At its heart, an employee value proposition (EVP) is the unique set of benefits an employee receives in return for the skills, capabilities, and experience that he or she brings to a company. Connected to a company’s characteristics and benefits and to the ways of working there, it exemplifies what the organization stands for. As the deal struck between a company and its employee in return for his or her contribution and performance, it defines an employer and differentiates it from its competition.
At the most basic level, an EVP represents everything of value that an employer provides to its employees—pay, benefits, training, career development opportunities, and so on. Not only does an EVP form the foundation of a company brand, but as something that is “marketed” to the workforce, it is critical to all internal retention efforts as well as to all external recruiting efforts.
FOCUS ON THE EMPLOYEES
One mistake a company often makes when creating an EVP is to focus it on the company and its leadership rather than on the employees. For it to be an effective tool for recruitment and retention, an EVP must hold value to the employee—not to the company’s leadership or bottom line (although those can both be welcome side effects of a solid, “walk the talk” EVP). It’s easy to throw a few value propositions into a statement and put it on a career site or have it stenciled on a wall. But an effective EVP must reflect the current values of the workplace—and that means doing some internal research.
Start by looking at morale. If a company’s EVP talks about how much its employees love working there but its current employees roll their eyes whenever they hear it, the organization has two options:
1) rewrite its EVP or 2) focus on improving morale for its current employees before it starts marketing a value proposition to potential employees.
On the surface, improving morale may seem a never-ending, overly broad, and ill-defined task. But because it is key to creating an excellent EVP, it’s a task that HR professionals need to undertake—and it’s a task they need to do well, because not only are employees the best advocates of a company’s brand (so it’s good to have them thinking and talking positively about it), but they can sniff out an insincere EVP statement from a mile away.
It’s impossible to make 100% of an organization’s employees happy 100% of the time, of course. But it is possible to isolate the one or two common complaints that contribute the most to negative employee morale. Anonymous surveys can help shed light not only on employees’ negative perceptions about a company but on their positive feelings as well.
Once both are uncovered, start with the positives. Use what current employees love about the company to form the foundation of a strong EVP statement. If the surveys reveal, for example, that most employees rate the CEO negatively (don’t forget to take a look at Glassdoor reviews, too) but love their autonomy and the fact that they’re not micromanaged, that company’s EVP could focus on the fact that its employees are empowered to make their own decisions and take risks without consequences, and that they feel their creativity is rewarded.
An employee survey can also identify issues that the HR department can easily fix. Consider the example of a company CEO who loved to promote the fact that he met one on one with each employee every quarter. His employees, however, didn’t exactly see those meetings as a benefit: they felt that they were akin to being “called to the principal’s office” and took as criticism every suggestion or comment made during those meetings. When HR surveyed the employees about what they preferred, they said they would rather have more communication with their direct supervisors.
They didn’t care whether the CEO knew them personally or understood what they did at the company, but they did care about whether he could steer the organization in a direction that would have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line. Once HR got this information from the employees, the one-on-one meetings were dropped and the CEO started sending out more regular and transparent updates on the company’s financial health.
In addition to surveys, organizations can employ other strategies to develop an EVP that’s centered on the interests of employees and potential candidates. For example, executive interviews and workshops with key stakeholders can increase understanding of talent priorities from a strategic perspective. Another option, qualitative focus groups, can enrich understanding of employee values and perceptions. And internally tested branding and marketing support (including optimal and differentiated messaging) can also help shape EVP development.
In all cases, however, employers should not assume that they know which parts of the employment package employees view as the most significant. If such assumptions are wrong, a perception gap can result in a weak EVP. And even when employers assume correctly, they could be missing critical opportunities to emphasize how the organization wants to learn about—and provide—what employees prize most.
EXAMPLES OF EVP STATEMENTS
When building an EVP, companies need to remember that the most significant contributors to retention are development and career opportunities. Also important are the relationships and respect that the employee builds within the organization, particularly those with managers and with peers. The most important question to ask when creating a company’s EVP is “What do we currently offer to our employees in exchange for their time and effort?” The following EVP statements answer that question clearly:
- “At Goldman Sachs, you will make an impact.” (Goldman Sachs)
- “From empowering mentorships to customized coaching, PwC provides you with the support you need to help you develop your career. You’ll work with people from diverse backgrounds and industries to solve important problems. Are you ready to grow?” (PwC)
- “You can make a difference by helping to build a smarter, safer, and more sustainable world.” (Honeywell)
- “Do cool things that matter.” (Google)
- “Lead the future of beauty. When you love your work and the people you work with, amazing things can happen.” (L’Oréal)
A POWERFUL TOOL
After developing a clear and descriptive EVP statement, companies should share it with their employees, candidates, and new hires.
Organizations should also follow SHRM’s recommendation to review (and, if necessary, revise) their EVPs to make sure they remain relevant. Asking EVP-related questions when employees join or leave the company, during performance reviews, and in employee surveys can provide ongoing data about how employees perceive the EVP and how it meets their needs and expectations.
About the author: Jessica Miller-Merrell is a workplace change agent focused on human resources and talent acquisition. Named to Haydn Shaughnessy’s 2013 list of top 50 social media power influencers, she’s the founder of Workology (formerly Blogging4Jobs). She can be contacted on Twitter at @jmillermerrell.