EVP and the Engagement Equation

Hosted by

Mervyn Dinnen

Analyst, Author, Commentator & Influencer

About this episode

HR Means Business 10: EVP and the Engagement Equation

Host: Mervyn Dinnen

Guest: Kat Bernardes, Director of People Experience at HR Consultancy Lace Partners

In this episode Mervyn talks to Kat Bernardes, Director of People Experience at HR Consultancy Lace Partners, about her work on Employee Value Proposition (EVP), and the role it plays in supporting employee engagement and retention.

They discuss:

– What is EVP and what role does it play in attracting and retaining the people you need?

– Who has responsibility for EVP and who should be having the internal conversations around it?

– What are the common mistakes businesses make and what tend to be the main differences between EVP and employees’ lived experiences of the workplace?

– What is HR’s role in creating and communicating EVP and should they lead the conversations?

– The impact of flexible working and the link between EVP, Engagement and Productivity


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Transcript follows:

Mervyn Dinnen 0:15
Hello, and welcome to the HR Means Business podcast, which is part of the HR Happy Hour Network. I’m your host, Mervyn Dinnen. And today I want to talk about something which I think is increasingly important. And that’s about EVP, and the link between EVP and retention and engagement. I’m speaking this morning to Kat Bernardes. She’s with Lace Partners, who’s recently been doing quite a bit of work in this area. And I’m interested to find out what what she has uncovered. So Kat, would you like to introduce yourself and tell people a bit about your background and your current role?

Kat Bernardes 0:52
Absolutely, Mervyn, thank you very much for having me on. So yes, I’m Kat Bernardes, I’m the People Experience Director, at Lace Partners. And for those who may not have heard of us, we’re a small consultancy, focusing on really working with HR teams to improve how they operate, the technology that they use, and how we create amazing people experiences. And we partner to really just make sure that experiences for all employees are amazing. And I have been with lace just over a year. And I joined because I was very passionate about people experience. And it’s a direction that they wanted to kind of go in focusing on that area. I’ve spent the best part of my career in HR transformations of all scales and sizes, in global organizations. But in the last sort of four or five years really focusing on the people experience and how we can help organizations put their people at the heart of what they’re doing.

Mervyn Dinnen 1:49
Yeah, experience in all the discussions I have at the moment is coming out as I suppose one of the key priorities because of the link with retention, and engagement. And I know you’ve recently been working with a few companies around the EVP and looking at things like how it shapes candidate and employee expectations. So I suppose to to to to help people listening who aren’t sure what I mean. But firstly, what is EVP? How will you define it? And how would you define the role it plays in both attraction, and then retaining the people you need?

Kat Bernardes 2:26
Great question. So I think the EVP for me is really the promise or the deal that you’re making with people with purchase prospective candidates with existing employees about what your organization is going to offer, in return for them coming to work for you and giving them giving you their all. So it’s the things both tangible and intangible, like everyone thinks of it normally, typically in terms of pay and benefits and reward, etc. But it’s also the culture that you create, it’s the the opportunities that you give them to grow their career, it’s their the way that you enable them to be their sales when they come to work, for example. And for me, it’s really important to make sure that the EVP that you put out into the market, and you talk to candidates about and that you promise internally is aligned, then with the expect with that expectation is then aligned with the experience they get when they come to work for you the reality of working in your organization. And when there’s a mismatch between the two. And when you promise something that you then don’t actually fulfill when they are working for you. That’s when you start to get trouble with them productivity and engagement. Because people realize that not the reality.

Mervyn Dinnen 3:42
So who’s responsible for EVP? I mean, the I suppose it’s an expression that I’ve known for a number of years now. And it’s a you know, recruiters talk about it, talent acquisition talks about it, in house recruitment, l&d talk about it, HR talk about it, who who would you say is responsible and who owns the communication of it?

Kat Bernardes 4:04
I think it’s a collective across HR, but also across the business. Because if you think about who actually enables the EDP to come to life and the experience, a huge proportion of that is actually down to line managers and business leaders themselves, not just HR who yes, play a vital role in actually how you package the EVP up and how you think about it and articulate it to your candidates. And so it’s a combination of the two really And so, while we’ve been talking to organizations recently about how they create that EVP we’ve been really trying to encourage that early collaboration between the business and HR to think about it together so that when they are then determining how they’re going to communicate and there’s a you know, the strong responsibility of the talent acquisition function, for example, to make sure that recruiters are talking EVP language that the marketing and For a branding that goes out there is sort of reflective of that EVP. But that’s just the shiny path and shiny sort of ribbon that’s put around it. How managers internally are talking about it to their employees and how leaders are role modeling and demonstrating the EVP coming to life, I think is actually really important. So it’s not an easy answer to say a single role or single function. I think it’s a collective really, and that makes it quite tricky. Actually reality to make it come to fruition.

Mervyn Dinnen 5:31
I should imagine it is because again, it’s perspectives and different people across the business might have different perspectives on exactly what it is and what the offering is. So in the work you’ve done with organizations over the last year or two, what what kind of differences have you been finding between I suppose, the promised EVP, and the lived reality of employees once they’ve joined?

Kat Bernardes 5:57
I think a lot of the time, it’s in actually the transparency in how the EVP is communicated in the first place. So it’s absolutely fine to be ambitious in your EVP and to say that you’re going to deliver and promise people a particular experience that you’ve can’t fulfill right now. But it’s about being really transparent around that and saying, This is a journey that we’re going on, and that this is where we intend to get to over time. And these are the things that we’re doing to put in place to make that experience better to fulfill that promise that we’re making. And a lot of organizations will put any VP out there that is ambitious, and, and then in reality, they aren’t there yet in terms of the real experience, but they don’t communicate that very well. And so they may get there in a year or two years time, but they don’t explain that to employees. And that’s where there’s often a mismatch, because they might have plans to fulfill it. But right now that, you know, it feels to the employee like that isn’t that isn’t there. So I think a lot of it’s around that transparency, being really clear about what to expect and when you’re going to get it, but also about really bringing to life the reality, you know, the reality of what it’s like to work there in in an authentic way. And not just about it being on paper, something that looks good, but showing real tangible examples of how that EVP is brought to life.

Mervyn Dinnen 7:21
I’m sure that the in the work you do you see many people get it wrong. So this isn’t the name and shame question or anything like that. But I suppose what, what are the common mistakes that you see businesses make, I suppose both defining it internally and then communicating it.

Kat Bernardes 7:41
I think one of the things is actually just to your point, at the beginning is what is an EVP and being really clear on that definition, because a lot of organizations get a bit confused between employer branding and EVP and the employee experience. And we sort of think about it typically is a bit of a Venn diagram. And so they all interconnect and have to join up and talk to each other and link. But really, your EVP is the thing that sits at the heart of it in terms of the both internal and external way that you talk about the promise that you’re making. The employer branding is purely the external view of how that comes to life. And the sort of employee experience is that that reality component of it. And so I think a lot of the time, it’s actually organizations not being clear on what they really mean by EVP. And they’re not articulating it in a way that that really resonates with their with their employees. And one of the things that we’ve spent quite a bit of time with some of our recent clients on is actually thinking of the VP through the lens of different personas in the organization. So it’s quite tricky to get an EVP that meets 100% of the needs of your of your employee base, right, everyone’s very different. You might have people different frontline workers versus people working in sort of more of an office environment. But there is a way to identify an EVP that can fulfill the majority of the needs and then work out with those different personas. What do you need to dial up and dial down to really bring to life for them what it means and I think that’s another element that a lot of organizations we’ve seen haven’t really got their heads around yet and is still doing some work on really understanding how do you dial up and dial down the EVP for those different personas within your organization?

Mervyn Dinnen 9:29
Yeah, you made an interesting reference there to hourly workers, because some of the discussions I’ve had recently it has brought home to me how the I suppose the I won’t say the blue collar but the hourly worker experience is actually becoming very important and it’s it historically it’s they’ve been seen differently from the permanent workforce I suppose. But this is becoming a key thing. So looking at the internal discussions then because you might have people responsible, obviously for for different parts. To the business, but what what are the internal discussions? Firstly, around EVP, but who should be having these discussions? And I suppose who should be leading them or initiating them?

Kat Bernardes 10:12
Do you mean specifically for those sort of more frontline workers?

Mervyn Dinnen 10:15
No, as I throw in the frontline workers, because you’ve mentioned them just more broadly, obviously, obviously, and it’s interesting. I mean, we can, I suppose, include the frontline workers as well as because that might be again, the acquisition of frontline or hourly workers might be a separate area of the business.

Kat Bernardes 10:33
Yeah. So I think that it needs to be across the board right from the top thinking about actually, who are we trying to attract and retain? And is our EVP going to do that, you know, is it going to attract maybe we’ve got some hot skills and some critical skills that we’re looking for in the in the market is it going to be fulfilling their needs, and we’re looking outward at what our potential candidates might want. And thinking from a holistic business perspective about what we’re trying to achieve over our over the long term as part of our strategy, right down to actually listening to employees on the ground. And that’s where, you know, some of those frontline conversations are important. They’re a particularly hard organic eggs or audience to hear from a lot of the time because of the nature of the way in which they work. And so if you can get a listening strategy, right, that really listens to the needs and the wants, and the motivations of those that workforce, and understanding, again, that sort of reality of what the experience is for them versus what they’re expecting, then you can be very proactive in what you’re doing around your EVP and your experience to make sure that you’re meeting those needs. So I think it’s, it’s across the business, you know, right up at the C suite down to on the ground line managers talking, listening, getting feedback from their people and feeding it back in.

Mervyn Dinnen 11:58
Okay, the employee turnover. Low engagement is obviously something we talk about a lot. And there’s always kind of research coming out showing that, you know, great resignation, bare minimum Mondays, it’s because people aren’t engaged. So a lot of this is, is it’s the gap between the promise and reality of the employee experience for new hires. That’s, I guess, one of the main drivers of this. So what can businesses do, I suppose to minimize and eventually eradicate this gap? And in particular, I’m thinking of HR people. Yeah, what, what can HR do, because as we say, lots of different people own EVP lots of people, different people own the employee experience, or HR, the people have got to get heads together, or buying heads together. Lead it or, you know, what’s their role?

Kat Bernardes 12:50
I mean, I absolutely think that HR need to lead the way, right? They are, and they are the function all about people. And at the end of the day, you know, this is all about people and bring those components together. So I 100% believe that the HR need to be leading the charge and these conversations, and making sure that they take a collaborative approach to bringing in perspectives that help define the the VP and the experience. So, you know, we’ve worked with a number of organizations over the last couple of months around defining that EVP. And we’ve taken quite a collaborative approach to that thinking about, you know, getting the employee line manager perspective, getting the leader perspective, getting the candidates perspective, and the recruiters as well, and thinking about how do you bring all of that together? So I think HR needs to be continuously listening. I read a really interesting article the other day that quoted an anthropologist, he said, what people say, what people do, and what people say they do are completely different things, which actually makes it really hard for us to really know what is the right arm so probably talked to people about what they want, and what they need from from work. And therefore, I think we need a multi channel approach. I think HR need to be at the center of that, listening to people using data and insights and gathering that from the existing systems they have or from an engagement surveys, etc. To be able to look holistically at all of those components to figure out where have we got a challenge because what we’ve promised people out in the world is x, what we’re delivering them is why how do we bridge that gap and put something in place in a rapid way to sort of solve for that?

Mervyn Dinnen 14:36
Yeah, what you said just now reminded me of that old there’s three sides to every argument. There’s what there’s what each side says and what and what actually happened. The I would be remiss having a conversation with you in the summer of 2023. If I didn’t mention the the remote flexible hybrid a sink Kronos working debate opportunities for this. And yeah, as whenever I mentioned this in any discussion, I say yes. And I know that it is a minority of the workforce who can do this. And it’s only kind of 40 to 43%. Who, who are able to do this? Has this become in what you’ve seen? I mean, it’s become the most of the data, I’ve seen shows it’s much more influential in attracting talent. And as research come out of the US to a couple of conferences I was at over there recently, about people having choice and agency and how, when and where they work is important to engagement and retention. Is this a game changer for EVP as well?

Kat Bernardes 15:41
I think to be honest, it’s just becoming a hygiene factor is one of the first things that candidates will look at now, you know, alongside all the standard stuff around, you know, pay and benefits and what the role actually is, they’ll be looking for whether they can work flexibly, I think it’s just hygiene. And I think that, you know, every single EVP we’ve developed in the last year has got it in there. But it’s, you know, it’s not different. It’s not a differentiator anymore, I think is the difference. You know, before COVID, flexible working was seen as a differentiator. And now it’s really not. And I think that organizations have to just get on board with that and figure out the best way for their business to make that happen for the people that they can. And as you said, it’s not possible for everybody. So I yeah, I don’t believe that it’s necessarily a game changer in the sense of needing to differentiate yourself differently. I think it’s just a hygiene factor now that most organizations need to figure out how they’re going to offer that in the most effective way they can.

Mervyn Dinnen 16:49
Okay, we’re coming to the, I suppose, towards the end of the discussion, and I suppose it’s one of the things we’ve covered quite a few areas here. And one of the things that I suppose I’m I’m exploring at the moment is around this cycle of engagement to do with with kind of your engagement, productivity, wellbeing, and what what’s, again that I suppose the link between EVP and kind of engagement and productivity, which is obviously what most organizations are seeking through to have.

Kat Bernardes 17:23
I mean, we use a simple equation that if your EVP is, if you’re sorry, if your experience is greater than or equal to your EVP, then you’re going to get good engagement and high productivity. Because if people know what the promise is, and when they come, they feel that promise being brought to life in their day to day jobs and the way that they work, then you’re going to get higher engagement and productivity because people are getting what they expected. And if and if not being actually delighted sometimes and the experience that they they receive when they work with you. So, you know, we’ve seen it time and time, again, as you said, through research, that there’s a really intrinsic link between experience and engagement and productivity. And therefore, it makes sense that if your EVP is the promise of that experience, then that’s, you know, that’s why you need to get it right in terms of how you’re positioning your EVP, and making sure that you’re really clear about what’s ambition versus what is reality today, and what you’re delivering today and setting those expectations up early. So that you get that engagement.

Mervyn Dinnen 18:35
Yeah, no, I can see that. It’s about understanding it. And it’s about I suppose, understanding how people live it. And it’s being honest internally about the reality. Kat, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation. And I hope we’ve been able to maybe put out a few things for HR people listening to this to have a think about. And thank you for your time. And I personally, I look forward to speaking to you again sometime in the future. And how can people reach you or connect with you?

Kat Bernardes 19:09
It’s been a pleasure and they can connect with me on LinkedIn. Just look up Kat Bernardes. I don’t think there’s too many of us in the world you should be able to relatively easily. But yeah, feel free to connect on LinkedIn. And yeah, looking forward to speaking again in the future.

Mervyn Dinnen 19:24
Okay, it’s a pleasure. Thanks.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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