Report reveals post-recession shifts in what retains and engages talent


Report reveals post-recession shifts in what retains and engages talent

UK employees now value work-life balance more highly than compensation, in contrast to much of mainland Europe, according to a report from global executive network and consultancy Corporate Executive Board.

CEB’s report, “Building a Competitive Employment Value Proposition in Europe”, is based on a survey of 30,000 business professionals across Europe and reveals the extent to which the recession has impacted on employee engagement and attraction.


The figures show that satisfaction with the organisation’s employment value proposition (EVP) has declined by an average of 14% since the end of 2006. CEB defines EVP as the “set of attributes that the labour market perceives to be the value they gain through employment within an organisation, which in turn directly impacts on each organisation’s ability to attract candidates and engage employees”.

The researchers conclude that the recession has considerably eroded organisations’ EVP delivery, the result being a far greater impact on employee engagement than it has had on candidate attraction.

Changes in drivers of employee engagement

While the key drivers in attracting external talent have not changed greatly since 2006, with employees joining organisations primarily because of the pay and career opportunities offered, there has been far greater change in the drivers of employee engagement. The ability for employees to work on projects that align with their personal interests is now the most important driver for employee engagement. In 2006 this was ranked as only the tenth most important driver.

The quality of colleagues has also become significantly more important in driving employee engagement, rising from being the seventeenth most important factor to fourth place over the past three years. Christoffer Ellehuus, Managing Director of Corporate Executive Board’s Corporate Leadership Council, says: “Organisations’ EVP delivery will be far less effective if they have failed to adapt to the shift that has taken place in the key drivers of employee engagement through the recession.”

He adds: “UK and European employees are becoming increasingly focused on whether their current role is closely aligned with their interests and whether their role is helping to build their skill set. Many employees have found that their role has shifted through the downturn as redundancies and hiring freezes have impacted their day-to-day responsibilities. This is one reason why employees have become increasingly focused on securing roles that interest them and builds on their strengths.”

Geographical differences

Another key finding of the research is the extent to which the drivers of employee attraction vary across Europe. In the UK, work-life balance has the greatest impact on employee engagement, whereas this falls to fourth place across Europe, with compensation having a greater role to play in employee engagement.

Ellehuus says: “Organsations based in the UK are currently perceived to be less effective in providing a work-life balance and so it is unsurprising that this has become a growing issue for employees in the UK.”

He adds: “Employers will need to ensure that they adapt the delivery of their EVP to ensure that they retain their most experienced workforce, in order to overcome the skills shortage expected in the future. The research has clearly found that it is geographical differences, rather than the seniority of staff or their age that accounts for the majority of variation in what it takes to attract and retain the best talent so organisations should bear this in mind.”

According to the research, 72% of variations in EVP preferences are based on geography, compared with just 13% based on the seniority of staff and 6.7% based on age.

Consultative approach pays dividends

Organisations that have taken a more consultative approach to organisational downsizing and structural changes often experience higher levels of employee engagement and higher retention levels of critical talent. This is often because involving employees in the process will result in a “better fit” between the demands of the organisation and the skill strengths of its employees.

A final word

“As employers have cut costs, benefits and incentives through the recession, employees’ satisfaction with their current organisation’s EVP has suffered. Those organisations that have seen the biggest drop in the effectiveness of their EVP delivery will be significantly less likely to be able to attract external talent and retain critical internal talent as they begin to grow again.

“For organisations that have experienced structural change improving employee understanding of how individual and company-level objectives align and explaining to employees the unique value they bring to their role and the organisation as a whole will be critical to raising levels of employee engagement post organisational change.” - Christoffer Ellehuus, Managing Director of Corporate Executive Board’s Corporate Leadership Council.

Want to know more?

Title: Building a Competitive Employment Value Proposition in Europe, Corporate Executive Board.

Availability: The report is available from Corporate Executive Board, Victoria House, Fourth Floor, 37-63 Southampton Row, Bloomsbury Square, London WC1B 4DR, tel: 020 7632 6000.

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