A four-step guide to creating the ideal employee value proposition

"Give them a reason to stay, and they will stay," writes AirAsia's former Chief of Staff Jonathan Yabut.

About the author

Jonathan Yabut

Jonathan Yabut is the winner of reality TV show The Apprentice Asia. Thereafter, as the Chief of Staff of AirAsia, he directly reported to CEO Tony Fernandes.

He is based today in Kuala Lumpur as the Managing Director of his management consultancy firm, The JY Consultancy & Ventures.

Do out-of-this-world perks really get folks to stay with their companies longer?

We’ve seen how the coolest organisations these days work hard to keep their employees there for many years. You’ve probably heard about Google and Facebook offering free food and massages while others offer unlimited vacation leaves.

But the key to making employees stay longer also goes beyond the physical perks. It also amounts to the company’s culture, and how it treats and values employees.

Is your company working hard enough to keep its people loyal and proud? Otherwise, here’s a checklist to help you boost your employee value proposition.

Employees who stay longer in a company are those who:

1. Are rewarded fairly for their contributions

We all work because, more than anything else, we have bills to pay. Is your company paying you well and at par with the rest of the industry? Are you recognised when you excel in what you do? Traditional companies see salaries as “costs” that need to be minimised rather than investments that can be harvested in the long run. Many talented people will leave because they know they can and should be paid more.

Research proves this time and time again – when you fail to pay your employees enough so that money does not become an issue at work, you have employees who worry about something else (i.e. their jobs, not their families to feed).

When money is out of the picture, people start asking more relevant questions for the organisation. They ask, “How can we get this project done on time” instead of “Why should I speed up this job when the company is paying me nothing?”

Employees who are properly compensated for their efforts don’t just comply – they contribute. They work beyond what is being asked of them because the company values their contributions.

2. Are valued for their opinions no matter who they are

When I was a management trainee, I often felt sidelined during work meetings because I was young and looked like I had nothing to offer. These days, I always make sure that when I see new employees or interns in a meeting, I ask for their opinion and accord it with as much importance as anyone else’s.

While hierarchy structures any workplace, it is also the biggest communication barrier. It creates a wall that makes people hesitant to share what they know for fear of being judged. Everyone’s opinion at work should count, down to the lowest ranking salesman, who probably knows more about their customers than their office-based managers.

In 1993, when a cabin crew member of Delta Airlines suggested taking out the lettuce from passengers’ entrees because he noticed no one was eating it anyway, management saved US$1.4 million a year later after that. This idea initially sounded absurd, but it did pay off.

When we show that we value everyone’s opinions, we espouse a culture that your contribution, regardless if it’s tediously presented on a spreadsheet or casually shared on WhatsApp, can matter a lot. We tell people that if they know something valuable that managers don’t know, we will acknowledge it, and eventually reward it, too.

3. Are empowered to make decisions

I used to hate teachers in school who were fond of dictating how my book report should look like – the margin size, the font type, and even the book cover’s colour. I hated this because I knew I could get the job done without using the imposed templates. I graduated with this same feeling when I entered the corporate world. While standardisation is important to ensure quality, no one wants a boss who hovers like a helicopter and checks on everything you do.

For humans, the most demeaning job is to serve like a robot waiting for repeated instructions. Talented employees love what they do because they have the autonomy to execute what they need to do.

When you empower a person to accomplish a task using his own creativity and genius, he becomes motivated to excel even more because that’s his own sweat and blood at stake. “I trust you, and I know you will do well” is the message that the company sends when it empowers its employees.

4. See their office as a place of both work and play

We were obsessed about work-life balance years ago when we saw personal life as something to be enjoyed once we exit the office doors. These days, the enlightened ones talk about work-life integration: the process of fulfilling one’s personal needs and aspirations while at work. We spend at least eight hours of our day in the office – can’t we achieve at least one personal task while in our button-ups and slacks?

Your job shouldn’t only fill your wallet, it should inspire you to become a better person: for your family, for your society, or for whatever cool start-up company you dream to launch once you leave this job.

Employees who stay longer in an organisation are those who learn new things that excite them daily. They are thankful that their organisation has brilliant senior executives who mentor them on how to speak confidently.

They have HR departments who are obsessed with launching unpretentious Zumba classes or charity programmes that toughen one’s personal resilience. These employees stay because as they spend more time with the company, they discover their real purpose beyond pay checks. And after all, isn’t purpose what we’re living this life for?

Ultimately

“Give them a reason to stay, and they will stay,” is a piece of advice I always give to HR practitioners who worry about today’s competitive war on searching for sustainable talent. This holds true often in my experiences.

Remember, leaving and moving to a new company is also a painful and costly process for the employee—do you really think everyone wants to move around every year? Most of us don’t. Humans are social creatures who yearn for stability and permanence when it comes to belonging. We will stay when we find reasons to stay.

But those reasons aren’t made up individually. The organisation, more than anyone else, is the strongest source of influence on employees’ happiness and success. And like any partner in life, may you find the one that you can put up with, for the good and the bad, in the long run. Good luck!

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