A lot of similar-sounding terminology is used when talking about Employee Value Propositions (EVPs).
Recruitment brand, Employ-er brand, Employ-ee brand, proposition, Employee Brand Proposition, promise, benefit, package, Employment Value Proposition etc.
Of course part of the reason for the confusion is the universal tendency for every business and consultancy advising businesses in any specialism to have their own definitions and terms. The other reason is that EVPs are an area in many businesses where HR and communications functions ‘meet’ and naturally bring different perspectives (and language) to developing and using EVPs. It's useful to consider the different perspectives and needs HR and Communications bring to an EVP and what that means for making them effective and successful.
For communications teams an EVP can be seen as an expression and extrapolation of their corporate brand. A strong brand should already be doing a good part of the communications job for an EVP, although specific messages, tone, stories, facts and social presence may needed to complement the brand and the tools communicators use to bring to life the EVP properly.
So a communications team may approach an EVP as a brand activation project, looking at how to use an established brand to communicate it. Whereas an HR team may well see it as starting from a package of employee benefits and key parts of an HR strategy to attract and retain the right talent which needs to be articulated as the EVP.
Of course both perspectives are valid and are recognised by the cross-functional teams that often work in these areas, but the variety of terminology can make it difficult to establish what is needed and expectations.
Finding the right start point
A brief definition of an EVP like: “A compelling set of employee benefits that employees value” can help at the start, but needs to be used with care to really understand what everyone’s assumptions are.
For some stakeholders discussing this EVP they may feel the job's almost done, for example, “We’ve a well defined package of employee benefits that work, we just need a tagline for recruitment comms and internal engagement.” Naturally in some situations that may be the case, but in others some stakeholders feel that the benefits and what motivates candidates and employees needs greater insight.
To find the right start point we use two simple ideas to understand what’s really needed:
- Promise - Can you distill what your employee package and offer is in the broadest sense (what it’s like to work here, development and training opportunities etc.) into a simple promise?
- People - Who are the critical groups your business needs to target, attract and motivate? What insights do you have about them?
A two-way deal
An effective, credible EVP should reflect the reality of the world of work. It’s a two-way deal. While there will be a legal contract in place (or on offer) that involves two parties with rights and responsibilities on both sides etc. This two-way characteristic goes much further and is central to strong EVPs, because clarity about what employees can expect from the employer (from compensation to culture) and about what an employer expects from an employee (performance, standards, behaviour) are exactly what needs to be communicated to create truly engaged and motivated relationships with employees. The distinctive character of a business’s two-way deal should be reflected in the promise and essence of the EVP.
EVP Model: Building a two-way promise
A well articulated EVP should summarise the employee offer and deal, establishing:
- Key benefits for employees and expectations of employees.
- The underpinning facts and package (the proof).
- A summary promise or core thought reflecting the two-way deal.
- With defined personality and set of values / behaviours.
Ready for the journey
A lot of work for developing EVPs is driven by recruitment and the focus tends to be on getting to the right promise and communicating it externally in the best ways possible. But, however much the priority is on recruitment EVP success depends on approaching an EVP as a promise-kept that should follow through the whole employee or talent journey (Attract - Recruit - Develop - Retain).
An EVP should work as a promise, setting standards and expectations through the whole journey from onboarding to employee engagement, review and development. This ‘promise-kept’ running through the whole employee experience helps to create powerful word of mouth (especially for a business as an employer), improve engagement and retention.
The ingredients for EVP success
In an ideal world advocating the use of a single term would be a neat conclusion, but in practice two are worth having in mind with a clear distinction between them:
- EVP - an articulation of the businesses employee strategy and offer, identifying a two-way deal, not just a bundle of benefits.
- Employer brand - a distillation of the EVP for communications and engagement across the whole employee journey - often a toolkit of parts (visual identity, key messages, content strategy) that’s an adjunct to the overall corporate or business brand.
Whether a business wants to improve recruitment communications or engage the organisation with its HR strategy having a clearly defined EVP which can be distilled into a motivating promise is a strong foundation and start point.