Article: Employees increasingly seek value and purpose at work: Michelle Leung, HR Officer, Cigna International Markets

Employee Relations

Employees increasingly seek value and purpose at work: Michelle Leung, HR Officer, Cigna International Markets

Therefore, employee value propositions of a company must be unique, relevant, and compelling – and these factors should address why candidates should join and why employees should stay, says Michelle Leung, HR Officer, Cigna International Markets.
Employees increasingly seek value and purpose at work: Michelle Leung, HR Officer, Cigna International Markets

Nearly two-thirds of US-based employees, surveyed in a McKinsey study, said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. And over half stated they are rethinking the type of work they do.  Employees today want their employers to recognize their value and provide them work that comes with a strong sense of community as well as purpose. 

As a result, leaders are forced to respond to such competing demands with a “more human and purpose-driven employee value proposition” in order to support the teams while being able to drive business performance at the same time, says Michelle Leung, HR Officer, Cigna International Markets, in an interaction with us.

Michelle is the HR officer for Cigna International Markets and has over 20 years of international business and HR experience. Prior to joining Cigna in June 2011, she spent 10 years at Goldman Sachs Asia holding a variety of roles with the last one being Asia Head of Wellness and Global Ventures. 

Here are the edited excerpts.

Two years of disruption has highlighted the importance of employee value proposition (EVP) and organizations are strengthening their EVP equation to attract and retain talent. How will this evolve in 2022 and beyond?

The expectations of the employee experience have shifted considerably in the last two years and I believe these trends will continue to define EVP equations in the years to come. 

Over the course of the pandemic, people have developed a new sense of awareness and worth for themselves as well as the world around them. This has prompted them to demand more personal value and purpose from both life and work. 

Research that we have done at Cigna is aligned with this as we see employees increasingly looking for work that gives them purpose, opportunity, connectivity, and recognition. They want employers to recognize their value and provide value to them that comes with a strong sense of community as well as purpose-driven work. 

Leaders will have to acknowledge this truth and respond to such competing pressures with a more human and purpose-driven employee value proposition in order to support the teams while being able to drive business performance at the same time. 

Do you think that EVP works better when leveraged as an attraction factor, or more as a retention factor?

To attain the best talent in a competitive market, a good EVP will have to address both. 

After two years of disruption amid the pandemic, the job market is predominantly candidate-driven. Candidates now have distinct bargaining power – talent is now picking us. The questions that determine our EVP are now, “how do we become the employer of choice? How can we trigger our perfect candidates’ interest by differentiating Cigna from our competitors?”

Painting an ideal picture of what it is like at Cigna during the hiring stage is important and something fairly straightforward. The harder part is ensuring that we are consistently delivering on our promised EVP as it is critical to employee engagement and retention in a highly competitive job market. 

The EVP applies to any prospective candidate’s employee experience, so it must apply to both attraction and retention. 

There often seems to be a bit of a gap between what prospective hires are looking for and what the HR team is prioritizing. What are your thoughts on this?

A company’s vision and mission, workplace culture and values have become increasingly important job considerations. As a result, HR must prioritize how we operationalize our vision which ultimately defines our organizational culture. This is the premise of Cigna’s People Strategy framework, which focuses on three key pillars: ensuring our people are excited to go to work each day, growing exceptional leaders, and building an environment where talent thrives. 

Value alignment is critical at the interviewing stage, for both the employer and candidate – it is an opportunity to bridge the gap between the priorities of HR/the company and the priorities of prospective candidates. At the hiring stage, if we are not able to truly gauge how well a prospective employee personally aligns with our values and strategic goals, we run the risk of hiring someone who doesn’t quite have the right fit. 

Value alignment, or being a “good fit”, does not mean we should hire people who are like us but rather that we should actively look for people who challenge our thinking, expand our perspectives, and make us better leaders.

What do you think are the top factors that a company needs in its employer brand today? 

Today, a company’s EVP needs to be unique, relevant, and compelling – these factors should address why candidates should join and why employees should stay. Candidates will ask employers: “why should I work here instead of somewhere else? What can you offer me that other companies cannot?” A unique EVP will highlight the answers to these questions. It is also important that EVPs are relevant to candidates and employees, tailored to their career stage and respective needs. 

Finally, an EVP is made up of several components, including vision and mission, values, and culture. This is what makes for a compelling EVP – one that inspires. 

What do you see as the top-of-mind characteristics of your organization’s employee value proposition? 

Our EVP continues to evolve alongside the company and the needs of our employees – it is not stagnant. At Cigna, presenting ourselves to prospective candidates doesn’t start with stating the EVP. We begin by asking them, “What difference ​​​​​​​will you make?”

We follow that with a statement of our purpose - to help everyone live healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives, and call on our candidates to join us in making progress towards this goal. It states our purpose, it’s easy to understand, and it establishes an emotional connection because it’s also directly linked to our mission statement: to improve health, well-being and peace of mind of those we serve. 

That is how we position our EVP – developing synergy with the candidate by asking them how their purpose aligns with ours. In doing so, we are letting employees take ownership of their future and the future we’re shaping together from the get-go. 

When communicating your EVP to talent outside the company, what strategy works to reach out? Do you think different approaches are needed for different demographics?

Communicating our EVP is central to creating a positive candidate experience. We want to establish our EVP at the earliest opportunity, which means we occasionally start with head-hunters to make sure they can articulate our EVP effectively.

We also recognize that our candidates across different demographics have varying needs therefore it’s important to leverage different communication channels to create the right experience at the right time. While job postings and career sites may reach the more active candidates, we always consider how social media, recruitment events and marketing campaigns can speak to, and connect with more passive candidates. 

It is also crucial to align with our promised EVP in all our actions during the hiring process. For example, we optimize our interview experience for candidates by asking value-based questions, which also creates the opportunity for value alignment. This continues throughout the hiring stage, from the “decision experience” to the “first-day experience.” 

Learn how some organisations are beating the great resignation by #ReimaginingEVP at People Matters TechHR SEA 2022. Click here to know more

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Topics: Employee Relations, #GreatPowerShift, #TechHRSG

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