PAID parental leave schemes have been hogging the headlines, but attracting and retaining key staff is really built around an entire employee value proposition (EVP) according to ‘head hunting' firm Arete Executive.

Fiona Cochran urges business leaders to consider entire employee value proposition.


Arete Executive managing partner Fiona Cochran finds her executive search firm is increasingly identifying and giving advice across a broad spectrum of businesses on attractive and successful EVP systems. They are often the major point of difference between competing organisations.

"As an executive search specialist or ‘head hunter' our role is to identify and proactively target potential candidates of interest for our clients management and leadership teams," Ms Cochran said.

"We focus on selling the key deliverables of the role and the sizzle of the organisation.

"EVPs or Employee Value Propositions are what differentiates you from your competitors. They are the things your employees brag about to their mates at the Saturday barbecue.

"It includes community involvement and time off for volunteering, work life balance policies, parental leave, mentoring programs, time off for study, the ability to work from home, company lunches and even casual Friday," she said.

"These are all activities that boost engagement and offer differentiators when attracting and growing your business."

Ms Cochran said interest in developing unique EVP cultures had grown in the wake of the shake-outs caused by the global financial crisis as business leaders struggled to make their companies more effective and efficient. Key staff turnover and the loss of experienced people was expensive and often proved debilitating for business.

"I was having lunch with a national HR manager for a professional services firm last week and we were talking about market perception and key differentiators of their company to their competitors," Ms Cochran said. "Having recently had my second child I asked her about their parental leave program. 

"Noting that many service driven organisations are still yet to determine how to best support flexible work environments particularly for women with children, she went on to discuss how they had one of the best parental leave and flexible work policies for mothers that she had come across. With a large female team this naturally was a key selling point for candidate attraction and retention.

"At the end of our discussion she mentioned that she didn't have children and was torn with the idea that organisations are finally on the right track for working mothers and fathers alike, however for those without children it was if you were being penalised."

Ms Cochran said it was issues like these, bubbling below the surface, that business leaders are currently struggling with and the solution was to focus on developing an EVP that had real meaning for all staff.

Arete Executive conducts workshops on EVP development titled Thank God It's Monday Culture - Building a Highly Engaged Workforce.

Arete Executive is a current member of Queensland Leaders, the organisation helping to mentor and develop the next generation of leading companies in Queensland.