How to create an employer value proposition part two: Research

If you want to get where you want to be, you’ve got to know where you stand today.

In Part 1 of our series, we introduced the concept of the Employer Value Proposition and explored the strategy you’ll need if you decide to create one of your own. In Part 2, it’s time to talk research. It’s vital to understand the current state of your company’s culture brand, as it were, in order to decide in which direction you want to take it.

At New Kind, we tackle the research phase in three parts:

  • The Brand Audit
  • Internal Surveys
  • Stakeholder Interviews

This three-pronged approach will help you get a clear picture of your world as it exists today and understand the direction in which you want to take it. Let’s dive in.

The Brand Audit

We conduct brand audits as part of most every branding project we take on. Because looking through all existing brand materials gives us a valuable understanding of what the brand looks and feels like at present, so we can make strategic choices around where to take it. The same goes for your internal EVP project. You’ll want to take stock of all the existing materials you can get your hands on.

In one recent example, our client’s working team collected everything from screenshots of social media posts and company website pages to trade show materials, CEO keynote speech transcripts, and marketing swag. Any piece of collateral—be it written, visual, experiential, you name it—is worth examining. In this initial discovery phase, you never know from where a key insight might emerge.

Our list of brand audit materials to get you started includes:

  • Existing brand/communications guidelines
  • Written materials from previous internal HR/culture efforts
  • Mission/vision/values documentation
  • Company all-hands/events materials
  • Hiring process and guidelines documentation
  • Social media profile pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
  • Hiring site profile pages (Glassdoor, Linkedin, Indeed, etc.)

Collecting materials for your brand audit is, of course, only half the battle. Once you’ve gathered everything you want to audit, it’s time to begin analyzing what you’ve got. What you’re looking for are any consistent narratives shared across multiple pieces of your brand—any themes, ideas, specific phrases, or stories that come up again and again. If you can identify the notes you’re hitting over and over, you’ll begin to see your employer brand come into focus.

For example, if your Glassdoor profile, new hire orientation materials, and multiple social media posts all constantly talk about your company’s “generous compensation packages,” you can safely assume your existing brand greatly emphasizes employee pay as part of its story. Make a note of that. Later on, you’ll want to decide if that’s a story you want to be telling.

The brand audit can help you glean insights like these from your existing materials. But also pay attention to what stories aren’t being told. Is there a lack of cultural diversity represented in your current materials? Are you overemphasizing the company headquarters and shutting out satellite/remote offices? Are your messages prioritizing recruitment of new hires over retention of existing team members?

A thorough brand audit can go a long way in helping inform the creation of your EVP. It can be painstaking work, tracking down what can sometimes amount to years of internal marketing materials, but taking the time to do it right can pay serious dividends.

Internal Surveys

A powerful Employer Value Proposition grows from the inside out. And that starts with gathering input from your team, which we recommend collecting via an internal survey. After all, who knows your company better than they?

Creating and disseminating an online survey for your team to complete can reveal important insights that will guide the creation of your EVP. Generally speaking, it’s okay to send your internal survey to a wider audience within your organization. You’re trying to collect as much data as possible at this stage. Later on, you’ll be more selective with who you speak to as part of the interview process.

Include some initial multiple-choice demographic questions to set the stage for data collection. Some information you may want to collect includes:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Department
  • Role (executive, people manager, individual contributor)
  • Tenure (length of time with the organization)

Try not to overwhelm your respondents with too many personal details to share. Just a few pieces of information can go a long way toward helping you better understand the nature of the responses you’re getting, who they’re coming from, and why they matter—or don’t.

Be sure to get a sampling of both new and long-tenured employees. Newbies and vets can often have strikingly different views on company culture. Share the survey with your whole team, not just your marketing department. You may uncover valuable insights from unexpected sources. Knowing which questions to ask depends as much on intuition as insight.

For instance, let’s say you get glowing responses from people who’ve been on the team for six months or less, but longer tenured employees aren’t quite as positive. This suggests the bloom comes off your rose over time, and may lead to issues of retaining your top talent.

Another great way to collect measurable, quantitative responses to your survey is the Net Promoter Score. Many will be familiar with the NPS from years in the marketing field, but turning the score around internally can actually yield valuable insights as you put together your EVP. In the context of evaluating your worth as an employer, ask your team “How likely are you to recommend [Company name] as a place to work?” on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is Not at all likely and 10 is Extremely likely.

Take the average of all your responses and see what number you end up with. Promoters (9-10) are your most loyal and enthusiastic supporters. Passives (7-8) aren’t necessarily positive, nor are they necessarily negative. Consider this the “take it or leave it category.” Detractors (0-6) are not at all likely to advocate for your company—these are the opinions you definitely want to better understand.

In building out the rest of your survey, we recommend relying on open-ended questions that will likely yield more specific insights and anecdotes. Although parsing through lengthy responses to uncover critical themes is more labor-intensive, it’s worth it. Here are a few questions we like to ask:

  • What’s do you value most about your experience at [company / brand]?
  • What’s the biggest drawback about [company / brand]?
  • What’s your most memorable experience from working at [company / brand]?
  • What does our brand mean to you?
  • Which words best describe our corporate culture?
  • Does our corporate culture affect how you do your job?
  • What does our brand promise to consumers?
  • Do we deliver on our brand promise to consumers?
  • What is missing from our corporate culture that would help you do your job better?
  • What don’t you believe about our company’s culture?
  • What’s the worst part of our company’s culture?
  • What’s the best part of our company’s culture?
  • When you describe your job, our company, and our culture to other people, what do you say?

Check out our post detailing four essential brand research tips to help you analyze your survey responses.

Word of advice. Many employees will be skeptical at the outset—thinking this is just another feel-good HR initiative with no real purpose or strategic imperative. Set them straight. If you consider your EVP a crucial part of your company’s future—and you should—everyone in the company should see it that way, too. A New Kind proverb: bring people along on the journey and they’re less likely to reject the destination.

Last but not least, give some thought as to what format your survey should take. Online tools like SurveyMonkeyTypeformSurveyAnyplace, and GetFeedback will help you develop your survey much faster than you might be able to on your own. Many also provide easy-to-use analysis features that make the data collection process pretty painless.

Stakeholder Interviews

In-person interviews often yield insightful and personal responses, and allow you to gauge not only what a respondent says but also how they say it. It’s great to get in the same room as your interviewee—which shouldn’t be a problem for most internal teams—but phone and video conferencing apps make it pretty simple to conduct remote interviews if need be.

We suggest doing between 6-10 interviews with key stakeholders with a clear vision for the future. Plan for these conversations to last an hour at most. Generally speaking, your subjects will have lots to say and be excited you’re asking for their thoughts and opinions. Expect to hear a lot of personal anecdotes from interviewees as they explain in detail the way they see things.

Many employees will be skeptical—thinking this is just another feel-good HR initiative with no real purpose or strategic imperative. Make sure to set them straight.

That being said, it’s good to be prepared for the possibility of pushback. Curmudgeonly subjects may see this or any internal exercise as little more than a nuisance—even if you do your best to coach them up on its purpose and value.

Also consider that you may, in some cases, be asking tough questions designed to get at the heart of an organization, uncovering its strengths and—sometimes painfully—its weaknesses. For many respondents, you’ll be asking questions they haven’t thought about in a long time, if ever. These can be difficult, albeit necessary, conversations to have.

One final thing to consider: exit interviews. These often perfunctory exercises can become a valuable piece of your EVP development puzzle. You may want to reconsider the questions you ask of departing employees to see if you can uncover insights into why they’ve chosen to take their talents elsewhere. Encourage honesty, even if it’s brutal. As we laid out in Part 1 of our series, odds are it’s about more than salary and benefits. You’ll likely discover a whole host of important factors you never knew employees considered when it came to workplace satisfaction.

Parting Thoughts

Phew. You made it! That was a lot to take in, we realize. Done right, the research phase of an EVP project can certainly be a tall order, but it’s absolutely essential in the long run. When you arm yourself and your team with a clear understanding of where you are today, it’s a heckuva lot easier to get to where you want to be tomorrow. If you’ve reached this point and think you might need a trusty sidekick to help you on your way, get in touch with the New Kind team and we’ll be happy to talk about ways we can help.

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