5 Keys To Making Employees Stay

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In the September and October issues of CropLife®, we dissected job satisfaction data from 238 retail agronomy sales people across the country. In those two articles, we focused on the statistics of employees considering a career change, and how simple steps can improve employee attitude and retention of those employees. The other statistic that jumped out at us was the percentage of “happy” employees. Our survey found that 20% of sales agronomists are thrilled with their role in the company.

Unlike the others, this group of employees is, for the most part, completely satisfied in their role, and sees their current employer as their long-term career destination … for now. What makes this group different than the other 80% of salespeople we interviewed is a concept called Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Careful attention to your EVP will keep this group engaged, and not falling into the “thinking of a change” category of employees.

Lou Adler, a well-known recruiting and human resource consultant, initially introduced the concept of an EVP in his book “Hire with your Head.” The idea behind EVP is to determine the “rewards of work” to an employee. In other words, answering the question “what do I receive in return for delivering great results in my job?”

In prior articles, we’ve discussed compensation, work-life balance, other rewards and becoming a destination employer. When combined, each of these parts and pieces build the framework of your EVP.

The Five Keys

An EVP can be broken down into five parts that if focused on, can help you keep those top 20% of performers that are thrilled to be in a sales role for you.  

■    Compensation.
■    Affiliation.
■    Work Content.
■    Career.
■    Benefits.

While these topics look fairly standard — and perhaps even boring — the real key to thinking in terms of EVP is to flip your frame of reference from that of “I pay you to do a good job” to a mind-set of “what rewards am I giving my employees for the work they do.” The employee is evaluating your value proposition on a regular basis and mentally determining if what you are giving them in return for their hard work is a fair trade. If another organization were to make an employment offer to your employee, these are the thoughts that will go through their mind.

Let’s go through the five rewards of work from the perspective of the employee and how, from their perspective, they are evaluating your EVP.  

Compensation. As we addressed in an October 2011 issue of Croplife, compensation is the primary “trade” for the work an employee does. Compensation includes base salary, incentives, cash recognition and awards. The employee values fair compensation for what they do and a chance to make more when the organization does well.

Look at your compensation strategy from your employee’s perspective. Is it clear and understandable?  Do they see the true value and opportunity you are providing? Employees don’t like financial surprises — does your package include surprises or unknown factors?   

Affiliation. This is best described as the feeling of “belonging” your employees have to the organization and your team. A strong sense of affiliation will create organizational commitment and loyalty for the employee. Affiliation can create more positive work environments and build trust within employees. When employees have a sense of belonging on a team with a good leader, they become your best ambassadors, sellers and recruiters of other employees because they want other good team members around them. Creating an effective communication strategy and an overall culture based on communication is a critical component to building affiliation. You can learn more about this in our last article which can be found in the November 2012 issue of CropLife in an article titled “Sharing Your Vision.”

Work Content. This is the satisfaction an employee receives from their work. Employees that believe they have very rewarding work, according to Adler, have a variety of tasks and a challenge always in front of them. They have autonomy to get the job done and feedback both positive and encouraging when something isn’t done quite right. Maximizing this area of your EVP includes creating a culture of career planning, educational planning (to enable and career goals) and a documented process to increase responsibility as goals are met.   

Career Rewards of Work. These are the long-term opportunities employees have for development and advancement. Career rewards are vastly different for each generation in your work force. Millennials are looking for any training they can get their hands on and a sense that there will be a promotion if they achieve a certain set of objectives. On the other hand, your Baby Boomers probably don’t want as much training as they want employment security that their job will be there until retirement. Each of these rewards is important and provides the employee regardless of their generation with personal growth.

A key component to filling the career rewards component of EVP is succession planning. If they are top employees, they are likely part of your succession plan. Do they know that? Are you capturing that value? You can find more information on succession planning strategies in the November 2011 issue of CropLife in an article titled “Thinking Ahead for Tomorrows Sake.”

Important Benefits

Lastly, Benefits. These round out the rewards of work as indirect compensation including health insurance, retirement and time off. As insurance premiums advance at a double digit inflation rate, our industry is not immune to wanting to “share” that cost with our employees. The employer is trying to manage expenses to hit a profit goal. However, the employee is evaluating how much those benefits are going to cost them out of pocket. The paradigm shift for EVP is that the employee needs to feel that the company is providing them a benefit, not an out of control cost.

It’s a tough balancing act, but we repeatedly see candidates spending more time evaluating the health insurance benefits of a job offer because it has become that important. You may give the employee a $5,000 raise one month and two months later, when health insurance rates skyrocket, take that raise back through increased premiums. When making that decision, think of your EVP and specifically how the top 20% of employees are going to feel about it.  

Creating and implementing EVP-driven programs and processes in your organization can be a significant shift in the way your organization approaches employee related activities. However, once your management team has an EVP based mind-set, not only will your top employees have a stronger tie to your company as an employer, but also your ability to recruit and attract employees from organization that aren’t focusing on these details will increase significantly.

Classic sales training teaches that success is dependent upon your ability to sell the features and benefits of your product or service. By creating a culture focused on EVP, you are consistently selling the features and benefits of your organization to both your current and future employees.

Waschek is a partner in Ag1Source, the largest agricultural recruiting and personnel solutions organization in North America.

Esfeld is a partner in Ag1Source, the largest agricultural recruiting and personnel solutions organization in North America.

Ryan Gale is an agronomy and seed recruiting consultant with Ag1Source, a nationally recognized recruiting firm that focuses on the unique needs of the agricultural industry. For more information about its services, visit www.ag1source.com.

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