The Verit View is that the marketplace for talent is fundamentally changing, challenging business leadership as critically as technological change has, and failure to adjust could cause even the most successful companies to stumble.

Everywhere the Verit team travels these days, conversations with company leaders start out about capital raising, M&A transactions and business strategy – and then they all seem to wind up on the topic of talent. Why can’t we find the right people? Why can’t we keep our best? How can we get workers more engaged?

These leaders know that talent is the foundation for success, crucial in fast-moving markets. But long-held HR models are breaking down. Discussions that used to center around pay, benefits, title and responsibilities now roam far afield. One minute an applicant is inquiring about quality of life issues and the next she’s drilling down into your business strategy like an investor would. A dozen or more elements figure into decisions about taking a job. And it seems entirely unpredictable which ones will matter most to any potential hire. One CEO recently remarked that he’d never been less confident in extending offers, so often has his company been turned down.

What’s more, CEOs tell us they’re losing important employees – managers and skill positions – to industries they never considered competition for talent before. And pulling the usual levers – a raise, a promotion – doesn’t prevent the departures the way it used to. For many companies, the talent squeeze is restraining growth.

The solution to this problem isn’t easy, quick or assured. But visits with some forward-thinking HR consultants in recent months have convinced us at Verit that there is a path toward employee engagement and hiring success for companies willing to make changes. (We find employee-owned companies frequently well-ahead on this path, both by design and because their workers act like the owners they are, creating their own engagement.)

Realizing not just what these new workers want, but how they think. Those of us with 30 years in business may envision a neat, bullet-pointed offer sheet as a proper temptation. But our younger colleagues – more likely to watch a YouTube instructional video than read an owner’s manual – want the facts of employment to add up to a story, or narrative, that will propel their career.

Sitting with Rhonda Newman, senior partner and co-lead of Mercer’s North American talent communications practice, she asks questions one isn’t accustomed to in the corporate realm: How will a new employee fall in love with a job at your company? Over time, how will you keep the spark in the relationship? What’s the company’s plan for making memories with these workers?

A movement known as Employee Value Proposition (EVP) seeks to help companies understand how they’re regarded by modern workers. Sure, break it down into discrete elements like pay, benefits and advancement. But Newman and her Mercer colleagues strive to help companies see the story that ties that all together – and results in devoted and passionate employees, or in a surly crew surfing the job boards.

EVP isn’t a one-time fix. It’s a way of thinking about talent. It’s something you build over time, with huge potential payback. We all want to recruit and retain the best and the brightest.  . Think of EVP as mutual engagement, supporting both ownership and excellence that not only attracts top talent, but keeps them around, ultimately enhancing productivity and profitability for the business.