling to keep up with increasing salaries. So they have to go deeper and they have to look at the overall employee value proposition to really ensure that they're touching on all elements to highly attract and retain the top talent in the market.

So first and foremost, to introduce myself for anybody that doesn't know me, my name is Ryan Calvert, and I manage the HR recruitment function for MCS Group in the UK and Ireland. For my sins, I've been in sort of HR and recruitment for close to 10 years now, which I find hard to believe. So hopefully, that's equipped me quite well to give some kind of insights today.

And part of today, it's going to go into detail on processes. They're not going to be earth-shattering. It's probably not going to be something that's a silver bullet, but if it helps anybody that's listening today reflect on what they're doing and make a few tweaks, then it's been a success.

Next slide. So just in terms of what we're going to cover off today, there are three key areas. So the first one is actually "What is Employee Value Proposition?" The second one is "What does a good Employee Value Proposition look like?" And also, "Step-by-step, how do you actually create a strong EVP?"

So, for me, the discussion around Employee Value Proposition it's really stemmed from the war on talent, with organisations finding it more and more difficult to attract and retain the best talent available in the market. And this has forced them to actually reflect on their own EVP to ensure they're actually an attractive place to work.

So I look at the definition of EVP. It's a set of associations and offerings provided by an organisation in return for the employee's skill set and capabilities, something they ultimately bring to the organisation. I think EVP has to be employee-centred. And it's going to be informed by existing employees and by the external target audience.

For me, it's really important that an Employee Value Proposition that's successful is unique, it's relevant to the organisation and to the market, and it's also compelling, and it acts as a true driver to attract and retain talent, keep people engaged, and ultimately retain people.

It's also multifaceted, as you can see in this graphic on the screen. So I think more and more organisations over the past number of years have had to improve their overall benefits and their overall base salaries with . . . It's just so hard to attract people. They have to pay people more money to keep them on board.

Not all organisations can do that, and they just can't keep up financially. And if they do, longer term they're going to be in a bad position where they'll have to make redundancies.

So that's why there are so many other aspects of EVP, such as work environment, career trajectory, work-life balance, all that kind of stuff that we're going to get to in just a bit more detail on the next slide.

So what does a great EVP look like? Again, we're now going to go into a bit more detail on the actual building blocks that go into a successful Employee Value Proposition.

So the first one, no surprise here, is a strong compensation and benefits offering. Again, I'd reiterated before, but most organisations have really struggled to keep up with the increases in salaries over the past number of years.

And a big thing has been a lot of counteroffer scenarios where organisations know how difficult it is to retain people, so they have to then provide a counteroffer, which then impacts on other people that are sitting within that organisation that then have to have their own salaries reviewed.

So increasing compensation and benefits, again, is a key part of an EVP. It's something that employers have to do and have to make sure that they're offering the most competitive compensation and benefits available in the market.

Things like bonuses that are performance-related and performance-focussed, it's another key way that employers are actually focussing on keeping people engaged.

Some of the key benefits that employers are looking at . . . Well-being incentives and health benefits have been something a lot of employers have focussed on, just off the back of the pandemic with people a bit more aware of that.

Pension contributions contributed from the employer, another massively important thing. Things like car allowances, as well as a host of other benefits, they're key things that employers have looked at.

I know some clients, mainly within the public sector, that struggle to improve and increase the base salary are actually presenting their roles with the full package. So, for example, if they can pay £25,000 as a base salary, but they have 20% employer pension contributions, they are presenting the role as a £30,000 package, rather than £25,000, which gets people thinking.

A lot of people don't actually get into the detail of pension contributions and how important they are. So that's something that I've seen happen more and more with organisations across both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

So moving on to the second point, inspiring company culture. If an organisation hasn't taken the time to create a set of values and a culture that really resonates with their employees, it doesn't matter how much they pay. It really doesn't. They're just not going to be able to keep people. And that's something I've seen first-hand with so many organisations that pay absolute top market rates, but cannot keep people.

I've referenced this before in a previous webinar, but it's a podcast I listened to with Steven Bartlett. He had recently interviewed Simon Sinek, and they had discussed the importance of culture over all other aspects within an EVP.

And I think in Steven's own business that he'd owned, he had market-leading benefits. He had unlimited holidays, complete flexible and hybrid working, but he still could not keep people.

So one of the things he actually did was he employed a Chief Happiness Officer, somebody who just looked after well-being, looked after the culture of the organisation, who had brought in a team.

And he had seen significant improvements across the organisation, and overall retention rates, and overall happiness. I think some of the surveys that had come back showed that there was a tangible increase in people's happiness, which was fantastic.

I think as well, in terms of culture, it's important that you tell a story, the story is real, and it resonates with the company's values, and it's importantly being created through the consultation of the existing workforce, creating a high-performance culture for everybody to strive to achieve superior results. It does have a direct impact on employee engagement.

And that's a trend that I have personally seen over the past two years, particularly in Northern Ireland. I've seen a lot of people and culture job titles coming through in the market for HR professionals.

And the reason for that is organisations have really struggled to adapt from an environment where it is fully five days on-site to having a hybrid approach or a fully remote approach, where they're bringing people in to really rejig their culture, look at their EVP, look at their values, and really just change everything.

What they had in place, it's not really fit for purpose anymore, because the organisations are operating in a completely different way. So that's, again, been a key focus, and I can't recommend the importance of culture highly enough.

Another key thing is a career framework and a proper career path. I know myself from sort of personal experience in the past, I've been in organisations that don't have a really structured career path and it's difficult for people at all levels to know where their future lies within the organisation.

Whereas companies that do have that structured career path, that's importantly well communicated to the overall organisation both internally as well as externally, they tend to be more successful at retaining people, because people know how they can progress, how they can move forward, and how they can continue to evolve within that particular organisation.

Another key element is also a fantastic work environment. So it's essential that people have a place of work that they actually enjoy going to, one that offers a great physical environment, but also a good work-life balance and opportunities to be flexible.

Another key thing is hybrid working and flexible working. So it will be no surprise to anybody that hybrid working is one of the most sought-after things. A lot of people over the past number of years have functioned quite successfully working hybrid. So that's something that they're looking for in their next role, and it's something that a lot of employers, if they can offer, I would highly recommend it because it's one of the key things that job seekers are asking for and they're looking for in their next job.

Some manufacturing clients that I've partnered with, unfortunately, can't incorporate hybrid working. They have a production line of staff that need to be physically on-site. And they don't really want to create a "them and us" type culture between the production line and the office staff. So they don't incorporate the hybrid working.

But what they have incorporated is flexible working to ensure that people have a bit of flexibility to come in a bit earlier and finish a bit earlier, or start a bit later and finish a bit later, really just to ensure they can get a few bits and pieces in their personal life done while balancing their day-to-day job.

So I think if an organisation cannot put in place flexible working or hybrid working and has people on site five days a week, they're absolutely going to struggle to attract and retain people. So I think if you're not doing that, it's something that you really should look at.

Onto the next slide now. So this was actually a piece that had published recently on LinkedIn, and it was a piece pulled from LinkedIn Insights on what aspects of the overall Employee Value Proposition HR professionals actually want. And interestingly, good work-life balance and an inspiring culture came out on top, with compensation and benefits sitting in fifth.

I think that may have been quite similar to the poll that was done at the start of the session, which is really insightful.

But again, it's reiterating the fact that you don't have to go and find all this money to keep people engaged. It's about looking at the culture, and looking at what people in the organisation want from the company, and ensuring you make those changes, because people are motivated by a strong culture and a great work-life balance.

So I think, importantly, compensation and benefits is not the be-all and end-all for people, especially now. People are looking for much more than that, and I think culture is always coming out on top alongside work-life balance and hybrid working.

Onto the next slide. So it's all well and good talking about the benefits of a strong Employee Value Proposition, but how do we actually approach this from a practical perspective?

It's not to teach you how to suck eggs. There are a lot of people watching this that will have done this time and time again. But for me, it's important to reflect on actually how to create a really strong EVP.

Hopefully, people can reflect on what they've done in their own organisations. And if there's anything that they've missed out, they might want to go back and relook at that and maybe make a couple of changes.

So in terms of the first thing that as an organisation you really should do is you need to assess your organisation as it sits at that time. Assess what your company currently is and what it isn't. Make a checklist of all the components within a strong and successful Employee Value Proposition, and go through each item on that EVP checklist and determine the extent to which your current organisation offers each.

I think it's really important that you do this objectively when you're carrying out this activity. So that's why it's useful to get opinions from your employees across different departmental areas and you don't just have it segmented into one room of people who are creating this. You need to ensure that you're actually reaching out.

And that brings me on to the next point: Actually speak to your own employees. To develop a strong and realistic EVP, you have to first understand what the perceptions are within your existing workforce and what potential employees that you want to attract are actually saying about the company brand and the company culture.

So some of the key ways you can do this is you can do this through surveys. You can do this through sort of one-on-one interviews. You can look at broader focus groups to really get a feel for what your current workforce is saying about you as an organisation, and what potential job seekers, people that you want to attract, are saying about you as an organisation.

And some of the questions you might want to ask in those types of surveys or those interviews are things like, "Why are potential employees attracted to the company? Why do you stay with the organisation? What's the most important thing about the organisation? And maybe what improvements you would like to see?"

And a good example . . . Again, I'm always going back to podcasts. I probably listen to too many. But another podcast I've listened to recently was a great example of an employer that didn't do this, and they didn't listen to their employees when they were rolling out their culture and their EVP, and it did not end well for them. Fortunately, they realised that and they made amendments.

So it was actually the chief executive of BrewDog. They're a global FMCG brand. They create alcohol products.

So the chief executive, it was quite an experience. He had set up the business and he's progressed up through the ranks. He created an EVP and a culture in a boardroom, which did not work at all. In that boardroom, sitting in an ivory tower, they felt they knew exactly what the workforce wanted and exactly what potential future employees wanted from the organisation.

They rolled that out, and they've seen huge attrition levels, which could have been absolutely predicted because they didn't engage with their workforce to understand exactly what they wanted from the organisation.

Fortunately, they did realise this was the issue. They actually [balked at 00:19:08] their HR team after that, brought in a number of HR professionals, and did it properly. And they've seen massive benefits from doing that.

So this is a key part that is probably one of the most important things when creating an EVP, is you actually get a bit of a sense-check on what your current employees want and what potential future employees will be looking for from you as an organisation.

So the next thing is to define the key components. So once you've explored what you've actually already in place, and you've understood the perception of your current workforce, you can now define the key components.

Some of these examples include maybe things around salary and benefits. What salary range and benefits are going to attract my target candidate? What career growth are candidates looking for? What is the workforce split?

An EVP potentially is segmented. You might have an organisation that has a workforce split where there's a high portion of recent grads, and there's also a high portion of more professional individuals that have been with the organisation for a couple of years, and they're at a different point in their career.

So for a recent grad, you might want to look at things like career growth, a fun environment, overall employee experience and key perks. And for more seasoned professionals, it might be career stability, childcare support, and work-life balance.

So it's important when creating an EVP that when you're assessing opinions of your overall workforce, you take into consideration different demographics, and you ensure that they're actually catered for in a properly structured EVP.

It's also important to test your EVP with existing employees and potentially a sample group from the external market to see if it's adequately articulating what an individual wants from your organisation.

Once you know how you can differentiate yourself from competition, it's now time to write a strong Employee Value Proposition. So you need to ensure that it's clear, you need to ensure that it's unique, and you need to ensure that it's inspirational. I know easier said than done, but that's ideally what you want to be doing.

You also need to ensure that your EVP is actually linked to what your current employees want, as well as the company direction and the company values. So you can do this in a statement. You can turn your EVP into a statement that communicates the biggest selling points, and the ultimate vision and direction of the organisation, as well as linking in the company goals.

And you need to ensure that this is aligned to day-to-day processes. So the EVP needs to be incorporated into your company induction plans, into how your company recruits, into reward and recognition schemes, internal communications, your policies, your business plan.

Everything about EVP needs to be embedded across all areas of your organisation from an operational perspective, because that's the only way it's going to sink in and that's the only way employees are actually going to get bought into it, which is going to help with retention and it's going to help with employee attraction longer term.

So once you've got this absolutely award-winning EVP in place, you've got to promote that. So that's got to be promoted. You've got to tell people about it. You've got to make sure people are actually aware, and that needs to be both internally and externally.

So internally, some of the key ways you can do that is on email. You can do it through blogs, town halls, internal events, internal communications. And you need to constantly refer back to your EVP when you're speaking with people internally to really just ensure that it's embedded.

In terms of promoting your brand externally, social media campaigns are a really useful way of doing that, where you might want to promote a new benefit that's actually been employed within the organisation. Really just talk about how successful this has been internally and how it separates your organisation from other organisations.

Maybe a day in the life of an individual within a department that you're recruiting for to really give a prospective new candidate that may want to work for you a sense of the culture and what it's like to actually work for the organisation.

And even a video review of the employer. Things like Google reviews are really important, and the fact that they're promoted to the wider audience just to really help push your ability to attract retain the best talent available.

And finally, you need to revisit it. So it's important that you revisit the success of your Employee Value Proposition. You need to set aside a timeframe and ensure that you have tangible ways in place of measuring its success.

Some obvious examples of measuring the success of your EVP would be things like an engagement survey. It's probably the most useful way of sense-checking how values are landing and if your EVP is truly doing what it says on the tin.

Other ways would be looking at attrition levels pre-rolling it out and post-rolling it out. Be looking at employee relations cases around investigations and disciplinaries. Potentially looking at how streamlined your recruitment process is, by looking at time to hire and how enjoyable a recruitment process and on-boarding process it is for new starts.

You just need to make sure that you keep reviewing it. Review it annually. Make sure that it's constantly changing and it's reflective of what your current workforce and the external market actually want.

It's something that I think has happened so much over the past couple of years with COVID and the fact that so many organisations have moved from working in the office to working in a hybrid format or working completely remotely.

So, for me, that concludes the webinar from my end. I think the moral of the story for me is that, as an employer, employee voice is the absolute key to creating a solid Employee Value Proposition that's unique and aligns with your overall people strategy.

Julie:  That was great, Ryan. That was a lot compacted in a few short slides. So thank you very much for that.

Ryan:  No problem.

Julie:  And it was interesting that the poll question at the beginning as well showed that compensation isn't actually the most important. As you said, there's so much more. Career pathways, advancement, and culture a big part of it as well. And you've actually given us some concrete ways of measuring how the culture is within an organisation too.

So I just had a couple of questions for you, things like what do you think are the top takeaways for people, for employers specifically, if they're trying to look for staff? And what types of things do you think would attract the most interest?

Ryan:  I think for me, a lot of employers, when they, for example, are posting on a job board, they don't give enough detail away about the benefits of actually working there.

So there's an employer I worked with recently, a private sector employer, who offered a 12% employer pension contribution, which is phenomenal.

Julie:  That's good.

Ryan:  Absolutely brilliant for the private sector. But they didn't publish that in the advert, and I couldn't understand why. It's going to help attract people.

So I think when employers are looking to attract people, really think about your EVP and make sure that that's front and centre in any advert so a new potential job seeker or candidate can actually see . . . That's going to catch their eye.

They're going to think about hybrid working. Specifically, what does that look like? What flexible working specifics? What does that look like? All the benefits?

At times when I'm representing clients and I ask about the broader benefits package, sometimes they go, "Oh, I'll have to come back to you on that". That should be on the tip of people's tongue so that they're promoting that to the market.

So I think, for me, that's just a key thing, that you're promoting as an employer the key benefits of working there, and it's front and centre in any advert or any social media campaign you're using to try and attract talent.

Julie:  Okay. And then talking about talent as well, when people are approaching you and looking at new roles. You'd already mentioned about hybrid working, flexible working. What other types of things are people looking at, and do you find any difference with your HR professionals who are looking for different roles? Is it different from other people that you talk to or is it broadly the same?

Ryan:  I mean, it's probably the same. I think a lot of people are asking . . . Hybrid working is high up on the agenda. A lot of people have spent time working from home through the pandemic, they've enjoyed it, and they've been quite successful in doing that, so they want that from their next role.

Some people want career progression potential. That's something that maybe they're not getting in the organisation, and that's something that they're asking for from their new role.

But I know some organisations can't do hybrid working. That's why I tried to include some ways you can get around that. I think flexible working is something I've seen work really successfully for a couple of manufacturing organisations that I partner with, that have included that. And that's been enough to actually bring somebody into the organisation and keep them engaged.

But I think if you're not putting that in place, and you don't have hybrid, and you have five days on-site, you're going to really limit your talent pool significantly.

Julie:  I was reading something earlier on and it was saying that Starbucks offers their employees a free pound of tea or coffee every month, I think it is. And I was thinking, "I need to sign up for a seasonal job with Starbucks, definitely".

So it goes back to the culture. If you feel like you're a part of a team and that the organisation is aware that you want to use their products, even buy into those as well, that's a perk that you wouldn't usually think of either and it's unique to them.

Ryan:  Completely. There are so many small things that employers can do that make a big difference, just to have an inclusive culture where you're bringing people together and you almost give somebody ownership for driving culture, driving well-being. I think if you don't, it can get lost. And that just can't happen in any organisation.

So even small things like team nights out or . . . We had something we implemented recently called Wheaten Wednesday, where we basically bring in wheaten bread on a Wednesday and people bring in all these different spreads to put on it. And everybody loves it. Everybody looks forward to that day, and people are physically in the office more because they want to go in on that day and get together.

And I know it's a very inexpensive thing to do, but it does bring people together and people seem to enjoy it too.

Small things are so important. You don't have to go and increase everybody's base salary by £5,000 a year. Yes, that will certainly help. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying don't do that. If you can afford to do that, absolutely do that. But I don't think it's a sustainable option, because where will that end? That will just keep going up and up and up. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Julie:  It's interesting that you said that you did have employers who did pay top rates very, very well, and still people weren't staying. There was still that high attrition rate. That's, as you say, where the culture doesn't actually match what people think it's going to be like, whenever they obviously accept the job and then they get in and work for a couple of weeks, couple of months, and think, "This isn't what it was all cracked up to be". Great.

Ryan:  Yeah. Well, that's it. It doesn't matter if you're the best-paying employer in the world, and you have the best benefits, and you're the most flexible. If you don't have a structured EVP, and you don't have a focussed culture that you've listened to your workforce, and you've tried to create a culture that they completely buy into and they've effectively created for themselves, you're not going to have longevity with your workforce.

And that's something, unfortunately, I've seen with a lot of employers. They just haven't a focus on it at all, and they just want to pay more money to try and keep people. They'll move on eventually. It's just not sustainable.

Julie:  Again, especially in this market as well, those are good tips for everybody. So thank you very much. I think that we're just a couple of minutes over our time, so we've done very well this time.

Thank you very much. And thank you very much to Christine as well, my colleague, for helping us with this session, too.

We'll see you at the Annual Review anyway, Ryan, as well. And anybody can get in touch with us over on LinkedIn as well. I know that you had your contact details. Again, we'll tag each other on LinkedIn and then the recording of this will be available too afterwards.

Ryan:  Brilliant. Yeah, if anybody ever wants to reach out to me about anything that I would recommend or what other employers are doing, without obviously giving details away on who it is, I can give as many hints or tips as possible.

Hopefully, the presentation was useful. I know parts of it were quite basic. But for me, if it gets people thinking and it gets people going back to the drawing board to think, "We are losing people just so quickly here. We cannot keep people in place", or, "We're finding it really hard to attract", if they go back to the drawing board and think back to the basics of how to actually create a strong EVP, they could see a massive difference and probably reduce attrition, and as much as I don't want to say it, reduce agency spend, reduce all the costs that they're probably incurring at the minute. So I think if you put those basics in place, you'll see a lot of return.

Julie:  As you say, it is really going back to the basics and just re-evaluating. And probably already having so much of that information from exit interviews, customers, employee satisfaction surveys as well, but actually using the information properly.

Ryan:  Yeah, exactly.

Julie:  Okay. That's great. Well, thank you very much. And thank you, everybody, for attending as well today.

Ryan:  Brilliant. Thank you.

Julie:  Okay. Thanks.

Ryan:  See you later.

Julie:  Okay. Bye.

Ryan:  Bye.

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This article is correct at 09/11/2022

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Ryan Calvert
MCS Group

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