The Power of Perceived Value for Long-Term Retention

Several years ago I had a conversation with an early career HR professional (we’ll call her Beth) at a mid-sized business who was debating whether to accept a new job offer. In the previous year, she had received a promotion, attained an HR certification, and greatly expanded her professional network. Beth enjoyed her job, liked her team, had friends at work, and was very satisfied with her pay. She had job autonomy and was able to implement initiatives that were important to her. Both her direct manager and the-powers-that-be regularly provided recognition and kudos, and the organization celebrated together – whether it was someone’s birthday, a new baby had arrived, or there was a business win.

Yet, even though Beth was what we would consider “happy” in her job, she was looking for, well, something more. And thus she began, albeit on a small scale, exploring other opportunities. “Why,” one may wonder, “would a content and newly-promoted employee look for another job?”

Simply put, she decided the value she could receive from a new job would be higher than the value she was getting from her current job.

This perceived value is why people have always resigned from jobs. That value may be in higher compensation or more robust benefit offerings. Perceived value may be based on culture, such as a desire to join an organization that affords better work-life integration, more closely aligns with one’s personal values, or better caters to an individual’s work style (there’s the work-from-home consideration).

A person may explore other opportunities because they anticipate enhanced career development and professional growth. They may want to broaden their knowledge base or work in a different industry. Perceived value may be as straightforward as someone wanting to add a sexy-and-shiny company name to their resumé.

So yes – people will quit jobs for any number of reasons. Of course, here in 2021, we’re having numerous discussions about the “great resignation”; it’s a candidate market and we’re collectively gobsmacked at the increased turnover we are seeing all around us. We really shouldn’t be though. People are thinking about “value” in their work lives just as they always have. And while we can’t change the facts, we can use this opportunity to review how a person’s perception of value may impact their desire to either start a job search or entertain a conversation with a recruiter.

Understanding perceived value

The concept of perceived value is most often discussed amongst marketing specialists when they explore whether customers believe their company’s product or service is satisfying the customers’ wants and needs. This hinges on “belief” (note the use of that word) and marketing professionals rely on this understanding to inform their branding and messaging. This leads to articulating the value proposition for said product/service, extolling the merits of the product, or justifying the price of the service.

In human resources, especially in talent attraction, we’re quite adept at using these concepts. Talent acquisition teams have employer branding specialists and companies spend bundles of money developing employee value propositions (EVP). We align our employment brand with our EVP, design unique (quirky? value-driven?) messaging, and target and source from critical talent segments in order to make great hires.

But what about our existing employees? Are we continuing to have the “value” conversation with folks who have been on board for six months? Or two years? Or 20 years? Do we know if they continue to derive value in their job or at our company? Do we even understand what they value? If the answers to these questions are no, now is the time to change that.

Having value conversations

Value conversations with existing employees should be driven by individual managers. Insight from pulse surveys is a great starting point for managers to understand the mood of employees across the organization and get a data-driven glimpse into the state of their own department or team.

But it’s also critical to never lose sight of the fact that speaking to employees is the best way to really understand their unique needs and wants. Managers having these conversations can ask questions including:

  • “What makes you feel appreciated at work?”
  • “How do you know when you’re valued?”
  • “How can I best recognize your contributions?”
  • “What’s important for you to experience at work?”
  • “What factors need to be present in a job for you to be satisfied? Are we meeting those needs?”

And then, as a manager, it’s important to treat that person – that incredibly talented individual you wanted on your team! – in a way that demonstrates you heard them. Managers are on the front line of ensuring employees feel psychologically safe at work. They can also take the lead on recognition and team celebrations – including knowing how employees like (or dislike) being publicly recognized (not every single person enjoys the spotlight!).

Bringing it together

As for Beth? That maybe-ready-to-make-a-move HR professional? She decided to map out a Personal Value Inventory, including what made her happy in her existing job and what was missing. She listed the things she loved to do and those things she wanted to avoid. Beth reflected on what she wanted to learn and where she thought additional experience would take her both within her existing organization ... or at other companies. She then shared this insight with her manager ,which allowed them to jointly devise a uniquely personal development plan – not a performance plan that merely captured task, goals, and accomplishments.

They worked to ensure Beth would continue to get value out of her current job – as a professional, as a contributing team member ... and as a human.

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About the Author

Robin Schooling

Robin is managing partner for HR and people strategy with Peridus Group.

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