If you want to gain a strategic advantage in today's talent wars, step one is defining a clear value proposition to potential new hires.
Decide who or what you want to be as an employer and tell your story loud and clear. This should not just be in terms of mission, vision, and culture, but specifically in terms of the work your organization accomplishes, how, and the value proposition you have to offer to the employees who do that work.
Questions you need to ask yourself as an employer
That means you need a purposeful staffing strategy. After all, the value proposition you offer to some employees may be very different from the value proposition you offer others.
How are you going to get all the work done? How many ways do you have of employing people? What are the different categories of jobs and the corresponding roles and responsibilities? How many 'traditional' employees do you need? Count anyone working full-time, exclusively for you, uninterrupted in their tenure, as permanent and long-term employees.
How many 'contingent' workers do you need? This includes anyone working for you short-term or temporarily, consultants or gig workers, people who may share employment with other organizations, employees who may periodically come and go, or those who work highly variable schedules when their availability meets your needs. How easily can people flow between the contingent roles into more traditional ones?
How many on-site, and therefore local, employees do you need? How many remote employees do you need--those who can work from anywhere? Who are you trying to draw into your long-term core group? Who are you trying to draw in for short-term, high-turnover, 'just-a-job' positions?
What happens when traditional employees or core long-term team members leave? Do you have means of flexible retention--part-time, flex-time, or periodic work-- methods for staying in touch, efforts at recruiting, and an easy process for people to return? Overall, you need an integrated staffing strategy that optimizes a mix of different ways to employ people. The more ways you have to employ people, the better.
For each role, you need to frame a clear value proposition.
The employer side of the transaction is always the same: Employers want to get as much of the highest priority work done as well as possible, as fast as possible, with the least possible cost or friction. The employee side of the transaction is more complex and variable: Employees want to earn money, have favorable working conditions, and make a positive contribution to the mission.
The 'dream job factors'
Every employer value proposition is based on some balancing calculus, mixing and matching on each side of the ledger various aspects of eight defining factors. We call these the 'dream job factors.'
1. Performance-based compensation: How much is baseline pay and benefits? Are they comparable to your competition? Are there clearly defined opportunities to learn more based on extra-mile effort and results?
2. Supportive leadership: Is there an immediate manager who provides regular guidance, support, and direction? Will they make expectations clear, provide regular feedback and recognition?
3. Role and responsibilities: What is the nature of the actual work itself? Is it difficult, repetitive, or tedious? Or, is it interesting and valuable? Is it mission-driven? Does it have positive, meaningful results?
4. Location and workspace: Is the work done in a particular place in a specific geography? Or can the work be done from anywhere? Sometime? All of the time? If there is a particular place, is it pleasant?
5. Scheduling flexibility: Is the job full-time, extra time? Or is it part-time, flex time? Is there any ability to set one's own schedule? Occasional scheduling accommodations?
6. Training and development: Are there formal and informal opportunities to build new, relevant knowledge and skills? Is there a chance to become a deep subject matter expert? Or to build a wide repertoire?
7. Relationships at work: Is the workplace welcoming and inclusive? Are there opportunities to build productive and mutually supportive working relationships with colleagues, leaders, clients, or decision-makers?
8. Autonomy and creative freedom: Is it clear what exactly is up to employees, and what is not? What is required in every job? What is allowed? Where do employees have discretion in how they complete their work?
It's no secret that COVID-19 has changed how we work. Modes of work are different, sites of work are varied, and means of performance are broader than ever. If the dream job factors weren't a part of your organization's repertoire prior to the pandemic, they probably are in some shape or form now. If not, it's time to take action.
Very few, if any, employers can provide every employee with optimal choices in all the dream job factors. But you have to offer something. The less you offer in one category, the more you must offer in another. One job may offer only heavy lifting with very little autonomy or creative freedom. Then the question will be simple: What do you offer? Scheduling flexibility? Location flexibility? Supportive leadership?
Again, you have to offer something. Every role is different, but the value proposition of every single role will be made up of various components, balancing these eight factors.
Who you seek to attract- what sort of talent and from where- will differ from role to role. Some positions require specific training, credentials, or other criteria. Others do not. Once you know who you are seeking for what roles, you can start delivering an attraction message calibrated to attract the right applicants for the right roles.
Yes, tell your story: tell people about your organization's mission, values, and culture. But building a truly compelling recruiting message is going beyond your story. You must tell every applicant the story of exactly where your organization will fit into their story. What is the specific value proposition for every potential employee for that particular role, based on balancing the eight dream job factors?
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