People & Leadership

How to create a human-centric employee value proposition

Discover why and how you should adopt a human-centric employee value proposition, so you can treat your people as more than just workers.

Do you know what’s more effective than having an employee value proposition? A human-centric employee value proposition.

Not sure what that is? Not to worry.

Read this article to learn what one is and why having one will be more beneficial for your employees and your business as a whole.

Here’s what we cover:

What is an employee value proposition?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) defines an employee value proposition (EVP) as a set of attributes, often intangible, that make an organisation distinctive, promise a particular employment experience, and appeal to people who will thrive in its culture.

Traditional EVPs have helped codify what makes your company different and special to work for.

But they still tend to treat employees simply as workers with productivity targets, rather than as rounded individuals.

Helen Thomas, HR director at The HR Dept, says: “A traditional model aligns a company to sector norms using salary packages, benefits, career progression, staff turnover and other ‘hard quantifiable’ measurements.”

How a human-centric employee value proposition differs from a traditional EVP

Human-centred employee value propositions go a step further than their traditional EVP counterparts.

The aim of the human version is to treat employees as rounded people rather than just workers.

Progressive companies that are implementing them are seeing a boost in recruitment, retention and productivity.

In fact, delivering an effective EVP can decrease annual employee turnover by 69% and increase new hire commitment by nearly 30%, according to research from Gartner.

‘Treating people like people’ sounds obvious, but many companies still have a lot of work to do in this area.

Focusing on human-centric policies

A CIPD study shows the significant impact emotional well-being has on employee engagement and productivity. Yet few companies have a holistic EVP that clearly aligns their business’ needs with those of their employees.

Philip Richardson, partner and head of employment law at legal firm Stephensons, says: “In the post-pandemic workplace, SMEs have a much greater emphasis on evolving their employee value proposition.

“In the battle to retain skilled staff, revisiting an EVP or introducing a new one to reflect today’s world of work is more important than ever and should be at the heart of any HR strategy.

“One of the most notable changes is HR departments focusing on more human-centric policies.”

Helen Thomas says: “An increased interest in employee engagement combined with the great resignation has triggered a powerful move towards treating workers as people and considering what they want rather than what an employer thinks they want.

“It also moves the proposition towards aligning workers with the values and feel of the company, rather than the mission statement or company goals.”

Mark Rowley first published Lead From The Heart in 2011, but the latest version has become a bestseller.

“In that time, our consciousness has changed because the people we’re managing have changed,” he says. “The pandemic forced people to reassess what they want from their lives, careers, and bosses. But many businesses still resist that.”

Mark says he prefers the word ‘humane’ to human-centric as it “represents our best human instincts”.

He adds: “It upends traditional thinking about leadership, which is that you pay people as little as possible and squeeze them to drive productivity. That worked when people needed work and would put up with anything.

“But then millennials said, ‘I don’t want that’. And the newer generations are saying, ‘I really don’t want that and I’m not going to stick around.’ They’re repelled by it.”

People are still quitting their jobs in very high numbers until they find exactly what they want. Much of that is about emotions – how work makes them feel – not financial remuneration.

Mark’s research shows that, for at least the past decade, most people have not rated compensation as a performance motivator. It ranks no higher than fifth in importance.

Instead, they want to learn, grow, and feel they’re contributing to something meaningful.

And they want both physical and psychological safety, so they can be themselves and not be pitted against one another.

Having a human EVP in place – and delivering on it – can help you provide what your employees need to thrive.

Ready to create a human-centric employee value proposition?

To develop a human-centric employee value proposition, do the following:

  • Take a fresh look at the way your team works
  • Look at where and how the work is done
  • Introduce or align values to support a more empathetic relationship with your employees.

In addition, you need to consider the following four points:

1. Empathy is important

Often the focus will be more on areas such as personal growth, flexibility in working patterns or location, physical and mental well-being, and inclusion.

Philip says: “Empathy is the most important factor when tackling an EVP. It is vital employees feel they are being heard and understood.”

Helen says the missing element in a traditional EVP is the “feel” – why employees feel attracted to a company, stay loyal, and focus on bringing more to their job.

A human-centric model aims to make employees feel more understood, autonomous, invested and valued, she says.

Mark says lack of empathy often derives from mistrust and managers thinking workers will take advantage of a caring boss. Businesses constantly show they don’t trust their employees by micromanaging. But that makes the workers shut down and not want to work hard or at all, he says.

“But actually the more you care about people – making them feel supported, valued and integrated – the better they will work,” adds Mark. “It’s also making sure people feel you’re not going to sack them the minute you hit a recession.

“That sends the message that you’re expendable and they won’t be as committed.”

He gives the example of a software company that closes its gates at 5.30pm every day to encourage workers to go home and have a better work-life balance. Employees were also told none of them would be laid off during the Great Financial Crisis.

“This company has been in business for over 40 years, with repeated record revenues, because it attracts the best people and has low staff turnover,” says Mark.

2. Remember to be authentic – and avoid fear tactics

Human EVPs must be authentic too, he adds.

He points out you can’t say “we need to create a better environment for people” then always check up on them and interrupt their personal time. That’s not caring about their well-being. Steer away from fear.

“Underperforming managers, rather than bringing people together and inspiring them, tend to use fear and say ‘something bad will happen if you don’t meet the goals’,” says Mark.

“That is destructive because it creates stress.

“Instead, keep your composure and remind people of the importance of the goal. Figure out ways to help them achieve it and eliminate obstacles.

“That’s mature leadership and separates the good managers from the ones people don’t want to work for.”

3. Consider who’s in management roles

One thing you need to do when creating a human-centric employee value proposition is re-evaluate who you’re putting into management roles.

Managers must be able to focus on performance and business goals while also valuing, caring for and supporting the people doing the work.

To achieve this, ensure candidates for management roles answer questions directly about it during recruitment. Their answers should show clearly that they care about other people’s all-round success, growth and well-being.

“Many people think about their own goals – such as pay, recognition and career growth,” says Mark. “They’re not inclined to care about making other people successful. We put those people into management, and they compete with those they’re supposed to be managing.

“The best managers care about the whole person, not just their direct performance. They want them to feel appreciated and to succeed in life.

“We should scrap the word ‘manager’, and call them ‘coaches’.”

4. Ensure leaders are on board

Building a human-centric EVP also requires cultural change and buy-in from the top.

Helen says: “To genuinely move your culture towards treating employees as individuals, you need the knowledge and skills to enter a process of change – bumpy as it may be.

“Bringing all leaders on board and discussing what the changes may mean will be crucial to gain understanding and commitment.”

A change ambassador can help coordinate the new direction and maintain momentum. The process will also need parameters and targets that aim is to engender deeper connections, radical flexibility, personal growth, holistic well-being, and shared purpose.

How HR technology can help you deliver your human employee value proposition

Cloud HR software can help you deliver and track the performance of a human-centric employee value proposition in many ways.

It can be used to provide regular feedback on existing initiatives. It can help you capture and track metrics such as employee net promoter scores (eNPS) and results of pulse surveys, regular performance reviews and engagement surveys.

Such technology can also help you track business goals objectively, so there’s no need for micromanagement.

Mark says it should allow your managers to track productivity in a “non-espionage kind of way”.

He adds: “For example, not tracking keystrokes and when you turn your computer on. That kind of spying on workers creates fear and distrust.”

Start by reviewing what information your HR software can provide, and try to combine that with other information from staff forums and feedback surveys. Then use this information to drive your human-centred EVP and take your employee engagement to the next level.

Why human employee value propositions are the future

Science shows feelings and emotions drive human performance and motivate our behaviour. Yet many of us continue to think we’re rational and if we just appeal to the mind, people will respond. It just doesn’t work like that in today’s workplace.

Businesses that resist this idea may have got away with it during the pre-Covid boom times.

But since the pandemic, they’ve been exposed as employees have started to feel increasingly disconnected with their jobs. In this new environment, you need to embrace a human-centric employee value proposition, or your business could suffer.

Focusing on an employee’s whole life, rather than just their work experience, will help deliver a positive emotional response, and increase your chances of retaining talent and optimising the performance of your people – and ultimately the business.

How to attract, engage and keep great people

Discover how to find and retain the best talent so your business can keep growing and thriving.

Download your free guide

Subscribe to the Sage Advice newsletter

Join 1.5 million subscribers and get the best business admin strategies and tactics, as well as actionable advice to help your company thrive, in your inbox every month.