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Developing an Employee Value Proposition that Attracts Top Talent

Developing an Employee Value Proposition that Attracts Top Talent

If you’re in the field of talent acquisition, you know you need a lot of tools in your outreach toolbelt to get the best of the best to engage with you. Passive talent holds a lot of power these days; and today’s employees are as driven by company culture, work-life balance, and their employer’s social initiatives as they are by salary. In response, recruitment started to look more like marketing: The role of talent acquisition is to sell the experience of working for a given organization. For sourcers, this typically means offering collateral and branded materials in nurture campaigns that communicate the value the organization could offer as their employer. And one of the most compelling things you can offer passive talent is the employee value proposition.

What makes the EVP so powerful is that it describes the whole of your organization’s value to employees in a single statement. If your company already has one, you should be using it regularly in your outreach, highlighting the aspects most relevant to whatever segment you’re reaching out to. If it doesn’t have one, it may be up to you to help craft one. After all, every prospect will want to know why they should come work for your company. An EVP will help you give them a clear-eyed, thorough, and accurate answer… every time. So how do you go about developing an employee value proposition? Read on.

What is an EVP… and Why do I Need One?

The EVP is the unique set of benefits that employees receive in return for the skills, experience, effort, and other contributions they bring to the company to help it succeed. An EVP demonstrates an organization’s commitment to employees’ growth and development, and to meeting their needs in exchange for their day-to-day efforts. You’ll note the word “exchange”: We’re talking reciprocity, mutual benefit, each side of the equation offering value to the other. Think of the EVP as a two-way contract between an organization and its employees.

For current employees, the EVP is a promise both parties are already engaged in. It details the reasons they stay committed. But for passive talent, the EVP offers a collection of reasons why they should join your company. It answers these questions: “Why should I come work for you rather than the other companies offering me roles? What are the set of unique contributions you could make to my life—beyond compensation—for a complete, and fulfilling, employee experience? Why would I want to not only join your organization, but to perform my best work for you every day?

You can probably imagine the benefits of a strong EVP. Here are a few:

  • It differentiates your employer brand. In an economy of 7.3 million open jobs, this is significant. Brand differentiation allows you to attract talent that shares the attitudes and values your organization is already nurturing. 

  • It strengthens your employer brand. Why does this matter? Because 69% of employees in the U.S. wouldn’t take a job with a company with a bad reputation… even if they were unemployed. (Conversely, 84% would consider leaving their jobs if they were offered a role with a company with an excellent reputation.) Organizations with great brands also see a 28% reduction in employee turnover, a 50% reduction in cost-per-hire, 50% more qualified applicants, and up to 2x faster time-to-hire.

  • It stimulates employee engagement. Organizations with formal EVPs in place are 5x more likely to report their employees are highly engaged. And organizations with high engagement see 22% higher profitability, 21% higher productivity, 10% higher customer engagement, and 25-65% lower turnover. They also have brand ambassadors in their employees.

  • It boosts financial performance. Organizations with EVPs are more than 2x as likely to report achieving financial performance significantly above their peers.

  • It reduces new hire premiums and increases retention of key talent. Organizations with strong EVPs see a 50% decrease in the compensation premium needed to attract employees, and retain their employees over 300% longer (5% annual turnover vs. 16% annual turnover for organizations with poor EVP delivery). Other studies show that companies that effectively deliver on their EVPs decrease employee turnover by just under 70% and increase new hire commitment by nearly 30%.

  • It informs recruitment messaging. A strong EVP clarifies and guides external recruiting efforts.

  • It helps focus the agenda for HR. A strong EVP informs internal retention efforts, as well as the company’s broader business strategy. 

The Elements of a Strong EVP

As you know, the best talent doesn’t necessarily gravitate toward the highest salaries. Compensation is essential, sure; but passive talent needs more than a paycheck to engage. What’s more, over-emphasizing salary will only condition the workforce to chase the biggest number, which means you’ll eventually be scrambling to out-pay your competition. Instead, focus on the things that aren’t so easily matchable. 

44% of employees surveyed by LinkedIn said they’re at their current job because of the opportunities it offered for career advancement; another 44% said it was because the work was challenging. That same study showed prospects want to hear about an organization’s culture, values, mission, and vision when they’re considering a potential employer. In other words, your EVP needs to strike a balance between tangible rewards (compensation and benefits) and intangible ones (company culture, meaningful projects, challenging work, value alignment). 

Gartner (formerly CEB) has broken the EVP down into five elements. They are:

  1. Opportunity (career advancement, challenge and self-improvement, formal training, on-the-job learning, evaluations and feedback, personal development, company growth rate)
  2. People (company culture, relationships and camaraderie, reputation of senior leadership, quality of management and coworkers, trust, collaboration, team spirit, team-building activities and events) 
  3. Organization (market position, company reputation, quality of product/service, company mission/vision/values, diversity, social responsibility)
  4. Work (job-interest alignment, challenging/fulfilling tasks and responsibilities, work-life balance, quality of projects, innovation, intellectual stimulation, impact the role plays in fulfilling the company vision)
  5. Rewards (salary, bonuses, health and retirement benefits, disability, holidays and vacation time, paid leave, remote work, gym memberships, tuition benefits, share ownership, and the timeliness and fairness of compensation)

The above is a fairly exhaustive list; but if your EVP can touch briefly on each of these elements, you’ll engage a wider range of talent. After all, every prospect has their own “sweet spot.” 

Getting Data for Your EVP

We know: As a sourcer, helping create the company EVP may not be in your job description. EVPs should be generated with the input of key stakeholders (executives, managers, partners) so that talent priorities are devised from a strategic perspective; and you may not be in a position to be radically honest about what the company has to offer. Even so, you’re the mediator between candidates and the organization—and you have direct access to current employees. So you’re in a position to ask important questions. 

EVP creation is a bottom-up exercise. An inaccurate EVP born of a perception gap makes for reduced employee morale and a revolving door for new hires. The most effective EVPs are shaped by direct feedback from current, past, and prospective employees—including those who don’t accept your offer. Guesswork from upper management simply isn’t going to cut it. And of course, on the recruitment side, you want to sell prospects the whole story—and the correct one—in your outreach. The simplest way to do this? Ask talent about their perceptions.

If your organization is doing its due diligence, it already has feedback structures in place: anonymous surveys, onboarding surveys, performance reviews, exit interviews, and focus groups. Ideally it uses these occasions to ask about the five elements we mentioned above. Ask for that data. Many of these questions you can pose yourself: 

Prospective employees: What made them respond to your outreach? How do they perceive your organization? What does it offer that their current organization does not? What tangible benefits (salary, health benefits, PTO) are most important to them in their next opportunity? What intangible benefits (recognition, challenging work, flexible environment) are most important?

Current employees: What ultimately made them decide to come work for you? Have their expectations of the company been met (or exceeded)? How? What makes the organization unique? What tangible benefits offered by the company are most attractive to them (and why)? What intangible benefits are most attractive to them (and why)? What’s been the most fulfilling thing about working for the company? What would they change if they were in charge?

Former employees: What initially drew them to the organization? Were their expectations met? Why did they ultimately leave? What did the employee experience lack that would’ve made them stay? What did they appreciate most about working for the company? What would their advice be to a job-seeker who wanted to know about the company?

Narrowing Down and Sharing Your EVP

Over time—and over the course of many conversations—you’ll start noticing patterns and themes: the same comments popping up in exit interviews, the same benefits mentioned by passive talent who’ve responded to your outreach. Gather the comments that come up most often. The outliers may be interesting; but they won’t be representative. You want to use what matters most to the greatest number of people. 

Of course, the EVP covers the positive aspects of working for the company. If employees have little to say about their salaries but they revel in their autonomy, your EVP could describe how employees are empowered to use their own judgment, permitted to take risks, and rewarded for their creativity. If you can use verbatim comments from employees, do so. 

Once you have a strong draft, test it. Ask current candidates whether your EVP would resonate with them if they’d never heard of your company before. Ask employees whether your EVP aligns with their experience. You can also “demo” your messaging in outreach, in recruitment marketing materials, or during interviews, and observe whether it impacts engagement rates. 

Once you’re clear about the strength of your EVP, bring it to life by communicating it wherever you can: in email outreach and nurture campaigns, across hiring efforts, on your careers site. Have employees communicate it to talent they refer to you. Refer to it on your employee blog. Ensure the organization communicates it in PR and marketing, internal communications and policies, social media, and more.

As a sourcer, it’s important to remember that different aspects of the EVP will appeal to different candidate personas. Segment your personas so you know which aspect of the employee experience to home in on in your outreach. Messaging for young talent might focus on opportunities for career advancement and the lively work environment; messaging for slightly older professionals might emphasize work-life balance or child care services. Personalize by role, too: Engineers care about different things than sales professionals and designers do. Indeed, larger organizations might even consider customized EVPs for their most important employee segments.

Measure changes in your recruitment efforts after the EVP is implemented. Email open rates, click-through rates, reply rates, number of quality applicants, time to hire, time to fill, and cost per hire should be among the metrics you track. A powerful EVP—assuming it’s well implemented—should fundamentally change your talent pipeline. 

Finally, review your EVP routinely to ensure it’s still relevant. Employee surveys, performance reviews, and exit interviews will give you plenty data about whether your EVP reflects talent’s lived experience. Candidate and employee desires and expectations are bound to change over time; keep up with them. 

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