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The complete guide to building a unique Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

What is an employer value proposition? Why should your organisation invest in one? And, how do you create a compelling one?

Today, we see businesses across the globe undergoing rapid transformation as they adapt to meet the new normal. The most talented individuals remain in high demand with firms crying out for experts in business areas such as digital, marketing, IT, project management, and, in some industries, niche STEM skills – albeit, not necessarily on a permanent basis..

Anyone with the high-demand skills that facilitate wide-ranging organisational transformation and success is going to be highly selective when choosing to either stay with the company they’re at or deciding which company to switch to. They know their true value, even in today’s uncertain market.

To attract and retain this highly-skilled talent, and indeed others, you need to make your organisation an employer of choice within your industry and beyond — ensuring you can tap into the right talent and future proof this pipeline.

So how can HR and Talent Acquisition leaders attract and retain talent in today’s skill--short, competitive talent market?

The answer: by creating a compelling Employer Value Proposition (EVP) that facilitates the retention of your best current employees and attracts future employees who will drive real organisational change.

In this piece, we’ll address some of the most important questions for HR leaders today: what is an EVP, why should your organisation invest in one, and how do you create an attractive and unique EVP that will attract and retain top talent in the years to come?

Read on to find out the answers.

What is an Employer Value Proposition (EVP)?

An EVP, according to Link Humans, can be defined as ‘the unique set of benefits which an employee receives in return for the skills, attributes and experience they bring to a company.’

The most successful EVPs are holistic, people-focused and culture-driven. Gone are the days when the core competencies of an EVP were remuneration, bonus, holidays and personal development. Expectations have changed dramatically — especially as millennials and Generation Z become an increasingly integral part of modern workforces.

Aspects such as supporting a company’s purpose-led mission, being part of a high-performing team or working in an inclusive environment, flexible working practices, remote work opportunities, wellness programs and a desire to work for businesses that work for more than just profit have all come into play.

In addition, many workers, particularly those that are highly skilled, now demand the latest technology, innovative working practices, meaningful work, and a company that has a positive reputation both within their industry, and the wider community.

Of course, no employer can be all things to all people. Your EVP should, therefore, be directed to your target market, while incorporating some of the elements just discussed.

To answer demands effectively, companies need to clearly define where they stand. The EVP should be aspirational but also grounded in the reality and reflective of the genuine experience of your employees. Anything less will be called out as inauthentic!

Broadly, positioning territories can be put into these nine categories:

  • Purpose
  • Teamwork
  • Autonomy
  • Innovation
  • Learning
  • Progression
  • Performance
  • Reward
  • Status

Source: Universum

Employers usually select one territory as their core stance, with several supporting pillars that further reflect their EVP themes and priorities. These components then need to be brought to life and demonstrated by proof points, employer brand content and employee story telling.

An EVP is useless if not effectively activated - it must be an integral part of how a company operates and proactively targeted towards relevant talent segments, not just how a company wants to be seen.

Why should your organisation invest in creating an EVP?

Your company needs a strong employer value proposition – a compelling answer to the question, ‘Why would a highly talented person choose to work here?’”
Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod, The War For Talent

An effective talent strategy requires a clear and concise EVP. This is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it gives people a clear rationale to join the company and to stay.

It also acts as a consistent platform for all employer brand communications to ensure that any potential new hires are absolutely clear as to what it’s like to work at the business. It prevents mixed messages or potential increased attrition rates due to a miscommunication around the likes of corporate culture, for example. It is also a business’s opportunity to be different and to positively influence how it is perceived as an employer.

Without a clear EVP, businesses will find it increasingly difficult to attract, hire and retain the talent they need to drive success. But done well, an EVP can lead to real business benefits.

According to research by Gartner, organisations that effectively deliver on their EVP can reduce the compensation premium by 50% and reach 50% deeper into the labour market when candidates view an EVP as attractive.

In other words, by defining a clear, compelling and attractive EVP, a business can attract more highly skilled workers, without needing to break the bank to do so.

As businesses look to hire in-demand talent to drive transformation, while simultaneously cutting costs in response to an uncertain global economic outlook, investing in an EVP should, in this light, be business-critical.

The same Gartner study also reveals that organisations that effectively deliver on their EVP can decrease annual staff turnover by 69% and increase the commitment of new hires by almost 30%. Though some businesses are laying off non-essential workers, they still need to ensure they don’t lose their best talent, particularly if they want to develop and grow their business. Once again, investing in an EVP makes good business sense.

It’s now increasingly vital that your EVP shouldn’t solely be seen as an investment exclusive to your permanent workforce. Recent research reveals that the shift towards organisations using a holistic workforce ecosystem to deliver on key strategic objectives shows no sign of slowing. And, with the demand for remote and flexible work set to increase following the impact of the pandemic, coupled with businesses looking for greater agility and flexibility, engagement with external contractors and temporary workers is set to rise. As a snapshot, the ONS revealed that between 19th and 30th January 2022, more than a third – 36% – of working adults reported having worked from home at least once in the last seven days.

Given this current environment, it’s vitally important that businesses invest in an EVP for both their permanent and contingent workforce.

A remote DevOps engineer or a cybersecurity expert working on a six-month contract may not ever come physically in contact with your business but they are still likely to be interested in how well your company remunerates, how their work with your business can help them develop their career, and increasingly, how your business is seen in the wider world (and thus, on their CV).

For businesses, it’s vital to be seen as an outstanding employer for contingent workers, particularly as contingent worker engagements grow in the years to come.

How to design an outstanding EVP?

Having defined what an EVP is, and why your business should invest in one, we’re now going to discuss how you can create an outstanding EVP for your business.

Understanding your current position

Understanding how powerful your offering is to present and potential employees is an essential first step to designing an outstanding EVP.

To do this, you need to assess what it’s actually like to work at your organisation, how attractive your current working environment is, and how communicable your company culture and vision currently is.

By doing so, you will be able to get a better understanding of what your company is, and isn’t, and learn which of these elements are currently strong.

This process should not be done by HR professionals and leadership teams alone. It’s important that you get critical feedback from current employees, former employees, and even candidates who have turned your company down. By going through this process, you can get a true understanding of your current standing.

The most common approach is utilising employee surveys, workshops and focus groups. In the case of current employees, asking questions such as ‘what motivates you at work’, ‘what improvements would you like to see’ ‘how important is career growth to you’ and ‘how important is the company culture to your work’ is a good place to start.

This is by no means the full extent of questions you could be asking, and you should, of course ask different questions to those in different positions, and tailor them to your own business.

But through assessing some of the key drivers for workers today (as alluded to in the ‘What is an Employer Value Proposition’ section), and creating questions that align with these motivations, you’ll be able to gain a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses in the eyes of current, former and potential employees.

Defining the individual points of your EVP

Once survey results and focus group sessions have been analysed, you can start building your new EVP. This should, done well, truly reflect who you are as a business.

It’s also worth analysing the careers pages on your competitors’ websites at this stage, to learn how they address the concerns, wants and ambitions of people working in your sector.

Ideally, your EVP should be able to flex in order to suit different audiences you need to appeal to. A technical director is likely to have very different priorities to an accounting intern, for example. Likewise, workers who are permanent or contingent will have differing priorities (though there is often some overlap).

Creating an EVP is far from a straightforward process. As with all strategic endeavours, it takes time. But done well, it can set your business on the right path for years to come, allowing you to continually attract, hire and retain the best talent

Write and promote your EVP

Once you’ve fully defined what matters to people in your industry and organisation, how you differ from your competition, and what sets you apart, the logical thing to do next is write a statement that encapsulates your EVP.

Importantly, you need to ensure that your EVP statement is unique to your business. While it’s fine to research and learn from best practices, your EVP statement needs to be truly authentic. It also needs to be clear, positive and inspirational — in alignment with what your ideal employee desires, and what your business actually offers.

Put simply, it needs to be memorable and grounded in reality.

Once your EVP is clearly defined, activating and promoting it to the wider world is the next step. Failing to do this renders the whole process a potential waste of time. After all, if no-one is aware of your EVP, what is its purpose?

Even businesses who do go to the effort of investing in an EVP often communicate it solely on their careers page, which is a mistake. To create an exceptional EVP, you need to take things a few steps further.

Start by promoting your EVP on your company blog, social media accounts and company newsletters. At the same time, share your EVP internally through internal communications platforms, and assign employee ambassadors to communicate your EVP with their own personal social networks.

Ultimately, your EVP should be a core component of your business’ content, social media and communications strategies.

Regularly review your EVP

As we know, companies shift direction on a regular basis. Your business might undergo a rebrand, for example. Equally, it could be acquired or merged, or a newly appointed CEO or People Director might arrive with a new vision for who you are as an employer.

As a result, it’s important to periodically review your EVP to ensure it continues to reflect who you are as a business, and also, to re-examine the priorities of talent within your business and the wider industry. As before, feedback from surveys and focus groups are key to this.

Regularly measuring the impact of your EVP is also vital. Are you getting higher quality and a higher volume of candidates for roles? Are you seeing a positive impact on employee attrition? Is your EVP content gaining traction through your blog and social media posts?

These are all important factors to consider to ensure that your EVP is leading to a real-world impact.