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Employer Value Proposition? Get real!

Written by: on  May 11, 2012

Teresa CollisTeresa Collis is Head of Recruitment Marketing and Competency Development at Siemens. Over the last couple months she has been writing down her experience and thoughts on avoiding the common pitfalls of trying to measure an Employers Value Proposition (EVP) – a term coined in early 2006 to explain the “rewards and benefits that are received by employees in return for their performance at the workplace.”

With so many company mission statements casually throwing around recycled words such as “transparent” or “passionate”, the meaning of these words and what the real culture is can be quite different. So, let’s welcome Teresa and her insights on how to ‘get real’ with your EVP:

Enter Teresa Collis:

The concept of an Employer Value Proposition (EVP) has gained much popularity in recent years, the idea being that if you can clearly articulate the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) of working for your company, you will be able to better attract and retain good people.

Put simply, an EVP is what a company offers its employees in return for their performance and discretionary effort. We’re not just talking about tangible things like salary, leave entitlements, the gym at the office or the insurance perks, but also less tangible aspects such as values and culture.

Every company has an EVP, whether they realise it or not, and current thinking is that when an EVP is “uncovered” and clearly defined and communicated, employees are more engaged with the organisation and therefore put in more discretionary effort and are less likely to leave. A well constructed EVP will also be the basis of any successful employer branding campaign, and will play a key role in attracting the right people to your company – people whose values and goals are aligned with yours.

Of course, all this will only hold true if what you say you are offering is (a) relevant, i.e. what employees actually want, and (b) real – so how do you know if all the time, effort and money that you are investing in your EVP is actually paying off?

Let’s take engagement. If we are saying that having a clearly articulated EVP improves engagement, doesn’t it make sense to ensure that what is driving the engagement is in fact the EVP? Look at it this way…….you and your partner have had a bit of a disagreement, and you want to put things right. You take him out for dinner at the most expensive restaurant in town, have a fabulous evening, and all is forgiven. Great, you think. Dinner at a posh restaurant is the perfect strategy to deal with any future falling out. And so, despite the battering that your bank account is subjected to over the next few months, you use this strategy a couple more times and seem to get the same positive result. Much later, you share your strategy with your partner, and he laughs at you……and tells you that the posh restaurants had nothing to do with it. You could have taken him to the local pizza place….the thing that really made the difference was that over dinner you really talked together and that meant more that any culinary extravagance.

In the same way, you could be spending a fortune on programs promoting an EVP that in reality has nothing to do with what is engaging your employees.

Worse still, you could be claiming to be something or to offer something that you are not, which in itself can seriously damage trust within the organisation – a sure-fire way to disengage employees.

And what about attraction? It’s all very well to have a sensational employer branding campaign that promises creativity, or social responsibility, or work-life balance, or career progression……these may be the things that potential employees want, but if once they join your company they find that their expectations are not met, you can very quickly have engagement issues on your hands.

And it’s not just your Employer Branding campaign that needs to have integrity. Anything that an employee says to potential new employees could be interpreted as a “promise”, and if it is not a true representation of the reality of working at your company it can result in unmet expectations. I have seen recruiters who, in their enthusiasm for hiring the best people, make sweeping statements about what fabulous opportunities there are for overseas postings, or how the company encourages and pays for further education, or how diversity is highly valued – only for the new employee to discover when they actually join the company that these things are perhaps not quite right. Yes, overseas postings are possible……but happen only rarely. Sure, the company might pay for further education……but only in specific areas of study. And the company believes in the principle of diversity……but 95% of senior managers are male. Small wonder that a new employee might feel like they ordered chocolate mousse for dessert, and were served up crème caramel. In the same way that there is nothing actually wrong with the crème caramel other than the fact that it is not what was ordered, there is nothing inherently wrong with rare overseas postings, limited education possibilities and a high proportion of male managers…….it’s just not what was promised.

Such unmet expectations not only lead to poor engagement, but can result in new employees leaving the company fairly soon after joining. This not only costs money – some estimates put the cost of replacing an employee at up to 100% of that employees annual salary – but effects productivity, morale, and can even damage that sensational employer branding campaign. An unhappy ex-employee is far more likely to tell others why they left your company, rather than why they joined you in the first place.


In a nutshell, to reap the benefits of an EVP it needs to be relevant and it needs to be real.


So, how do you make sure this is the case?


First, when uncovering your EVP, do it in collaboration with employees.

This will go a long way to ensuring that it’s relevant, and something that your employees can buy in to. Sure, an EVP is that fine balance between what is reality now and what you aspire to be, but those aspirations need to be possible, and you need to be actively and obviously working towards them. Employees will forgive a lot if they feel you are being open and honest with them. When we defined our EVP at Siemens, we invited over 50 employees from different locations, seniority levels and functions across the company to a workshop where we learned from them what it is about Siemens that defines who we are and what we offer employees. By involving and listening to such a diverse cross section of employees we believe we now have an accurate picture of what it means to work with us, and this is a wonderful, and genuine, basis for all our Employer Branding activities.


Second, measure it.

A couple of clichés come to mind here – “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”, and “inspect what you expect”. Use an engagement survey, but be specific. If your EVP says you have a culture of open communication, ask your employees if they feel this is true. Many engagement surveys use standard questions, often designed so you can benchmark yourself against other companies or national norms, but if your EVP is unique, your engagement survey should be unique too. Benchmarking against other companies can be very useful, but when it comes to your EVP, you should be benchmarking yourself against the expectations you have set. At Siemens, part of our EVP is having a culture of curiosity and openness – we value it and encourage it in all our employees – but there was no question in our annual engagement survey that asked employees if they felt this was actually true. It’s not surprising that there was no benchmark question about curiosity – quite comforting really, as we like to think our EVP is unique – but as we wanted to know whether this desired culture of curiosity and openness was real, we have added a couple of questions to the survey so we can find out.


Third, get detailed feedback.

Surveys are a wonderful way to take the pulse of the organisation, but if you want an accurate diagnosis, you need to take a more comprehensive history. One of my previous managers had a fabulous way of describing getting feedback from new employees – he called it “have you checked the children”.  Too often we expend a huge amount of time, effort and money recruiting the best person for the job, and then once they are in the company we just leave them to their managers and assume everything will be OK. Sometimes it’s not. As the old saying goes, “people join companies, and they leave managers”, and by checking in on new employees during their first few months, you can quickly get a feel for whether the EVP that helped them make the decision to join your company in the first place is actually being lived by their manager and their colleagues around them.

And what if you discover that your carefully constructed, eloquently communicated EVP is not being lived up to within your organisation? Put in place an action plan to close the gap between what you say you are and the way your employees see you, or change the EVP message. Either way, you need to get real.


To connect with Teresa you can join her on LinkedIn HERE.



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