Question for you: When last did you check your EVP; your organisation’s value proposition as an employer? What does it say to your existing and future workforce about what the organisation stands for? Does it say you offer challenge, variety, opportunity, support, work someone probably couldn’t do elsewhere? Does it speak to impact and the chance to forge your own path? Great – I’d like to think that if your employer brand promises these things it speaks the truth (especially if I’ve had a hand in helping you identify these themes and, more importantly, articulate what they mean in the context of your own organisation).
The thing is, what’s becoming clear is that it’s no longer going to be good enough to look at life through this somewhat inward-looking lens. It seems to me that EVPs are going to have to, by default, start expressing what their owners stand for in wider society – and, more than that, start evidencing what they’re doing about it.
In other words, your EVPs are going to have to start talking about your organisation’s purpose in the world and the passion that will drive action and results; both inside and outside your places of work. Why?
Well, Coronavirus has undoubtedly been brutal; it still is brutal. It has also revealed to the world the social, economic and health inequalities that have rendered some groups more vulnerable to it than others. At the same time, it has shone a light on the fact that some of our most important roles are those we have valued least – both financially and in terms of resources.
Alongside this, you have the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement (as distinct from the organisation of the same name). This has put the spotlight firmly back on the racial inequalities that exist in society – again, at a global level. This has happened at a point when, because of COVID-19, we have the time and the brain space (relieved as many of us have been of the distractions of life before lockdown) to truly look at, listen to and begin to understand perspectives and experiences that are not our own. (And by the way, the link between Coronavirus and racial inequality is clear – particularly if you look at the demographic make up of the army of people working in those most important but least valued roles.)
Some of our biggest brands are already wise to this need to both talk and walk in terms of purpose and passion – particularly when it comes to the former. But now it’s going to be incumbent upon organisations of all shapes and sizes to navigate this new world. The people we want to engage with are likely to demand that our organisations a) have a point of view; and b) back it up with action. This means that as HR, recruitment, and employer brand professionals we need to ask ourselves questions such as:
- Does our organisation behave like one that believes in equality?
- Does it have a culture that values, rewards and/ or celebrates its unsung heroes? People not necessarily at the coal-face of operations, but without whom day to day operations might fall over?
- Does our organisation say it believes in the merits of a diverse workforce, and maybe even be making headway towards achieving one – but fall short when it comes to promoting inclusion? Have we looked at every step in our candidate and employee journeys to make sure we’re doing all we can to facilitate fair and equal access to opportunity? To make sure that everyone has the chance to demonstrate and fulfil their potential – and quite frankly, to make their voices heard?
And that’s only internally! From an external perspective, questions we can ask include ones about the contribution our organisation makes to our local communities – to building awareness, aspirations, skills, diverse pipelines. When it comes to how we communicate, does our organisation tell its story in a way that is engaging and accessible to people from any walk of life who could work well as future colleagues?
As is often the case with me I started out with another title for this missive – one that featured the word ‘post’ in it. I decided against it, because while we absolutely want to move forward from this dreadful period in history, I don’t think we want to move on from the consciousness it has afforded us the space to develop. Do we? So, I say may we keep that consciousness, and use the passion currently driving it until, in whatever way we can, we effect some positive change.
Just imagine how rich and compelling our organisations' EVPs would be, if we were able to include this sort of stuff alongside the more traditional give and get of the employee experience? If our EVPs were, as we love saying these days, ‘woke’.
PS – for those of you who may be getting a ‘but all lives matter’ vibe from anyone in your organisations, I like to express what’s going on with the BLM movement like this: Of course all lives matter, it’s just that for far too long certain lives have mattered less than others. This is not just a sentiment this is a fact supported by data. BLM is about getting to a place of equality – i.e. a place where we can say ‘all lives matter’ and be credible at the same time. For anyone feeling worried about their portion, advise them to think of what’s going on as less of a land grab, and more of a land share.
EVPs are going to have to, by default, start expressing what their owners stand for in wider society – and, more than that, start evidencing what they’re doing about it.