Writing an HR Strategy: Where to start in defining your people proposition

How being clear, honest, and transparent can help you attract new talent and retain your employees

Most HR professionals will at some point be asked to write a new HR strategy aimed at both attracting great people and keeping great people. Whilst this sounds like a simple enough objective, to get there requires a huge amount of planning and the right building blocks in place. At Let’s Talk Talent, we are here to help. We’ve simplified the process of devising your strategy using our famous one-pager Triangle Model. The tool is made up of three simple levels: your objective, the key building blocks of your strategy and the workstreams to put into place to deliver it. And as part of this series of articles, we will be going through each of those blocks individually to help you write a really awesome kickass plan for your business

One of the most important steps in the process, and that’s why you may want to start here or at least review what you’ve already got, is to define a clear proposition for your organisation. In short, why should people work for you? Because without a consistent message that talent can identify with and rally behind at any stage during their relationship with you, all your other efforts could be wasted. People considering joining you, the new recruits who have just recently come on board, your current talent pool and the employees who have left you will all need to be communicated to in a way that resonates with them.

As we’ve often said, the world of work has changed in the past few years and organisations are putting aside the traditional parent-child relationship to adopt a more customer-centric view of recruitment and employee retention. This has led to many companies using marketing-led employee value proposition initiatives in the hope of attracting talent and standing out from the competition. Whilst that’s a great start, we believe the concept of a clear proposition should go much further than this. It should cover what it’s really like to work for you, warts and all. It’s about giving clarity and consistency to people from their first contact with you, be it through a click on your website, their first time entering one of your buildings or talking to a recruiter, from the start of their working life with you, all the way to the day they leave. Or as we call it:

  • Pre-Life
  • Early Life
  • In Life
  • and, After Life

When looking for a new role, people seek much more than a bulleted list of benefits on a job advert. In this current market, your future employees have a plethora of choices and free beers on Fridays aren’t gonna cut the mustard. Before agreeing to join your company, candidates need to understand the direction of the organisation in order to know if it aligns with their own set of values, as well as their career progression plan. A Pre-Life checklist, if you will.

Ensuring you have a clear message that illustrates what it’s like to work for you will give your business a valuable edge over your competitors. Employees need to emotionally connect with an organisation and understand quickly what it would be like to work there. Giving them a window into your values, internal culture and approach to career development will allow them to do just that and potentially tip the scale in your favour, as joining a workplace where these elements are unknown or unclear is a risk some will not be willing to take. So whilst many recruiters are great at appealing to candidates heads, don’t forget to speak to their hearts at the same time. And to do that, personalisation is essential. Sounds tricky? Some organisations get tech to help, with tools such as marketing automation and AI used during the recruitment process to ensure they don’t send out the same message to what is sure to be an incredibly varied audience.

Telling people what you’re about therefore needs to start before potential recruits walk through the door on day one. It should be weaved through every single piece of recruitment material, from job descriptions to interview questions. But it should also be true. Your proposition shouldn’t be a slick and glossy marketing message selling a dream. Candidates will be looking for authentic experiences and the image you project should be real. And that makes defining your proposition difficult when you’re on the inside looking out. As a start point, have a look on Glassdoor and LinkedIn to find out how others describe you.

Keeping Great People

Whilst a clear proposition is key to attracting new talent, it is also an important part of your employee retention arsenal. Staff turnover is typically much higher within the first six months of an employee joining, as many Early Lifers realise that what was sold to them during the interview process doesn’t live up to their aspirations. This is where transparency is key and having a proposition that truly reflects your core identity and purpose will ensure your people are aligned with your vision and ready to help you reach your goals.

So how do you ensure your proposition is a true reflection of your internal culture? This is where employee engagement comes into play. If the message you worked so hard to define isn’t backed by your main audience, chances are it will not ring true. So it’s important to build it from the ground up. Use internal channels to survey your talent pool and find out what people like about working with you. At Let’s Talk Talent, we’re fans of the Aon Hewitt Say Stay Strive engagement model, which we’ve adapted a little below to help you find out what defines you before laying out the foundations of your organisational proposition:

  • Say: What are people saying about their work? Do they recommend their workplace to others?
  • Stay: Why are they staying with you? What do they value? Do they feel recognised? What are the career paths available to them?
  • Strive: Do they feel challenged and developed? Are they motivated? Are they excited about the direction of the company?

HR and Marketing Working Together

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the world of work has changed, and the employee-employer relationship has transitioned from an authoritarian model to a fully collaborative partnership, requiring both parties to be entirely aligned. Staff and prospects should be viewed as key target audiences for any organisation and as such, HR professionals and leadership teams need to put on a consumer lens when looking at ways to both attract and retain the best talent out there. Or in other terms, to convert new customers and generate loyalty amongst existing ones. Sounds a bit marketing-y? It’s because it is. Your marketing team should be utilised when it comes to communicating with prospects and talent alike.

It is worth remembering that your marketing resources are experts in building brands. Using audience segmentation tools, they can advise on the right demographics to target, communication channels to use and the messages that are most likely to resonate at the right stage of people’s life. As for internal staff, focussing on optimising their experience with you during their In Life is the best way to increase retention rates. Regularly review the many touchpoints that are part of their employee experience, remove blockers and use engagement surveys to determine what truly motivates them so that you can continually improve based on their feedback.

But whilst we have split both internal and external sides of your proposition to showcase the different needs of each group, it’s important to mention that both messages need to be aligned in order to work. Your proposition should be the join up between your customer experience (CX) and your employee experience (EX). Distortion between the two will make it extremely difficult to recruit new staff and retain existing ones, so make sure you define your proposition based on the entire employee lifecycle, from their first contact with you to the day they leave.

In Conclusion: How to define your people proposition

Your proposition should be an accurate representation of your core identity, culture and purpose. In laymen’s terms, it should do what it says on the tin. From the moment people commit to your organisation to the moment they move on, they should be able to see their own values, aspirations and development expectations reflected in every touchpoint they will have with you. Making sure your employee experience is a clear and consistent representation of your corporate proposition should be an important focus of your HR efforts and a key building block upon which to build your plan.

If you’d like to see more clearly where this pillar fits into your overarching HR strategy, have a look at the Triangle Model. And for more help getting started with establishing a clear proposition for your organisation, or buy our EVP toolkit here.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you might have, and don’t miss the next article in our HR Strategy series: bringing people up to speed.

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