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 they bring to a company. An EVP defines what the organization stands for by describing the company’s characteristics, benefits, and ways of working. As the deal struck between a company and its employees, the EVP differentiates an employer from its competition.
Why Is an EVP Important?
A strong EVP provides the foundation for a company’s brand, its internal retention efforts, and its external recruitment strategies. 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) and is then “marketed” to the workforce. A well-crafted EVP that truly reflects the employee experience and company culture can bring big financial benefits, too: “Organizations that effectively deliver on their EVP can decrease annual employee turnover by 69 percent.”1
Creating an EVP
One mistake companies often make when creating an EVP is focusing on the company’s leadership rather than on its employees. To be an effective aid for recruitment and retention, an EVP statement must reflect the value to the employee, not the value to the company’s leadership or its bottom line. To develop an EVP in the words of employees and potential candidates, a company should:
- Interview executives and conduct workshops with key stakeholders to understand talent priorities from a strategic perspective
- Use qualitative focus groups to understand employee values and perceptions
- Test branding and marketing support (including optimal and differentiated messaging) internally
It’s easy to throw a few value propositions into a statement and post it on a careers site or stencil it on a lobby wall. But creating an EVP that truly reflects a company’s current values requires a more deliberate approach, starting with finding honest answers to the question “How is company morale?” If an EVP describes how much employees love working for an organization and why, but current employees roll their eyes whenever they hear it, the organization has two options: rewrite the EVP to more accurately reflect reality, or focus on improving current employees’ morale before marketing that EVP to potential employees.
Improving morale often seems like a never-ending, overly broad task whose parameters vary based on who’s being asked about them. (Not only are employees the best advocates for a company’s brand, but they can sniff out an insincere statement from a mile away.) HR professionals know that they’ll never make 100 percent of their employees happy 100 percent of the time. But they can try to unearth the one or two common factors that may be having a negative impact on employee morale. An anonymous survey can be a great starting point for gathering this information (though, if company morale is low enough, employees might not believe that a survey is truly anonymous-and this doubt can undermine the usefulness of this tool). Well-executed surveys can help establish trust between the HR department and employees, and allow HR not only to isolate the negatives, but also to uncover the positives.
What current employees love about the company is the best foundation of a strong EVP statement. For example, if most employees rate the CEO negatively (look at the company’s Glassdoor reviews for indications of this) but love their autonomy and lack of micromanagement, the organization’s EVP could focus on how employees are empowered to make their own decisions and take risks without consequences, how they feel that their creativity is rewarded, and so on.
An employee survey can also help identify what can be easily fixed from a human resources perspective. Asking employees about their interests and preferences is far better than making assumptions (or not caring at all) about what they want. For example, one CEO loved to promote the fact that he met one-on-one with every single employee, every quarter, but his employees saw those meetings as akin to “being called to the principal’s office” and took as criticism every suggestion or comment made during those interactions. When asked what they preferred, the employees indicated that they wanted more communication with their direct supervisors. They didn’t care whether the CEO knew them personally or understood what they did at the company. They did care, though, about whether the CEO could steer the company in a direction that would make a positive impact on its bottom line. As a result of this survey, the one-on-one meetings with the CEO were eliminated, and he started providing more regular and more transparent updates on the company’s financial health.
Knowing what employees want and value is essential to crafting a successful EVP. However, employers should not assume that they know which parts of the employment package employees view as the most significant. Employers that assume incorrectly could miss critical opportunities to emphasize how the organization provides what employees prize most.
Examples of EVP Statements
When creating an EVP, companies need to consider that the most significant contributors to retention are development and career opportunities, and the relationships that employees build with managers and peers within an organization. The most important question a company can ask itself when creating an EVP is “What do we currently offer to our employees in exchange for their time and effort?”
Each EVP is unique to that company’s culture, interests, strengths, and goals. These examples from the past several years illustrate how EVPs can vary widely in content and tone:
- “Be the person your dog thinks you are.”-BARK
- “We’re building a company people love. A company that will stand the test of time. So we invest in our people and optimize for your long-term happiness.”-HubSpot
- “We work hard, throw Nerf darts even harder, and have a whole lot of fun.”-Yelp
- “At Goldman Sachs, you will make an impact.”-Goldman Sachs
- “Do cool things that matter.”-Google
- “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
- “We’re Shopify. Our mission is to make commerce better for everyone-but we’re not the workplace for everyone. We thrive on change, operate on trust, and leverage the diverse perspectives of people on our team in everything we do. We solve problems at a rapid pace. In short, we get shit done.”-Shopify
- “You can make a difference by helping to build a smarter, safer, and more sustainable world.”-Honeywell
- “Lead the future of Beauty. When you love your work and the people you work with, amazing things can happen.”-L’Oréal
- “We lead. We invent. We deliver. We use the power of sport to move the world.”-Nike
A Useful Tool
A clear and descriptive EVP statement allows a company to easily communicate the value it offers and should be shared with employees, candidates, and new hires. The Society for Human Resource Management encourages employers to review their EVPs regularly to make sure that they remain relevant. Asking EVP-related questions when employees join or leave the company, during performance reviews, and in employee surveys can provide a steady stream of current data about how employees perceive the EVP. Recruitment and retention metrics can also indicate how well the EVP fits with employee needs and expectations.
1Gartner. Undated. “Strengthen Your Employee Value Proposition.” Gartner website, www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/insights/employee-engagement-performance/employee-value-proposition.