If you’re in business, and your business is powered by people, you’re in the business of people. A company’s relationships with its employees should supersede any other, and its actions should support that belief.
Though most HR leaders would agree, there is always a force at work against employee engagement, regardless of the economic conditions. Naysayers will find a way to create headwinds against company values, and their actions will inevitably erode retention. Today, they’ll blame the great resignation (or throw up their hands in defeat). In 2019, they’d point to the lowest unemployment numbers on record. Years before that, the rise of the gig economy.
Retention is as Important Today as Ever in the War for Talent
Still, retention remains a goal for HR, especially in the age of the empowered employee. While the options have increased significantly for talent, so have the costs to replace it. Gallagher & Co reported that replacing an employee could cost 30% of her salary.
Proportionally speaking, as organizations are raising salaries to encourage employees to stay, that 30% represents an increasingly larger number.
Retention Takes More Than Perks
Most retention efforts readily available to HR leaders are designed to keep people performing in place. After all, “retain” technically means “to keep,” or in this economy, “to not lose.” These efforts might include any number of benefits packages designed by people outside the company and implemented to offer a suite of perks. Retirement plans, gym memberships, health and wellness programs, and even on-site baristas, kegs and foosball tables fall into this category. Do these retention efforts work? There’s no single, uniform answer to that question. “Will this retention effort work for my company?” is the question HR should ask instead.
In this economy, attraction, adoption and championship among customers and employees are critical to keeping a business alive...
If an organization’s only desire is to convince people to stay, it should look no further than these common tactics. But that’s a symptom of treating employees like Ikea thinks about shoppers: Creating an environment that’s aesthetically interesting, but intentionally confusing, with the hopes that people linger longer, meandering and spending more.
Enlightened businesses, on the other hand, understand their employees have a choice. They don’t build an experience where people meander and linger. In these successful businesses, employees perform to greater heights and take pride in their work. They create careers, not only staying for a long time, but delivering exponentially more value as they grow vertically and horizontally through the organization.
Retention Requires Alignment with Vision, Mission & Values
According to ManpowerGroup, one in five employees left their jobs or are planning to do so within the next six months. The reason given for leaving? 59% of workers sought a better fit with their values. That figure is almost double the number of employees seeking increased compensation or career advancement (31%).
Employees passionately seek an employer whose values resonate with theirs. Workers are as “belief-driven” in their connection to an employer brand as loyal consumers demonstrate when they shop. In this economy, attraction, adoption and championship among customers and employees are critical to keeping a business alive, and we can measure how well an organization performs by the degree of its employees’ alignment to the published vision, mission and values.
Never has it been more important for businesses to be who they say they are and to hold themselves accountable, living up to the vision, mission, and values they purport.
Vision, Mission & Values are A Galvanizing Set of Beliefs
These strategic, organizational principles serve as a roadmap, helping a company stay on track and work toward achieving its stated objectives. They guide every business decision, support and inspire employees, and cultivate loyalty among internal and external audiences. These ideals are also the foundation of any strong employment brand. When all stakeholders understand the employer’s vision and mission, and how values can support both, they can leverage this language to lead their organization toward success.
When vision, mission and values aren’t aligned, or are talked but not walked, the disconnect can lead to devastating results. If these statements aren’t reflected in the experiences of the workforce, businesses run the risk of losing talent and experiencing high turnover. A recent study indicated nearly 30% of jobseekers have left a job within the first 90 days of starting (indicating misalignment between the candidate and the employer brand). Never has it been more important for businesses to be who they say they are and to hold themselves accountable, living up to the vision, mission, and values they purport.
Vision, Mission & Values are the Essence of Employment Branding
While there’s no shortcut to defining an organization’s Vision, Mission & Values, communicating this set of beliefs through branded messages can actually seem like a shortcut to retention. When employees are aligned with these beliefs, magical things happen, so success largely depends on the ability to communicate them. Below are four ways enlightened organizations’ internal communications teams are hacking their cultural code to find and share the magic, improving engagement and retention in the process:
1. Retention Begins with Recruitment
When the average company needs staff, it posts an ad that reads “now hiring,” without much strategic discernment around who they seek to hire. The enlightened company, on the other hand, treats recruitment efforts as chapter one in the story of its employees. A brand exists to remind us who we are, and that kind of purpose is often found in our work. The employment brand journey begins at the top of the funnel, so it’s important to create recruiting campaigns that help people identify the best versions of themselves in the hiring messages. This requires HR to activate employment brand messages through talent acquisition efforts, with a concerted focus on moving from the generic “now hiring” to more specific and inviting “Do you identify as someone with these values? If so, you will succeed here.”
2. Celebrate Values in Action
The average organization treats its daily drumbeat as “the going concern,” sometimes with too little regard for the many victories – however big or small – happening regularly within it. But the companies who win big with people know better. They consider the pulse of the company a journalistic beat, and they highlight the successes and lessons learned on a regular cadence. Brands are built by repetition over time. If a value is important, the company must make a concerted effort to highlight how living in line with it leads to success.
When an organization’s vision, mission, and values serve to steer it in line with business objectives, it elicits increased happiness, compliance, loyalty, and productivity from employees.
3. Leadership is Thought Leadership
An employee will almost always look to her manager for a clear definition of success in her role. That’s why most messages are expected to reach employees through this medium. However, certain higher-level communications must come from leadership, so that management can apply the traction. The company’s strategic direction is one such message. Where are we going? Why? How will we know when we get there? The answers to these questions are leadership’s responsibility to communicate.
As the black box around corporate communications continues to recede, leadership must now embrace the responsibility of not only leading people and showing them the way, but also acting like publishers of content that builds brands. Leaders must become thought leaders, regularly contributing high-level, vision-, mission-, and values-oriented messages to the internal content strategy. This requires thinking outside the common strategy decks, town halls and skip-level meetings and embracing new stages, like videos, internal social content and more.
4. True Brand Champions Never Leave
When an employee exits a company, the team is faced with many decisions. But is rarely the question asked, “What is the communications plan for those affected before, during and after this transition?” Enlightened organizations see offboarding as yet another new chapter in the communications plan, equipping former associates to take on alumni roles, and empowering them to reflect on their experiences. These reflections can often aid in recruitment discussions, answering questions like “What’s possible for me after my time here?” Why should all that pride disappear just because an employee does? Even exits are an opportunity to reinforce values and improve retention.
Vision, Mission & Values Alignment Matters Now
The impact of strong employee engagement is difficult to overstate. When an organization’s vision, mission, and values serve to steer it in line with business objectives, it elicits increased happiness, compliance, loyalty, and productivity from employees. This language combines to form the foundation of a winning strategy, and it demands time and collaborative attention from leaders in HR, marketing and corporate communications.