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How to create an employer value proposition part one: Strategy

HR professionals know that attracting and retaining great employees are among the greatest challenges they face. These days, top talent can work anywhere. As such, they ask more of their employers than previous generations. A paycheck alone won’t cut it.

Applicants are more well-informed than ever. The information age has leveled the applicant-employer playing field. Sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor give applicants an inside look at a company, its culture, and compensation before they even apply. Of course, getting great people through the door is only half the battle. Keeping them productive, challenged, and satisfied in the long term is just as tough.

In the tech industry, the challenge is even greater. With organizations large and small competing for Silicon Valley’s next generation of engineers, strategists, and designers, it’s a buyer’s market. Talented employees have spam folders filled with ignored emails from headhunters. If you want to keep your best team in place, you want to keep those emails unread. The minute they start looking for greener pastures, it’s already too late.

recent PayScale survey found that Amazon and Google ranked 2nd and 4th, respectively, on their list of companies with the shortest-tenured employees. In both cases, median tenure was only around one year. That means they’re spending lots of time and money to bring in a great employee, only to lose them 12 months later. High employee turnover isn’t just bad for morale—it’s bad for business. Allowing tenure and retention issues to go unaddressed can have very real implications for a company’s bottom line.

Even industry leaders can’t rely on perks and salary alone to attract and retain top talent.

So what’s to be done?

More and more evidence suggests employees are attracted to, motivated by, and can more easily see a future with organizations that clearly articulate what makes them special. The unique reasons—beyond simply pay and benefits—that their organization stands out from the crowd. In the Human Resources world, that’s called an Employer Value Proposition, or EVP.

In this, the first post in our five-part series, we dive into the world of EVP strategy. We’ll explore how answering the “why?” question sets a strong foundation for what your EVP becomes and how it can help you do great things. Part 2 will cover how to conduct insightful internal and external research into your organization’s culture brand. Later posts will explore the creation of an impactful and inspiring culture story, as well as how your visual identity can help bring your EVP to life. Finally, we’ll take a look at how you can roll your EVP out to internal and external audiences, respectively.

Part 1: Defining Your Strategy

CEOs know the importance of strategy when it comes to the most obvious business decisions: entering new markets, creating new products, creating ad campaigns. Organizations that skimp on their internal team strategy often end up regretting it. A company’s people and culture deserve just as much strategic thought as any other element of the organization.

It’s of vital importance to know what your goals are, which issues you’re hoping to address, and what success looks like at the end of the project. Without a clearly articulated plan, your project will likely suffer from missed deadlines, blown budgets, and uncertain impact. Nobody wants that.

Before you get started, ask yourself (and discuss with your fellow EVP project leaders) where your strategic priorities lie. A few common reasons companies undertake an EVP project:

To acquire the right people

Attracting and hiring great candidates—and avoiding hiring the wrong ones—is often the most common reason given for creating an EVP. It’s more than simply finding smarter or more experienced people, it’s about finding people who are best aligned with your company’s unique mission, vision, and culture. And conversely, helping candidates who aren’t a great fit recognize that fact early on—which is better for them and you.

To retain their best people

Keeping the great people you’ve already got is of paramount importance. The purpose and clarity that result from an EVP exercise will help you identify which employees are engaged, fulfilled, and rewarded by their work. These are the folks who are transforming your organization for the better. You’ll want to keep them around.

To reinvigorate your workforce

Employees become disengaged for all kinds of reasons. Maybe a once-small company has seen massive growth and, in the process, lost its close-knit culture. Maybe competitive challenges have made things a lot more stressful around the office. Whatever the reason—and remember, it’s most likely not pay or perks—creating an EVP helps refocus and re-inspire teams like few other tools in the HR toolkit.

To develop your “people brand”

Amazon, Mailchimp, Warby Parker, Zappos. These and many other companies have made people and culture a top priority since day one. Sure, you want to be known for great products and service for your customers. But being well known for how well you treat your employees is enormously important as well. For consumers, buying is often emotionally driven. Having a reputation as a great employer who treats its employees will make your more sympathetic in consumers’ eyes and inspire brand loyalty.

To do better work

In a creative economy, your talent is your engine for innovation. An engaged and inspired workforce will put the full weight of its talents behind a company it believes in. Great people build great companies. The end result are better products, smarter solutions, and a more thriving enterprise all around.

To affect your bottom line

The financial implications of having a strong EVP are many. First, when you keep your people happy, fulfilled, and — and this part is critical — employed at your company, you’ll spend less time trying to find new ones. From posting job listings to final negotiations, the expenses that come with recruitment are substantial. Longer tenures mean fewer new hires. Fewer hires mean time and money saved. Additionally, a 2015 report by talentsmoothie found that candidates will accept a lower salary when they view a potential employer’s EVP as attractive. Investing in a powerful EVP can impact your bottom line in ways you never imagined.

Ask yourself: what is my organization’s motivation for creating an EVP? Which of the above outcomes are we hoping this project will help bring about? Knowing and being able to articulate your strategic imperative for undertaking an EVP project will help you stay focused on the task at hand. A solid strategy will also help you sell the project to the CEO or the Board when it comes time to ask for the resources you’ll need to get it done.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. As you start looking at your own organization, your unique strategic imperatives are likely to come into focus. We also recommend asking your team members to consider what they think your strategy should be. Avoid making strategic decisions in a vacuum and you will be better aligned as a team as you move forward.

In a creative economy, your talent is your engine for innovation.

Once you and your team have decided on a strategy, make sure you write it down somewhere. As the process moves along, you’ll almost certainly encounter internal pushback in the form of “Wait why are we doing this?” or “Don’t we have better things to focus on?” The value of the EVP creation exercise will likely be lost on certain team members who aren’t actively involved in the process. Arming yourself with a well-documented strategy will help keep naysayers at bay.

Defining your strategy is just the first step in the EVP creation process. Stay tuned for part two of our series, where we’ll dive into the research phase—essential to understanding where your people brand stands today, and where you should take it moving forward.

Want to learn more about New Kind’s approach to building brand and culture, or how we might be able to help you with your own EVP project? Drop us a note today and we’ll be in touch.

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