Ignite Employee Pride to Win the War for Talent
Over the course of a generation, employee-employer relationships have changed in fundamental ways. Today, careers are plotted in years, not decades, and young people assume they’ll work for a variety of companies in a variety of roles. Dominant forces such as outsourcing, consolidation due to mergers, and layoffs in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis have taught people in the workforce to expect little loyalty from their employers and to offer little loyalty in return.
The pandemic has turbocharged this sense of free agency, leaving companies trying to thread a needle: In a culture that increasingly values career mobility, at a time when employees have an unprecedented number of options, without being able to credibly promise long-term job security, how do you win — and retain — top talent?
The reflexive answer is to strengthen your employee value proposition — better compensation, benefits, and policies. From hybrid and remote work accommodations to widespread pay raises, a benefits arms race is happening all around us. But employee-employer relationships rooted fundamentally in compensation and benefits are transactional in nature; they’ll always be trumped by a better offer. Our polling shows that even though 59% of employees received a raise in the last year, 48% thought about switching jobs and 37% actively applied for a new role. Enhanced benefits can keep companies competitive in the war for talent, but on their own, rarely earn victories.
BPI’s research also sorted employees into three distinct segments: Flight Risks (48%), Fence Sitters (27%), and Super Fans (25%). Considering only a quarter of employees love their job, are very proud of it, and haven’t thought about leaving this year, companies of all sorts are currently in an incredibly vulnerable position.
To actually gain an edge in the war for talent, employers need to tell the story of the employees’ brand, not the organization’s brand. Brands must consider how their brand aligns with that of their employees — and what message that sends to their friends, family, and future employers.
Where employers’ brands and employees’ personal brands are linked in shared values, the company earns a measurable advantage in recruiting and retaining talent. When this alignment doesn’t exist, employers are stuck competing solely on the basis of compensation & benefits, a battle they’ll always lose with time.
Here are three key strategies to help employers win the war for talent:
Evolve your research approach to better understand your employees.
Work can and should be a source of purpose and meaning. Where we work and what we do should say something positive about who we are. Rather than focusing solely on whether messages from management are “getting through” to employees, we should do more to understand who employees are and what they care about. Employee-centric research produces employee-centric communications, which is a key tool in inspiring employee pride and belonging. This is essential to retaining top talent.
Demonstrate your company’s values.
When it’s authentic to your brand’s values, be willing to be a first mover on social issues. You’ll create a sense of shared values with your employees, which has a strong payoff. For instance, 61% of Super Fans strongly agree that their company’s values are in line with their own. On the other hand, 63% of Flight Risks (the largest and least loyal segment of employees) say they feel unsure of their employer’s values.
The willingness to speak out on — and take obvious risks to support — select issues cultivates an employer brand that is deeply personal to employees.
Target your employees through external channels.
Our research shows that employees are more likely to feel proud of their work if they sense pride in their friends and family. When they work for a company their friends and family admire, they are excited to tell other people where they work. This is why employees should be a core audience for brands’ external communications efforts. Whether it’s on TV or in their social media feeds, the more employees see their employer positively portrayed in their personal lives, and the more that feedback reverberates from friends and family, the more likely they are to climb from Flight Risk to Fence Sitter to Super Fan.
There’s no magical solution that will suddenly resuscitate employees’ desire or expectation to remain with single employers their entire careers. However, there are plenty of ways to ignite employee pride including these three critical building blocks.