EVP, CSR & ESG: The Acronyms Impacting Your Talent Attraction & Retention
- Posted by Laura Lissett
- March 23, 2023
In a skills-short market, businesses across all sectors are looking more closely at their strategies for attracting and retaining their talent. And whilst a focus on employer branding has been a part of business DNA for a number of years (prevalent in the early 1990s and usually straddling both the marketing and HR functions), the last decade has seen a new phrase coined that takes the concept a step further.
The Employer Value Proposition (EVP) has become somewhat of a buzzword more recently – especially as businesses operate in an increasingly competitive and borderless world that is economically volatile.
Pioneer of employer branding research, Brett Minchington defined an EVP in 2005 as “a set of associations and offerings provided by an organisation in return for the skills, capabilities, and experiences an employee brings to the organisation.”
In simple terms, it is the way that businesses differentiate themselves in their particular market allowing them to not only attract and recruit ‘right fit’ new employees but also impact the engagement and retention of existing staff members.
Why Your EVP Could Be Your MVP
While there seems to be more jargon and acronyms than ever – what is clear is that it is more important than ever for law firms to communicate the compelling reasons why future hires should choose to work with/ for them.
In the past, many businesses assumed the key to a successful EVP was simply offering their team the best salary and benefits. However, teams today are looking for more than just financial value in their careers.
As attitudes to the workplace have changed, so have priorities as legal professionals now have more opportunities than ever to consider where, how, and when they work.
Vacancies offering fully remote or hybrid contracts means that staff are no longer restricted by geography when assessing new opportunities in the market, and with the net cast wider – so too are the opportunities (and indeed, competition).
Fundamentally you need to communicate all the specific and unique benefits an employee can expect to receive when they join your business. These should seek, where possible, to differentiate yourself from competitors operating in the same region and/or practice area; describing (and making tangible) what the business stands for – vision, culture, and working environment.
According to Gartner, a leader in people management, an EVP can massively strengthen your position in the hiring landscape and improves your chances of retaining talent, decreasing annual employee turnover by just under 70%, whilst increasing ‘new hire commitment’ by nearly 30%.
The War For Talent Is Over. Talent Won.
The quote above by PwC’s US Chairman, Tim Ryan in October last year continues to do the rounds as the UK’s drought of talent is still felt across many industries and professional sectors. As highlighted in a recent article on Maddyness, UK unemployment rates remain at a historic low of 3.75%, and with vacancies still at heady heights (compared to pre-pandemic levels), there remains a disconnect between demand and supply.
Furthermore, those businesses that were proactive in securing talent by offering inflated salaries may no longer have this option against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, and squeezed budgets.
And whilst this may on the surface start to level the playing field between small and medium-sized firms who couldn’t compete on price, the challenge around standing out on the things that matter very much remains.
Creating a stand-out working culture and work environment, and offering staff a holistic package of perks and rewards is only the first step, however. Finding innovative, bold, and creative ways to communicate this externally (and through internal channels) is key – and should go beyond one-dimensional lists on websites and job descriptions.
Attracting The New Generation Of Legal Employees
It is a well-publicised fact that Generation Z, the youngest generation to approach the working world, will soon surpass Millennials as the most populous generation on earth. By 2030, this group will make up 30% of the workforce, bringing new demands, expectations, and priorities for employers to consider.
Often raised by innovative millennials, Gen Z is the most diverse and educated age group in the professional world today. Born into a connected, digital, and empathetic world they spend approximately half of their waking hours interacting with technology. Shaped by an era of social feeds and internet culture, the slew of powerful social justice movements they’ve witnessed in recent years have given them a unique sensibility and a strong stance regarding ethical business practices and equity.
Generation Z undoubtedly has several valuable characteristics to bring to the legal landscape, yet their approach to the workplace may cause certain challenges for business leaders as they aren’t motivated or moved by the same things as their millennial parents (we looked at some of these recently in our detailed guide on Motivating Gen Z Employees).
What has been already noted, however, is that this demographic cohort (known colloquially as ‘zoomers’) is emerging as the ‘sustainability generation’ – impacted massively by global events like the Pandemic which, according to Forbes, didn’t start the sustainability revolution necessarily, but certainly put it into overdrive (with Gen Z in the driver’s seat).
Attracting and retaining this generation will therefore need to focus on green and eco-credentials, and general CSR initiatives as part of a wider employment proposal that is demonstrably ethical, moral, and has a societal purpose.
CSR & ESG – as easy as ABC?
Employer value propositions are evolving, due to shifting business priorities, working patterns, and employee values as well as external factors like the economy and political landscape. A focus on well-being and wellness initiatives, work-life balance, diversity, and inclusion are continuing themes setting value propositions apart across the legal landscape, alongside programmes and statements centred around Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
But with a new acronym on the block for Law Firms to get their heads around – ESG… it’s no wonder there is some confusion around where businesses should place their focus amidst this ‘alphabet soup’ of initiatives.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a business approach designed around making a social impact and focus beyond profits. It is designed (or should be) to benefit society and the local community as well as the environment for the collective good – and in turn will also, by proxy, enhance the firm’s image, generate more business, and earn customer and employee loyalty.
It is generally split into 4 areas:
All are aimed at providing benefits to both the general public as well as company shareholders and employees.
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) isn’t quite the same – although according to a Harvard Law School study in 2021, both terms do appear interchangeable. Rather, this programme is more data driven, and increasingly an act of corporate compliance; defined as ‘a set of standards measuring a business’s impact on society, the environment, and how transparent and accountable it is.’
In brief, the three areas or factors look at:
- Environmental – a firm’s impact on the environment, such as carbon emissions, waste management, and resource usage.
- Social – a firm’s impact on society, including issues such as labour practices, human rights, and engagement with the local community.
- Governance – a firm’s management and oversight, such as board and management structure, executive compensation and remuneration, and shareholder rights.
ESG has become increasingly important for investors and businesses as stakeholders demand greater accountability and transparency on sustainability and ethical issues. The key difference therefore compared to CSR, is that it is viewed as the outcome (measured and reported on) of a firm’s sustainability, whilst CSR focuses on a firm’s voluntary actions to improve its impact.
An even simpler comparison by Akepa:
- CSR: a general sustainability framework, mainly used by companies
- ESG: a measurable sustainability assessment, popular with investors
As a Partner, Senior, or Hiring professional within a law firm, getting your head around the many acronyms and initiatives is the first hurdle in understanding the evolving values that current (and prospective) employees have when it comes to their employer.
Understanding what these shifting ideologies are is critical when it comes to retaining, engaging, and attracting talent – although it is equally as important not to pay lip service or view things like your EVP as a box-ticking exercise.
What is clear, is that embracing CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has become a necessity for law firms around the globe, not least because it remains high on the agenda of both Millennials and Gen Z employees who are ever critical of their employer’s ethical stance, reputation in the market, and values that they hope will mirror their own.
In a LinkedIn News article from earlier this year, it was reported that these demographic cohorts actively consider “conscious quitting” if the company doesn’t align with their values. It also highlighted research from KMPG which stated that 46% of employees want their employer to ‘demonstrate a commitment to environmental, social and governance’, with 1 in 5 turning down the offer of a new role if they felt a disconnect.
Clayton Legal’s Commitment
Of course, CSR, ESG, EVP, and any other business-related acronym are not just relevant to the legal sector.
As a prominent Northwest employer that has been in business for nearly 25 years, we also recognise the importance of our own value proposition when it comes to our people and our community.
Our commitment to CSR can be seen here, where we detail our approach, programme, and statement of intent as we strive to become a socially responsible business, both internally and externally – making a positive impact on our people and workplace, our clients and suppliers, our local community, and our local and global environment.
The purpose of our programme is to sustain a business that is successful and respected in its ethical standing by our stakeholders. These include candidates, clients, investors, regulators, suppliers, and the wider community.
We are particularly passionate about supporting causes that have roots and impact here in the UK, and in the Northwest. One initiative that we have recently joined and committed to is Ecologi, a certified B-Corp social enterprise, and platform for Climate Action; helping individuals, families, and businesses become Climate Positive.
This market leader is certainly gaining traction and publicity, and we are delighted to join the other 40,000 members in taking simple, but impactful climate action. This year we have committed to fund the planting of trees in the UK for every placement we make and are also involved in the Beta trial to calculate our carbon footprint, and put plans in place to reduce our emissions.
You can see the impact of Ecologi’s work and their UK reforestation projects here.
In addition, Managing Director, Lynn Sedgwick and Performance and Development Director, Louise Kearns joined the Good Growth Programme in February this year, ran by Lancaster University and supported by Boost, Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub.
The 5-month Programme was underpinned by world-leading research produced by Lancaster University Management School and focused on business strategies that are centred around the environment, community, and social justice. It was a great chance to connect and collaborate with other SME leaders and contribute to solving local and global challenges.
About Clayton Legal
Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals, and legal IT personnel to practice managers.
If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help – whether that’s on a contingency or retained basis. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.