Looking for a relevant Retail EVP (Employee Value Proposition)

In the new normal, changing to attract talent can be as important as changing to attract customers

Workplace challenges have existed since the beginning of the first companies. These range from life-altering automation to more common ones like managing people around change. And 2020 has certainly seen unique circumstances even long-established names like Canadian Tire or Sobeys have never experienced.

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve (McKinsey & Company research has stated that recovery to pre-COVID levels could take until 2023), retailers are responding to the fluctuations in the global business landscape. They are also dealing with the unique needs and goals of both their prospects and current employees closer to home.

As a recruiting agency working with and placing retail leaders, we’ve found a core ingredient to success is a strong and effective Employee Value Proposition (EVP). In the race for top talent, Canadian retailers need to stand out amongst their competitors and other industries to become an ‘employer of choice’. It is not only an essential part of recruiting, but is also an effective tool for retaining top performers.

What exactly is an EVP? Why is it important?

A strong – and relevant - EVP helps ensure there is a fit between the organization’s culture, goals & style, and the job seeker’s personal & career goals and style.

As part of the recruitment process, it gives a candidate a compelling reason why they should apply for a job with a company; and a vision of what they can expect as an employee. It's also a great tool for retaining talent. Retailers with strong EVPs usually see higher retention rates among their quality employees.

How has the typical EVP evolved since the COVID-19 crisis began?

Traditionally, retail organizations have managed and measured five main categories around the EVP. They generally focus on compensation, meaningful work, opportunity, culture, and people.

However, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, other aspects of the employee experience have emerged. A different, more holistic lens has been brought to themes like purpose, employee wellbeing, and innovation. These are changing conventional EVPs and will continue to do so after the current crisis subsides.

So, let’s look at a few of the traditional EVP pillars and how they’ve changed, as well as how some of the new ones have come into play :

1. Compensation: Compensation has been a classic driver for attracting top talent, and that has not changed in the days of COVID-19. However, many organizations are finding chellanges in maintaining compensation levels, particularly in variable compensation linked to revenue and profits. Fortunately, there are other meaningful possibilities for improving the employee experience. Recent research shows that “while organizations may not be able to take action on compensation right now, they can achieve a 55 percent improvement in engagement by addressing employees’ need for work recognition through nonfinancial means.”

2. Opportunity: Flexibility around professional development alternatives has become the norm. Motivated individuals normally focus on moving up the ranks but many are parents who now find themselves homeschooling their children. Options for continued progression could include mentoring opportunities or special projects that allow them to work from home full- or part-time, or in a very safe environment if in the field. In most cases, employees understand the necessity of a pause in their traditional career ambitions. Ongoing communication with employees let them know talent management programs will resume once business is back to ‘normal’.

3. Organization: An encompassing theme, this often includes purpose and diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

Speaking to a higher purpose in the EVP is one of the best ways to attract and retain top retail talent. This is easier for organizations that provide life-saving medical equipment, sustain food supply chains, or otherwise enable our response to the pandemic. They can truly speak of offering purpose-driven work. For others, shared stories of colleagues living their purpose celebrate and create role models through the period of crisis. Some organizations have started a longer-term conversation about, or defining and revisiting an organization’s purpose.

Having a diverse culture that values uniqueness has become even more important than before. Inclusion means inviting everyone to take an active role in company life. Athird critical piece that has come into play recently is belonging. It's belonging that makes each individual feel accepted for who they are. Exploring diversity, inclusion, and belonging allows companies to discover how to embed it into the employeevalue.

4. People and their well-being: A McKinsey March 2020 study found that how organizations have responded to the current pandemic has had a tangible impact on employees. When compared with respondents who are dissatisfied with their organizations’ response, those who say their organizations have responded particularly well are four times more likely to be engaged and six times more likely to report a positive state of well-being. After all, , employees want to have confidence and trust in their leaders. In fact, an emerging view is that during times of uncertainty, our tendency is not “fight or flight”, but rather a “flight and affiliation” response towards safe and familiar individuals and situations.

Retail leaders can help build this social capital with their people by making themselves available and help employees give meaning to this crisis. They can also build trust by implementing new capabilities that keep employees and customer safe, while continuing to build the business that safeguards jobs. One example is adding BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In Store) or curbside pickup options for customers. Demonstrating concern for employees and customers helps connect employees to the organization and to one another, enhancing social connection and affiliation.

5. Innovation: In a pre-COVID world, this usually meant the opportunity to work on innovative or leading-edge projects or products. However, innovation has taken on a new, more immediate focus that involves the ability to leverage technology to effectively work remotely. Truly innovative organizations take it up a notch. They are creating new ideas of working better together as a distributed team, and striving to build that environment of community and belonging, even for those who work in the field.

Understandably, the needs of retail professionals like you, and the ability of retail organizations to deliver on those needs may be somewhat heightened and more fluid right now, given the constantly shifting landscape. But retail organizations have an opportunity to redefine their EVP so as to communicate their current, unique employee value to prospective talent. And they can also use it to build on the trust they have earned with employees during the pandemic. Whether as a job seeker ensuring there’s a fit with a prospective new employer, or a current employee ensuring there’s a continued fit with your current organization, an EVP that resonates with you is a strong indicator of success.

To learn more on this and other retail trends and insights you can also check out our blog.