Employers in many sectors of our economy won’t have been surprised by the recent headlines about the number of job vacancies in the UK being higher than the number of unemployed people for the first time ever.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said job openings rose to a high of 1.3 million at the same time the unemployment rate fell to 3.7% at the start of this year, its lowest level for almost 50 years.
We know the jobs market is complex and with the rising cost of living which all of us are currently experiencing, high employment numbers don’t necessarily mean things are entirely rosy – in fact the ONS itself said that the statistics painted a mixed picture.
One interesting number recorded, however, was the record high number of people moving from job to job, through resignation rather than redundancy. In fact, over the past three quarters around three million people in the UK have moved job, leading one of my colleagues to dub the current situation in the jobs market the “great reshuffle” rather than the great resignation.
In a professional setting, we have known for some time that there is huge competition for talent in a lot of sectors, which has led employers to increase salaries, improve benefits packages and adopt new flexible working offers as a means of attracting those with in-demand skills to join them.
What has become clear over the course of the past year is that employers need to focus just as much energy on retaining their brightest and best, as it is very likely those staff members are high on the target list of competitors and other employers in fast-growing industries.
The first step to doing this is to review whether your employee value proposition is clearly articulated, not only to those you are trying to hire but those you already have on board. An employee value proposition (EVP) tells a candidate what they’ll get in return for working from you and defines what you offer, so should help attract people who are a good fit to your organisation.
Here’s the crucial thing for staff you are trying to retain – what you say your EVP is has to match up with their experience. To gauge this and get greater insight into what your competitive advantage is, run anonymous surveys, focus groups or one to one interviews about what’s important to employees, what engages them and why the remain with your organisation. What are their perceptions of culture, values, goals, career progression opportunities, quality of leadership, support offered, and salaries and benefits.
As the cost of living rises, so too has wage inflation, but the intangible experience and rewards that staff value remain hugely important. Flexibility, hybrid working, wellbeing and work-life balance remain high on the list of things candidates want, so it is really interesting to see some employers reversing their position on flexible working and assuming that if they pay people more, they will be happy to be in an office most of the time. This isn’t reflected in the conversations we have with candidates, so if you are thinking of changing your working arrangements, you need to have an honest conversation with your people.
Values and purpose are also really important. Employees want to know that their job matters and the company they work for makes a positive impact. Are your people able to see you taking action on the societal, environmental and cultural issues you say you champion and participate in this work?
Your EVP should be more than just descriptive sentences. It needs to be based in truth and should represent the sum of the experience of working at your organisation.
If you are listening to what your employees want and living up to the EVP that they bought in to when they joined, you stand a far greater chance of keeping your best people.
John Moore is managing director, Hays NI