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The Promise Consistently Kept: Unlocking Employee Engagement and Retention


The Promise Consistently Kept: Unlocking Employee Engagement and Retention

Employee retention and engagement is a challenge facing many organizations across sectors.

We’ve all heard buzzwords like ‘the great resignation’ and ‘quiet quitting’. These terms emerged within the context of COVID-19 as the balance of work and life shifted dramatically; however, as work and life begin to drift toward some sense of normalcy, these underlying challenges related to employee engagement and retention remain.

  • 78% of CEOs and CFOs identify “Quiet Quitting” as a problem. (CFO, 2023)
  • Employee turnover rates are projected to be 50-75% higher, and it is taking 18% longer to replace those who leave. (HBR, 2022)
  • Only 21% of employees are actively engaged at work, and 60% feel emotionally detached. (Gallup, 2022)

These are concerning figures depicting an anxious corporate world, raising the question of what companies can do to mitigate this challenge.

Engagement and retention are the product of two elements, the promise (or commitment) an organization makes to their staff, and their ability to consistently keep that promise. Put in different terms, the ‘promise’ an organization makes to its employees is often referred to as its Employee Value Proposition (EVP), a succinct expression of the benefits an employee receives in return for their hard work. The ‘consistently kept’ part of this equation speaks to the employee journey, also known as the Employee Experience (Ex). Both the EVP and Ex must work together to create and reinforce a compelling reason for employees to stay engaged with their employer.

When asked ‘what is your company’s EVP?’ most people provide some overview of benefits, salary, time off, and growth pathways. While few organizations have truly bad promises, the challenge exists more with their ability to stand out in a competitive job market. This is a missed opportunity. An effective EVP reflects an organization’s values, culture, and differentiators to attract candidates who, in turn, will reinforce what makes that company great.

Case Study: Airbnb

Take the example of Airbnb, whose mission is to “create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.” This lofty statement comes to life for their employees through a commitment to inclusivity, a collaborative work environment, travel perks, paid volunteer time, and other related benefits. What stands out about Airbnb’s commitment to employees is that it feels unique, compelling, and relevant to the product they have created. Airbnb revolutionized travel by allowing people to feel at home wherever they travel – this same philosophy underpins the commitment they make to employees.

The EVP is only one part of the challenge organizations face. While considerable effort is invested in understanding the customer experience (Cx), organizations typically don’t put the same attention into their employee experience (Ex). Part of this stems from logistical challenges coordinating an employee’s experience from the time they are interviewing, to performance reviews, to work delivery, to the time they are joining an organization’s alumni network. This journey is complex and relies on many individuals on many teams to deliver it effectively.

The opportunity to improve employee engagement and retention lies in bridging the gap between the employee value proposition and the people experience.

So, how can organizations overcome these challenges and create a thriving environment for their workforce?

Step 1: 

Understand what matters to employees by identifying the rational (salary, benefits, training, career paths, etc.) and emotional benefits (feeling motivated, sense of belonging, connection with colleagues, etc.) they are looking for.

Step 2: 

Create a unique and meaningful EVP that reflects the organization’s distinct qualities.

Step 3: 

Design intentional programs that bring the EVP to life at every stage of the employee journey, from the time an employee is a candidate to an alumnus. These programs must align with the EVP to reinforce the organization’s commitment to its employees.

Employee engagement and retention is about Promises Consistently Kept™. If organizations can make compelling, differentiated, and meaningful promises and consistently keep them through every stage of their employment journey, they will find more success in retaining and engaging top talent.


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