What makes a great EVP?

“That’s where I want to work,” said someone, somewhere, today. Uttered from a talented, potential employee’s lips, this is the type of reaction that Executives and HR people dream of, especially when they’ve just developed their Employee Value Proposition (EVP).


A great EVP supports the business strategy and captures the hearts and minds of potential, as well as existing, employees. But the question we’re often asked is: how do you make this happen?


Having a clear and compelling proposition in the talent market makes intuitive sense. It answers the question, what makes us a great place to work? However, embarking on an EVP project often comes with a deep drawing of breath from many an HR practitioner.


A typical process involves rounds of employee focus groups and analysis of data on what drives engagement in the workplace. Many hours spent gathering and sorting through facts, thoughts and opinions from a range of interested parties. While this process is valuable, you need to avoid a ‘result by committee’ that is not compelling.


When embarking on developing an EVP, here’s a few rules of thumb that will set you up to succeed.


1. Anchor it in a clear business need


Be clear about the business need for having an EVP. For many, it’s about attracting new talent that isn’t aware of you as an employer, or attracting a higher calibre of talent who perhaps don’t consider you their first choice yet.

For some, it’s also about retaining good talent but realigning their attitudes and behaviour towards a new strategic direction. At the Australian Red Cross Blood Service (the Blood Service), it was about achieving both needs:
– Attract talent from corporate backgrounds (who, at the time, tended not to consider the not-for-profit as a potential employer); and
– Take up the challenge to be more commercial in how they work.


2. Create a story, not just a campaign


Creating an EVP is not just about creating a slogan or campaign. As Don Argus noted, when talking more generally about the role of leadership and good communication, “The task of leadership is to develop a vision devoid of slogans, and a narrative that people want to embrace.”


Don’t be mistaken; a good campaign line can capture attention. But you need more to sustain attention and consideration. The EVP tagline at the Blood Service still packs a punch and goes to the heart of the business need and the organisation’s purpose: “We’re in the business of saving lives – let’s be amazing”.


Behind the line however, was a story. A narrative that brings to life the role the organisation plays in Australia’s healthcare system, why this matters, what this means for employees, and how their contribution counts. This was made into a short animation that is still used across a range of channels including job ads, LinkedIn and the careers page of the website.


3. It’s a two-way street


A great EVP articulates, at the level below the story, the ‘give and the get’ of working at an organisation. With a great product, marketers use benefits to substantiate claims. Similarly, employee benefits substantiate your EVP.


For example, how you will learn and grow in the workplace; feel cared for, (with access to wellness and flexibility); and be valued through recognition and remuneration. And, like a good relationship, expectations of employees in terms of performance and behaviour, should be articulated in equal measure.


4. Connect early and often with marketing and brand teams


Your EVP does not exist in isolation; it’s part of the overall brand and story your organisation shares with all of its stakeholders.


Engaging employees with a clear EVP enables them to live up to your brand promise to customers. Weave together the stories and actions that inspire and encourage your employees to engage with your organisational purpose and strategy; that in turn improves customer satisfaction and business performance.


The term ‘employer brand’ can be misleading, and can also be the cause of ‘who owns it’ tussles between HR and Marketing. The look and feel of how you brand your EVP should support and align with your customer or business brand. The messaging for employees is, however, different to customers, so while HR can learn from marketers, this is where they can add value.


5. Apply a marketing lens to EVP


Understanding your audience is a basic marketing principle. For the Blood Service, much of the communication about the organisation had been focused on blood donors. An important focus given one in three Australians need blood, yet only one in 30 donates. However, when communicating with employees, a key insight was to start the story at the other end of the amazing journey of blood, that is: being the custodian of the nation’s blood supply is a great privilege and a responsibility. This starting statement speaks directly to the challenge and the opportunity for potential and existing employees. And, it is a great source of pride and meaning for existing employees that needed highlighting.


6. It’s a living thing


Crafting a great EVP is only the beginning. For it to be a living thing it needs to be consistently and creatively articulated across the employee experience. From attraction to induction and on-boarding through to performance management and recognition, the core themes and messaging in your EVP underpin what you want employees to think, feel and do at each touch point.


Marketers also have much to teach HR about the effective use of storytelling and communication channels in bringing an EVP or brand to life. Employees telling their ‘behind the scenes’ stories of what it really feels like to work at the organisation resonate strongly. Repeating and reinforcing messaging over social and other channels enables you to cut through the clutter, be seen, and considered by potential talent.


How do you know when you’ve done a good job? With good metrics in place you’ll see a shift in levels of awareness, consideration and numbers of job applications from potential employees, and amongst existing employees, levels of engagement should also rise.


When it’s all said and done, a strong indicator of success is quite simply the emotional response you get from people right at the outset: “That’s where I want to work”, “This is where I love working” or “I feel proud to work here!”.