Written by Devin DaRif, VP of Employer Brand Insights.
One of the most important tools in talent acquisition and retention is a strongly developed and communicated employer value proposition (EVP). Simply put, your EVP is your promise to current and future employees of what they get from working with you, holistically, from pay to culture to professional development opportunities and everything in between. Much has been written about this bedrock of your employer brand, and many questions still remain as the communities of talent acquisition, human resources and marketing professionals seek to define (and redefine) their companies’ approaches in the ever-increasingly competitive world of recruitment.
Recently, I received some great questions from a client: What is the most effective way to write and present an EVP? Should it include a very short description and be easy to understand? Or should it be written for HR and executives and then communicated in a separate phase of the process?
Having worked with clients large and small, both domestically and for large multinationals, I’ve found the process is the same — it’s just a matter of scale. There are no shortcuts, and the order is important. To answer my client’s questions, this involves looking at two different things: EVP development and EVP activation.
Who Is Your EVP Written For?
Your answer should be: for current and future talent.
It should be short but backed by a great depth of research that could be shared with people who are interested in how it was developed. This is not an academic paper you’re presenting, it’s a chance to shine a light on who you are, why the right people should join your team and why your best people stay. It should motivate and inspire both prospective and current employees.
The full detail of your research is for HR and others internal members and should come beforehand — the EVP is the result and should not only be easy to understand but should resonate with prospective employees.
Developing The EVP
EVP development involves internal and external research — focus groups, secondary research, SWOT analysis, etc. The results give rise to what I’ll call your “EVP pillars.” These are the themes or attributes upon which your EVP rests. They could be things like innovation, supportive leadership, commitment to a cause that supports the greater good and so on. They should be easy to understand, with a very short description. You did the development correctly if you have a prospective employee, a current employee and a member of the leadership team read them and respond as follows.
– Prospective employee:
“That aligns with what I had heard about the company and sounds really interesting. I’d love to keep exploring it as a potential employer, get more information and apply. That’s definitely a company I would want to work for.”
– Current employee:
“True! That’s what I experience, why I love to work here and why I recommend my company to my friends.”
“Those are the values we stand for and stand behind. It’s how we would like to make sure we are perceived externally and it’s aligned with the direction of the company moving forward.”
Not everyone needs to know how the EVP gets developed, but it needs to be created the right way and explained to the right people. Usually, I’ll start with a longer list of options, supported by my research. The exercise is to prioritize and refine them with client input. I usually conduct the selection of the pillars as an interactive session with recruiting, HR, marketing and sometimes key stakeholders from business lines — that way the resulting pillars are a labor of love decided upon alongside your clients. Adoption and promotion of a new EVP are crucial and much easier when stakeholders feel invested in and supportive of the process, as opposed to needing to defend and justify the EVP when the focus should be on its activation.
Activating The EVP
The activation gets more detailed, as you build out your “reasons to believe” and what those pillars mean in different segments of the company or in different markets. For example, let’s take innovation. Innovation might be a core pillar of the company, but what innovation means to an engineer versus someone on the legal team might be totally different. This needs to be explained differently in the context of the position’s work in order to attract new people to those respective teams.
The activation (or communication) of the EVP is a separate phase in the project and has a greater focus on communication channels, mediums, graphic design and experience of collateral. The internal stories and the reasons to believe, captured earlier in the research, are fleshed out creatively in this execution. No one cares what the marketing and HR departments say a company is like. Candidates want and need to hear from the people in the roles they would be working with; it’s more credible, engaging and attractive that way. Think of development as building the skeleton of the EVP, while the activation provides the muscles and gives it life.
What’s the best way to approach activation you might ask? Stay tuned and I’ll tackle that in an incoming article.
Agree? Disagree? Additional thoughts or ideas? Feel free to reach out and continue the conversation!
As seen on Forbes.