As employers, we’re increasingly struggling to offer people reasons to join, reasons to stay and reasons to engage. Let’s not go into it in detail here, but here are a few signals:

  • Wages are flatlining, while costs for essentials like housing and travel are going up (and everyone knows it). Most people coming into the workplace today see home ownership as a distant dream, not the purpose of their career.
  • The working week is eating into evenings and weekends — especially with the launch of ‘social working’ tools such as Facebook Workplace, Slack, Trello and Office 365 (note the ‘365’).
  • Millennials coming into the workplace increasingly see starting their own business as a preferred career path to staying with ours.

In the short term, businesses have focused on the sharp end of the talent challenge — recruitment. But there’s little point making an impressive case for joining, if any recruit can discover the reality about a company’s working culture and practises by spending a few minutes online. And that’s why, over time, it’s the employee experience that has taken centre stage — an experience organisations have tried to distil into the ubiquitous Employee Value Proposition.

So why is the Employee Value Proposition failing to deliver? In truth, most are still focused on tangible outcomes and benefits like pay, benefits, training and career advancement. Those are incredibly important. But they’re hygiene factors. And any other business can provide them as well or better than you can.

There’s a missed opportunity here. If we see work as simply providing tangible, extrinsic value, we’re missing the point. Because to live our lives we don’t just need physical resources. We need emotional resources. Things like:

  • Self-esteem — valuing oneself
  • Enthusiasm — motivating action
  • Attachment — emotional bonds
  • Optimism — confidence and hope

They’re what we all need in order to be able to get out of bed in the morning. And any employer that can provide them brings us value far beyond a pay packet, a training programme and some free croissants. At GOOD we call this Emotional Capital. It’s a vital resource that people derive from their relationships with organisations and people. It’s a resource people can pay back — by contributing more, by staying longer (even when a better offer arrives), by being loyal. Or spend — by spreading the word to others (others who might provide your next source of talent).

Emotional capital, in short, is what your business pays people beyond money. It should go without saying that it’s far easier to deliver emotional capital if your business has a purpose beyond profit — especially one that its people can understand and feel part of. For others, internal initiatives such as fundraising and volunteering, diversity & inclusion and sustainability can help to generate emotional capital by resonating with human values, not just business ones.

Either way, invest in delivering emotional capital through your Employee Value Proposition, and you’re effectively giving everyone in your team a payrise. One they’ll potentially value more than money itself.