Amidst the fastest pace of change in human history, thriving organizations are the ones that have realized that people have become more, not less, important as companies look at completely different ways of creating economic value. When manufacturing processes were automated, design skills became more critical. Yes jobs disappeared, but new jobs emerged. The technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will continue to need new skills, while digitization will enable microeconomies to be built locally—driven by people’s imagination, not the economies of globalization.
Understanding the impact of these changes and preparing people to ride the crest of opportunity is paramount. And this preparation begins with fostering a culture where people can thrive in the workplace. As Louis Gerstner, the legendary CEO of IBM who turned around the tech behemoth back in the 90’s famously said, “Culture isn’t one aspect of the game, it is the game.”
Abraham Maslow famously introduced the theory of motivation in early 1940s. His big idea was that we all have a hierarchy of needs: once our basic physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, we seek belongingness, then self-esteem and prestige, and finally self-actualization. This model did well to explain the evolution of the ‘deal’ or the ‘contract’ between people and employers before the advent of the fourth industrial revolution.
In the 20th century, the loyalty contract defined the relationship between employer and employee. Organizations met basic needs through an employment contract, such as pay, benefits, and job security, in exchange for a lifetime of commitment from employees.
Over the past 20 years, the engagement contract has been the dominant model. Organizations have been searching for ways to ensure their workforce is fully invested by meeting both their basic needs of pay and benefits, but also to differentiate themselves through career management and employee wellness programs.
When transformation is a business goal, the employee value proposition should not be static. This challenges our existing talent processes and how we deliver on a personalized value proposition that resonates with employees.
Our new perspective of thinking about the new “deal” to enable people to thrive, positions rewards into three primary categories of the employee value proposition continuum:
We believe that getting the contractual pieces right is the foundation for an effective rewards program and critical for remaining competitive, but differentiating on these elements can be quite costly. Where differentiation can be more engaging and cost-effective is in the career opportunities and focus on well-being of employees. There is a shift away from work-life to a new concept of well-being, a holistic notion that addresses the physical, emotional and financial health of the people.
Facebook is a good example. Facebook’s chief human resources officer defines the deal at Facebook in terms of three buckets of motivators: career, community and cause.1 When these three are fulfilled, people bring their whole selves to work and create significant economic value and impact.
Many companies are creating true uniqueness in their value proposition in the area of purpose. Our engagement research shows that this element can help to create “stickiness” with an employer and has more retentive impact than the traditional rewards elements. Research has also shown that purpose-driven organizations have greater financial success.
Here lies the next challenge. “To know what one really wants,” Mr. Maslow argued, “is a considerable psychological achievement.” Businesses and HR functions have thus far relied on anecdotal evidence, market trends and generalizations around employee segments to try and understand what people seek.
Translating the employee value proposition (EVP) or the deal into a compelling experience for each and every employee, however, requires both art and science. The “science” starts with workforce analytics to map internal labor movements and identify “personas”—rather than segments—that represent micropopulations of employees with a unique combination of needs.
The “art” of the EVP is, and will remain, the human contact—how managers and coworkers shape the work environment with meaningful personal interactions. And that is how thriving organizations curate distinct experiences for their people, turning the notion of “going to work” into “living one’s purpose.”