Employees in driving seat for 2023, says top HR expert

Niamh O’Brien, Director, BDO Talent Management featured in the Irish Examiner to discuss Employer Value Proposition (EVP), a valuable new tool for SMEs to attract and retain staff in 2023.

More small firms will choose to formulate an EVP in the year ahead as the competition for talent will continue to hot up, says one HR expert.

Niamh says smaller Irish firms will follow the lead of larger corporates by creating an EVP, gathering their key selling points for employees, such as staff training and career development, flexible working and their commitments to work-life balance and employee wellbeing.

“The EVP is a way for companies to articulate what they can offer an employee,” says Niamh. “In the same way that a job candidate provides the employer with a CV, the employer now needs to provide the job applicant with a window on their company culture and key benefits.

“Candidates are turning the tables. Effectively, companies now need a CV to tell candidates about their benefits and their company culture. Candidates particularly want to know about flexibility, hybrid work models and their paths to career progression.

“We are working with a lot of companies at the moment to help them to pull an EVP together. The key thing is that the information has to be real. It’s not just something to stick in the handbook.” 

Senior management in most sectors in Ireland anticipate recruitment continuing to be a key challenge for them during 2013.

More than 80% of Irish SMEs, with employees ranging from 10 to 250, find retaining staff a significant challenge, with eight out of ten now spending more time on recruitment versus 2019, according to the latest Irish Senior Management Business Sentiment Survey, conducted by BDO and the employer body Ibec.

BDO’s survey also found that salary increase demand is the number one concern for Irish management, along with concerns over inflation impacting their margins. Aligned to this, access to key skills a top concern for Irish management teams.

Meanwhile, despite the challenging trading conditions, 60% of Irish SMEs believe their business revenue will increase in the year ahead. In the context of a buoyant jobs market, employers should look to see their EVP as helpful in retaining existing staff as well as recruiting new talent.

“Retaining people is just as important as new recruitment,” said Niamh. “A recent survey by the CIPD also identified attracting and retaining staff as the No1 priorities for companies. Attracting and retaining people is tied into a company’s commitments to work-life balance and employee wellbeing.

“When it comes to the demands around work-life balance and wellbeing, it is very important not to take your existing staff for granted. When 80% of SMEs are saying that they are having trouble attracting and retaining staff, it’s not surprising that so many SMEs are starting to create EVPs as part of their efforts to make sure their staff are aware of the benefits they offer.

“This is all part of the Great Resignation, the talent migration that has come about due to the pandemic causing people to review their work-life balance. Companies are asking themselves questions, looking at how they can get ahead of that trend.

“Workers see themselves as being more mobile now. For the year ahead, the companies we are talking to are saying that they expect that they could lose some people. So this issue will stay at the top of their agenda for 2023.

“Gender pay reporting will also be important in the year ahead, as will a sharper focus on diversity and inclusion. Companies will need to be ready to respond positivity to employee demands around these topics, with rewards for performance being key. For many reasons, 2023 is going to be a good year for employees.” 

BDO’s experience shows that there is a growing awareness among SMEs to create an EVP and to use with other tools to enhance communications with existing and potential new staff.

The Irish Senior Management Business Sentiment Survey, however, found that nearly half of Irish SMEs don’t have any research and development plans currently or for the future.

Rising fuel and energy costs and the soaring cost of living are also hindering the ability of SMEs to invest in a range of areas. For instance, more than one in ten Irish SMEs do not have a cybersecurity plan in place for their company, with nearly one third of SMEs only introducing a cybersecurity plan since the Covid-19 pandemic.

In particular, SMEs are having to balance their growth and investment strategies with a surge in employees demand pay increases in line with inflation. Recruitment is core to their growth ambitions. Creating an EVP, while not a cure for all ills, can certainly help.

“The EVP can help employers develop good habits about how they articulate their benefits to their teams,” says Niamh O’Brien. “I have been working in this sector for the past 20 years. The biggest change is that where people once focused on salary, they are now asking about work flexibility, work-life balance and wellbeing, which is where the EVP is of great value.”

Content adapted from Irish Examiner

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