Building a Potent Brand Identity to Entice Critical Hires
According to a survey by Aon Hewitt, retention woes show no sign of slowing down —more than half of employees surveyed said they were open to leaving their positions in 2016. What
could entice them to stay? The usual suspects — like above average pay and benefits — still top employee wish lists, but hot on their heels is a more interesting employee desire: a workplace that’s a “strong fit with [their] values,” which was cited by 56 percent of survey respondents.
That’s where a well-defined employee value proposition (EVP) comes in. An organization’s EVP speaks to the “why” of working for an organization — a culmination of key benefits, cultural differentiators, and the employer brand — and it helps candidates determine whether the organization is a “strong fit” for them. Recruiting for cultural fit is a big boon to companies; when employees share similar values and goals with each other and with the organization as a whole, that leads to greater efficacy and productivity at work, and employee advocacy outside of work. Plus, it saves on the bottom line too — a study from Columbia University found a strong correlation between an employee’s satisfaction with company culture and turnover intention. Nearly 50 percent of employees who didn’t share a strong cultural fit with the company reported that they were “very likely” to hunt for a new job in the next year — compare that to just 13.9 percent of employees who felt that they did fit with company culture.
A clear, compelling EVP can not only help retain ideal employees, but attract new ones. Here are the keys to developing and disseminating an EVP that’s downright seductive:
Define Your Employee Value Proposition — Not the Other Way Around
Every organization has an EVP, whether or not they’ve actively cultivated it. When organizations aren’t intentional about cultivating their EVP, however, they’ve essentially said it’s a-okay for their EVP to be defined by others. That results in a disjointed message and invites the spread of misinformation about what it’s really like to work at the organization. Without a clearly defined EVP — and a clear plan to get the message in front of the right candidates — then your message can easily be hijacked by that one misleading online review from a disgruntled employee, for example.
Organizations that are serious about attracting the right talent will be intentional about their EVP. They’ll design and refine a roadmap for their ideal EVP until it’s magnetic — while still being honest about the employee experience. And their efforts will pay off, within the realm of talent acquisition and management, and beyond; studies have shown that brands that use their EVP strategically and effectively are five times more likely to have engaged employees, and twice as likely to financially outperform their peers.
Match Employee Expectations Authentically
For an EVP that resonates with high-performing candidates, your message obviously needs to be exciting and enticing. But be careful about overselling the employee experience. As Tom Sarner, at HR Dive, writes: “To keep and attract more of the highest performers, employers need an authentic employee value proposition that sets them apart [...] That would mean a culture where employee expectations and desires are closely aligned with the employment experience offered.”
In short: Don’t sell candidates on an experience they’re not actually going to get. Instead, focus on providing a holistic view of your organization’s employee experience. Promoting your employee development programs as part of your EVP is a smart place to start, but make sure you’re also promoting your company’s values, mission, and overall culture. The EVP is not about any one benefit — like a cool development program, high pay, your “entrepreneurial spirit,” or flexible work schedules — but the whole package. Not to mention, “honesty” is an attractive quality in any employer! The way you present your EVP (i.e. authentically) becomes a part of the EVP itself.
Be Clear About What You Expect in Return
What employees get out of working for your company is only one half of the EVP. The other half? What you expect to get out of your employees. The EVP is all about balance: you do this for us, and we’ll do this for you. It’s tempting to downplay employer expectations and instead play up all the incredible benefits of working for your company. An EVP that’s out of balance, however, is a disservice to both the employer and potential candidates. When you’re clear about employer expectations, you ensure that you’re attracting not just strong talent, but the right talent.
Get Out the Word with an Omni-Channel Approach
Once you’ve developed a clear, authentic EVP, it’s time to get it out in front of the right people by casting a wide net to powerfully — and efficiently — build brand awareness and brand equity. This is where an omni-channel approach to recruitment marketing comes in. Harness the power of social media and other channels besides traditional job boards to start a conversation with candidates about your EVP. And again, the medium doesn’t just deliver the message — it informs it. When you use transparent, open recruiting channels that prioritize communication to share your message — or messages, if you have more than one target audience — transparency and openness become a part of that same message.
Take the omni-channel approach (and your talent cycle) one step further by involving your best brand advocates — your own employees — in disseminating messaging surrounding your EVP. Messaging about your employer brand is always better received when it’s delivered by your employees themselves — it links back to the importance of authenticity for candidates. Think of it as the power of “word of mouth,” as opposed to paid public relations. To put employee advocacy to work for your EVP, harness the power of social media tools that encourage employees to share information about the company — and make it super easy to do so — on their personal accounts regarding hiring, employer brand, and culture.
Plus, the kind of people who work at your organization plays a big part in your EVP. Turning employees into advocates, therefore, has a two-point advantage for your EVP: 1) Your EVP is disseminated far and wide through your employee advocates’ social channels, contributing to an omni-channel approach, and 2) It provides an opportunity for candidates to identify both with the message and the messenger. And if they do identify with the messenger, then working for your organization, with the prospect of being surrounded by like-minded, enthusiastic individuals, just got a whole lot more appealing.
Measure the Results of Your EVP Roadmap — and Always Be Refining
With your EVP in place and out in the world, now it’s time to measure its success. EVP ROI measurement may include employee surveys, increase in candidate registrations, and employee retention statistics.
Keep in mind that focusing on data related to EVP gives your company insight into not just how to improve the perception of your EVP, but the employee experience itself. It helps you close that gap between perception and reality. Take this example from Hootsuite: after analyzing retention statistics, the company realized it was losing a large chunk of its young employees every year, which CEO Ryan Holmes chalks up in part to millennials’ desire to constantly learn new things and take on new challenges. To improve retention and better align its employee value proposition with the kinds of employees Hootsuite wanted to attract, the company instituted a new learning program, modeled after Google’s popular “rotational program.” Hootsuite’s actions illustrate the importance of keeping your EVP and employee experience authentically aligned. If the hard data — like retention statistics — points to a misalignment, don’t just sweep the statistics under the rug — use that as a catalyst for meaningful change.
Ultimately, a strong EVP becomes both a smart recruitment strategy tool and a powerful source of employee feedback. Using employee feedback to close the gap between your EVP and the actual employee experience will have your current employees thanking you … and future employees flocking to you.
Developing and disseminating a highly effective EVP takes work, but here are three ways to get started:
- Map out an EVP that’s both magnetic and honest about what you, as an employer, expect from employees in return.
- Invest in intuitive social tools that turn employees into advocates so that they can deliver well-received messages about your EVP to your ideal candidates.
- Refine your EVP based on employee feedback, using hard data, surveys, and other means. Remember that an effective EVP requires upkeep, so be prepared to refine it periodically.