Employee value propositions (EVPs) are increasingly important for attracting, retaining, and engaging staff in today’s fierce job market.
Finance recruitment surveys show the continuing difficulties in finding and keeping the right accountancy talent, one key reason that EVPs are growing increasingly important.
The worldwide talent shortage is “raging on”, according to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide. In the UK, 82% of hiring managers said they struggle to find qualified professionals.
Staff engagement is also a major challenge. For example, a 2018 survey by HR.com shows that just 44% of HR professionals said employees in their organisation give discretionary effort, which is a key measure that indicates engagement.
The top two initiatives that companies are adopting to address these issues are promoting company culture (46%) and communicating brand values (42%), according to Robert Half.
Patrick Blakeney, associate director at employment agency Michael Page, said the situation is similar in North America, where the job market is more buoyant than it has been in years and candidates are receiving many opportunities and more options than before.
“We often find that managers want someone that checks all their boxes, but they need to show what there is to gain for candidates,” Blakeney said. “Employers know what they do and how, but many fail to communicate effectively why they do it.”
A ‘magnet’ for talent
That is where a robust EVP comes in. Several entities have attempted to help companies recently by producing guides to EVP strategy. And plenty of knowledge can be gained from the efforts of other companies.
L’Oréal, the global cosmetics company, developed a simple yet effective way to communicate value to potential employees. The company’s three-part slogan, “A thrilling experience, an inspiring company, a school of excellence”, served as a centrepiece of its branding and recruiting efforts.
Unilever HR executive Leena Nair, in a case study published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), detailed how the multinational applied marketing expertise to help build the company’s brand as “a great place to work, with great people to work with, [and] a winning business with sustainability at its heart”.
And then there’s Netflix, a company known almost as much for its culture as for its metamorphosis from a mail DVD business to a producer of original online content. Netflix says “people over process” is its core philosophy. The company’s official site says, “What is special is how much we:
- Encourage independent decision-making by employees,
- Share information openly, broadly, and deliberately,
- Are extraordinarily candid with each other,
- Keep only our highly effective people,
- Avoid rules.”
One recent guide, published by the CIPD in October, said employer branding has risen to prominence due to the recruitment environment, the increased need for credibility and employee engagement, and greater acceptance of the power of brands.
“Many HR professionals have embraced the language and techniques of branding to help enhance their strategic influence and credibility,” the guide said. “… [A]lthough the recruitment proposition was their starting point, today many recognise the value of a branding approach to the whole employee lifecycle as they seek to build an engaged workforce.”
The CIPD said an EVP strategy can help address the challenges of the increasing trend towards individualism; greater use of social media to provide feedback on companies; and less trust and loyalty to organisations, particularly amongst younger employees.
But Nicole Dorskind, managing director of employment communications agency ThirtyThree in North America, said not all companies are using EVPs effectively, if at all.
“Companies that struggle to attract the best and right talent — it’s because people don’t understand who they are,” Dorskind said. “That’s where the EVP can be an amazing tool. It codifies who you are, what makes you different and special, and, most importantly, shows why someone should work for you over another organisation.
“When you answer that in a clear and compelling way, you can become a magnet for the right talent. You can also use it to [retain staff] by reminding them why they are here and what their impact is and reinforcing it at every touch point in the employee lifecycle.”
Put simply, your employer brand is based on how people view your company as a place to work. The CIPD defines it as a set of attributes, often intangible, that make an organisation distinctive, promise a particular employment experience, and appeal to people who will thrive in its culture.
An EVP guide cannot tell you what your brand should be — that is unique to each company. But it can tell you how to create and codify yours.
A strong brand should connect an organisation’s ethics, values, and people strategy, and link to the company’s overall brand, said the CIPD. To be effective, the brand should inform an organisation’s entire approach to people management, including recruitment, induction or onboarding, performance management and reward, internal communications, and promoting effective behaviours. It must not be mere rhetoric about values but should reflect the actual experience of employees.
Developing an EVP
Candidates will fight to work for an organisation with an effective EVP, according to a guide from Michael Page. It encompasses the central reasons that people are proud and motivated to work there, such as the inspiring vision or culture.
To develop a realistic EVP, you must first understand how staff and potential employees perceive your brand and culture. For example: what attracted them to your company; why they think it is unique; what they value most about working there; why they stay; and why they leave.
This information can be gathered through employee surveys, focus groups, and exit interviews; and through feedback from former employees and job applicants, the Michael Page guide said.
The next step is to establish a cross-functional team to review the information and use it to draft an EVP. This draft should be simple but broad enough to appeal to different groups. It should inspire but also show realistically what it is like to work for your company. You can then test your EVP with existing employees and a sample external group to see if it is clear and realistic.
The next step is to communicate the EVP to the people you are trying to attract including through all hiring channels, the Michael Page guide said. Communicating a compelling EVP consistently through branding, public relations, and marketing will also help the general market perceive your company positively.
Organisations should strive to incorporate the EVP into the interview process, induction plans, reward and recognition schemes, internal communications, policies, and business plans, and review it regularly.
“The companies who do this right invest a lot of time and resources into developing it,” Dorskind said. “But the biggest thing companies often miss is not linking it to the overall brand framework. Often, it’s an HR initiative sitting in a vacuum and looks more like a recruitment campaign than a brand promise.
“The other mistake is claiming things your organisation can’t live up to. That leads to the wrong people joining and ultimately higher levels of attrition. An EVP should not tell them what you think they want to hear. You need to tell your story so you can attract the right people.”
A refinement of EVP is to segment it by emphasising different elements of the value proposition to different groups of employees or potential employees.
According to the CIPD, organisations can base segmentation according to individuals’ preferences — for example, in how they communicate and promote rewards and flexible benefits packages to different parts of the workforce. International organisations might also need some local interpretation of the EVP to meet different cultural needs.
Dorskind said: “Segmenting is not about creating separate EVPs for different audiences, but how the overarching EVP translates to different audiences. For example, accountants are very different to technologists. A segmented EVP framework can adapt to different audiences, such as accountants, and communicate in a consistent way that will resonate with that audience specifically.”
Some companies may question whether an EVP is worth the investment and how can they measure its success.
Dorskind said: “You can measure statistics such as volume and quality of hire, retention, employee referrals, and attendance at events. Also, there are lots of statistics to show that strong brands can hire people for less money, because they want to work for such a great employer. Over time, that will impact your profits positively.”
Blakeney said this return on investment can increase considerably over time. “The return in creating an EVP is longer-tenured employees and less turnover with employees that care and want to be there,” he said. “This reduces the cost of hiring someone to replace a former employee and getting them up to speed. Retaining employees year after year adds a big impact on the bottom line.”
— Tim Cooper is a freelance writer based in the UK. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Neil Amato, an FM magazine senior editor, at Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com.