To attract and retain talent you need to know what really matters most to them
Businesses from various industries and sectors recently came together for the launch of Caffeine’s What Matters Most to Employees Survey 2022. We were joined by Rita Clifton OBE Deputy Chair of John Lewis Partnership, a brand renowned for its unique employee experience. With a ‘war for talent’ in almost every sector in the UK, businesses should be doing everything they can to attract, develop and retain people. It’s worrying, therefore, that of the 1000 UK employees we surveyed, only 30% would actively recommend their company to others, with almost 50% feeling indifferent or worse about their employer’s brand.
Does work matter most?
For most UK employees work is not the most important thing in their lives. Asked to pick where work featured in their lives, 80% of respondents ranked their family, social life, and passions ahead of work. The scale of this response should be a sharp reminder to business leaders not to take their workers for granted. If people are turning up to work just because it pays, where is the motivation that will drive productivity rather than presenteeism? Productivity often depends on the discretionary effort of well-motivated, well-skilled people. Leaders need to ensure their people have a greater sense of purpose in their work than just turning up for the pay. Many industry representatives testify to employees ‘quietly quitting’ – doing only what the job demands and nothing more – posing the question about how much pride and loyalty people genuinely feel toward the company that employs them.
So what does matter most?
Fair pay and a safe working environment are, as anyone would expect, top of the list. Every employer should be matching expectations on these if they are serious about their responsibilities. But beyond these the picture becomes more interesting, with trust, brand and above all leadership becoming key to motivation and especially to employee pride. All the attendees at our event recognised this.
Trust has become a priority for employees, particularly when it comes to their sense of productivity and career progression. And it’s a two-way street, with employees wanting to work for leaders they trust and who trust them. More than 60% of respondents highlighted being ‘trusted to do a good job’ and also ‘trusted to manage my time’ as important to motivation. Both have major implications in a world of hybrid working where employees will not always be ‘in the office’ and subject to ‘micro-management’.
Brand – by which we mean what the organisation stands for and its reputation in the eyes of customers and employees – is also a key source of employee motivation. Employees who rated highly their companies as having a strong brand, providing a great experience for their customers and treating their people well were also the ones most likely to recommend them.
The strongest correlation with employee recommendation is ‘working for a leadership team that I respect’. So it’s not unreasonable to infer that the low scores on recommendation in this survey are ultimately leadership’s responsibility. UK employees are looking for leadership behaviours that are congruent with the values espoused by the business that they work for and which show they put their customers first and take care of their people. That shouldn’t be too great an ask.
What do brands need to do?
Leaders need to focus with absolute clarity on the motivations that matter most to the talent they want to attract and keep. On a very practical level that means:
- Develop a clear employee value proposition (EVP) that speaks to the motivations that drive employee satisfaction and advocacy and connects to a customer-driven purpose
- Create an end-to-end employee experience that delivers that proposition, engaging and equipping people with what they need to succeed from hiring to leaving
- Communicate and demonstrate the behaviours congruent with the expectations raised by that proposition, committed to the empowerment of internal teams and trusting people to make more of their own decisions at work.
Pay and Purpose beat Perks
Fancy perks are often used to promote the corporate brand and suggest a unique, desirable culture. But leaders need to take a reality check on the power of perks. When given a list of all the reasons to work for a company, perks were ranked near the bottom. The survey showed that UK employees would rather go without free lattes, ping-pong tables and ‘giving back days’ in favour of fair wages and a sense of pride in their work. All the duvet days in the world won’t make up for not paying staff a decent wage, training and trusting them to do the best job they can, hiring colleagues they respect and building a brand customers love. That’s what matters most.
Independent survey of 1000 UK employees was commissioned by The Caffeine Partnership in June 2022 and carried out by Semantec/ResearchBods
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