MetLife Needed to Improve Its Brand To Reduce Turnover, SHRM Conference Told

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine

June 29 --MetLife had a major turnover problem a few years ago but was able to solve it by developing an employer value proposition (EVP) to strengthen its employer brand, David Henderson, chief talent officer and senior vice president of HR global functions at the insurance giant's New York office, recounted June 29 at the Society for Human Resource Management's 67th Annual Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas.

“We were losing close to a quarter of the people we were hiring” at the management level, Henderson said. Internal surveys revealed that 55 percent of these employees had joined MetLife because of career opportunities, but 47 percent of those who left the company did so because of dissatisfaction with advancement opportunities.

The company turned this situation around by developing an EVP to improve its brand. Steven Z. Ehrlich, global vice president, talent development at New York City-based TMP Worldwide Advertising & Communications LLC, a recruitment advertising agency that worked with MetLife, explained the distinction this way: “Your employer brand is what people say about your company. The employer value proposition is what you want people to say about your company.”

He told the conference that five “key considerations” are involved in developing an EVP:

•  Engage the business leaders.

•  Do enough research, but not too much so that the process doesn't get bogged down in “paralysis by analysis.”

•  For international companies, reach out to your global markets. “You can't be a North American company that claims to be global,“ Ehrlich said. Henderson said MetLife “engaged our global partners all the way through this process.”

•  Balance the company's strengths as an employer with stretching for more. “You need to be aspirational,” Ehrlich said.

•  “Make sure the best aspects of your corporate brand carry through to your employer brand,” Ehrlich said.

 

'Start Inside Before You Go Outside.'

EVP must start inside the business, Ehrlich said. “You have to make sure you start inside before you go outside, so you're not saying something [about your company] that isn't true,” he said. “Then you have a sense of where you can go and need to go.”

Next comes competitor analysis, and the development of “pillars of strength,” or statements about the company's strengths as an employer, based on interviews with employees, Ehrlich said.

“The pillars don't change, but how you communicate about them may change--dial some up, dial some down,” he added. The company should test the appeal, authenticity and credibility of the draft EVP pillars and creative concepts globally, Ehrlich said.

In MetLife's case, core themes were: “MetLife is leading transformation of an industry, the work we do makes a difference, collaborative culture is key to success, [and we are] inspired and enabled to realize career potential.”

“Some of this was aspirational” at the time it was first drafted, Ehrlich said, “but the people who were surveyed felt that MetLife had demonstrated a commitment to achieving them.” Those areas that needed work included global transformation and a sense among employees that they had career development potential at the company. “We have moved the needle” on them since the EVP research began, Ehrlich said.

Communicating the EVP

In order to broadly communicate MetLife's EVP globally, Henderson said the company took a number of steps:

•  holding employee focus groups;

•  conducting EVP training with employer brand guidelines;

•  integrating the interview/selection and onboarding processes with the EVP;

•  identifying employee career paths and profiles, because “employees are joining for a career experience as opposed to just for a particular role”;

•  filming day-in-the-life employee videos;

•  rallying employees to serve as brand ambassadors;

•  developing and distributing brochures to both employees and external candidates about MetLife's EVP--the brochures show actual MetLife employees, not stock images, “because insurance is seen as a gray, faceless business”; and

• branding MetLife's career site with the EVP and new content, such as career paths.

 

As a result of the new EVP, Henderson said, “assimilation of new employees has improved” to the point that “only 7 percent [of management recruits] are leaving after two years,” as opposed to 25 percent before.

In addition, he said, retention of enterprise talent has increased, “executive search firms are telling our story” and the candidate experience has been improved. “Over half the successors on our succession chart have been brought in over the past three years,” Henderson said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at mbermangorvine@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com