Designing a Winning Talent Strategy for a Post-Covid World

September 9, 2020 Rahul Chawla

First published in The Business Times on Sept 4th 2020

THERE is conjecture on what the new normal will be in a post-Covid-19 world, but it is irrefutable that the war for talent will continue to heat up in the foreseeable future. Eighty-four per cent of respondents in a recent Aon survey of around 2,000 organisations worldwide said that the Covid-19 pandemic has driven them to rethink their workplace arrangements (such as flexible hours and work from home) - an expected response given the immediate need for business continuity and stability.

A period of three to four months of complete or partial lockdowns in major economies is enough time for new habits to form and for existing behaviours to evolve. With this backdrop, the discussion on the future of the workplace has accelerated. With a mission to be ready for the imminent future, close to a quarter of the survey respondents said that they have embarked on a journey to refocus their talent strategy.

Mapping customer value proposition to employee value proposition

Most organisations make significant investments in perfecting their customer value proposition (CVP). Their CVP is often built with sophisticated research and analytics on consumer segmentation and behaviour, and meticulous planning goes behind attracting consumers to a product or service. Data and analytics support this process by creating bespoke value propositions that appeal to individual customer preferences.

Like the CVP, businesses must focus on developing their employee value proposition (EVP) too. Using the same data-driven approach as with CVPs, businesses can build their EVPs by turning to data generated through demographic analyses, assessment tools, engagement and compensation surveys.

What is required is the same discipline to match customer bases to talent pools and a similar rigour to create and communicate a value proposition that appeals to individual employee preferences.

In a macro environment, where businesses are being challenged by external pressures for capital, cash and consumers, a relevant EVP can prove to be a key differentiator. The first step towards building a roadmap for an innovative talent strategy involves extensive use of internal data, market intelligence and analytics to develop a deep understanding of levers around employee preferences, costs and role requirements in the new normal.

This can have tremendous upsides in gaining "talent market share" in a highly competitive market. An EVP that is built on "alternatives" to suit the needs and wants of various psychographic and demographic profiles can unlock business gains from cost and productivity standpoints.

For example, a 25-year-old data scientist living in a studio apartment in Hong Kong may prefer working long hours with her team in the office. Conversely, a 32-year-old customer service team lead living with his young family in Manila, may prefer taking team calls from home and need flexible working arrangements to better care for his children. These individuals could be employees of any company in the world. The usual trope of "an employer of choice providing a vibrant work environment with best in class total rewards" will not be an exciting value proposition for them. What these employees need are real and relatable alternatives.

Rethinking employee value proposition

Businesses must design a bottom-up EVP of these alternatives to differentiate and future-proof themselves. Designing these alternatives from the bottom up, will require businesses to gain a thorough understanding of the trends affecting their industry and business, the capabilities that are needed, and those that need to be phased out. This, in turn, must be matched by in-depth knowledge of employee costs, demographics, skill sets, and preferences.

To see a framework and workplace design truly come alive, businesses must aim for a thorough understanding of their expense base, including compensation and benefits, real estate, information technology and employee productivity-related expenses. This should be further complemented with detailed analyses of jobs, evolving skills, and regulatory and shareholder requirements to create the right framework for a workplace design. When a business layers this design with talent availability and preference-related analyses, there is a genuine breakthrough in EVP. The clear outcome is an EVP with various alternatives embedded in it, such as benefits, incentive plans, workplace arrangements, assessment and development, and career paths.

The road ahead

A winning workforce plan can help identify key skills and jobs and talent availability, either in-house or external, to staff these positions. This can be complemented by working models which not only cater to employee preferences but also unlock tremendous cost savings and productivity gains. Talent attraction and retention thus become a natural outcome of such a roadmap that takes a holistic view of employee preferences, and rewards desired behaviours and mobility with fit for purpose rewards/incentives. This impact gets further compounded when sustainable value gets created for other stakeholders that is customers and shareholders. Offering alternatives to a discerning employee base is not so much a choice as it is imperative for businesses working in a tight operating environment. Just as the CVP has been built on knowing the customer inside out, predicting their behaviour and needs, and delivering customised goods and services right to their doorstep, businesses must rethink their EVP.

The current environment presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for companies to rewrite the employee playbook - transforming it into one that speaks to the unprecedented gains in technology and the trust that employees place in their leadership.

If you are interested in developing a workforce strategy for your organization, please get in touch!

About the Author

Rahul Chawla

Rahul Chawla leads Aon’s Human Capital Solutions for Southeast Asia and Wealth Management Practice for Asia. He works with clients across industries to design roadmaps for a future ready workforce - this comprises identifying quick wins and moonshots by developing a deep understanding of the workforce and its propensity to adapt and change, as well as the levers available to catalyse that change. Rahul is based in Singapore and his prior experience includes stints in India, China and Malaysia where he led in house HR strategy and key transformation projects for clients.

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