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How to create an employee value proposition

Have you written your company's employee value proposition (EVP) yet? It seems like everyone is saying you need one lately. The good/bad news is this: You already have an EVP, whether you've written it down or not.

An EVP is an expression of the value an employer is committed to delivering to its employees. An intentionally crafted EVP is a succinct way of describing the culture and employee experience a company strives to provide.

Even if you haven’t drafted an official EVP, the story of what you offer employees—from compensation to culture—is still coming through. Your employee value proposition shows up in your recruiting content, benefits packages, Glassdoor reviews, and all of your hiring and employee communications. And in a tight talent market, you can’t afford to let an EVP develop itself. An inspiring and intentional value statement is a competitive must.

Consider Textio partner Cisco’s EVP language: "What our employees can expect from us: We’ll help connect you with the people, information and opportunities you need to succeed. And we’ll set the direction to meet our customers’ needs, with the speed required in today’s market, and change the world for the better."

It does a nice job of emphasizing the tech giant’s values.

Below, we unpack the process—from research and analysis to writing and reflection—of creating an authentic EVP that recruits, engages, and retains top talent.

Ask your employees to tell you about where they work

Research is the first stage of any writing project, and in the case of an EVP, there’s no richer resource than your current workforce. If you want to know what it is about your company that brought folks in and keeps them there, ask!

If you’re familiar with recruitment marketing frameworks, you may also think of this stage as market research. An EVP is certainly a form of marketing—by writing and sharing it, you’re aiming to generate awareness and interest in prospective candidates, and instill brand loyalty in current employees.

To begin your research, survey employees on your company’s culture, benefits, and values. Stress that it’s anonymous, and that you’re looking for in-depth answers wherever possible. You want to encourage honest and detailed feedback.

Here are some sample questions you could ask:

  • What first attracted you to [your company], and have we met those expectations?
  • Which tangible benefits that we offer do you value most? Which intangible benefits?
  • What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job? What’s the most challenging?
  • What’s the number one reason you’ve chosen to stay with us? What might lead you to seek new opportunities?
  • What do you appreciate most about [your company]’s culture? What is your biggest critique?

It’s also worth gathering insights from new hires—and even candidates who are still interviewing—about what led them to apply. These people will have the freshest perspective on what’s especially attractive about working for your organization, so consider including a questionnaire in your hiring and onboarding materials. Conversely, it can also be enlightening to ask departing employees in their exit interviews what initially drew them to the company, and why they’ve chosen to move on. Though it can be a difficult conversation, their responses could spur meaningful discussions about how your organization may have failed to deliver on certain promises.

Since the EVP you eventually create should be one that fosters recruitment, engagement, and retention, it’s helpful to mine observations from past, present, and future employees.

Analyze the language in your employee feedback

The survey responses you receive from your employees will form the data set you analyze for insights. You’ll want to start by looking for patterns, such as:

  • Individual benefits and perks that are repeatedly singled out.
  • Common answers that arise to certain questions.
  • Words and phrases multiple respondents used to describe the company’s culture and values.

Try not to get distracted by overly positive or negative responses, particularly if they’re outliers that don’t reflect the overall trends.

Once you’ve identified key patterns, dig a little deeper to uncover the fundamental values underpinning the most common responses. For example, a majority of employees citing your generous PTO policy as a major draw could indicate an appreciation of the work-life balance your company offers. Similarly, the subtext of “great pay” or “good retirement plan” could be a sense of financial security your organization provides that helps employees feel less anxious about their futures.

Analyze the language in your talent content

In addition to highlighting language patterns in survey responses, you’ll want to be mindful of language that already exists around your employer brand. The voice you’ve established in your hiring communications—your careers page, social media posts, job ads, recruiting mails, and more—should be echoed in your EVP. You want consistency and alignment across all channels, to tell a clear and compelling value story. If, for example, the employer brand you’ve cultivated positions your company as a fun and casual place to work, your EVP shouldn’t come off as too serious or high-minded (and vice versa).

But what if how you sound isn’t how you want to sound? What if it doesn’t reflect your employee feedback, or doesn’t showcase your cultural values? You have the opportunity to change that, starting now with your EVP. You might be surprised how much changing your language can begin changing your workplace.

Start writing your EVP

Once you’ve assessed your employee feedback and the language of your own employer brand, you should have all you need to start writing your EVP. Boiling all that information down to a concise statement can be challenging, so you’ll need to focus on what stands out as making your workplace unique.

This is less about finding the “one thing” that makes your business different, and more about understanding the unique combination of value-adds that characterizes your organization. Most EVPs will emphasize two or more of the following elements:

  • Work: The nature of the actual tasks and responsibilities at hand, be they challenging, fulfilling, important, engaging, dynamic, consistent, groundbreaking, or otherwise.
  • Rewards: The material and intangible benefits offered, including compensation, insurance, paid leave, flexibility, training, and skills development.
  • Culture: The work environment that exists among employees, whether it’s collaborative, fun, supportive, fast-paced, relaxed, "work hard, play hard," or something else.
  • People: The common qualities of people who thrive at your company, be they creative, focused, driven, friendly, inquisitive, open-minded, independent, or another characteristic.
  • Opportunities: The sort of opportunities your company offers for career advancement, personal development, education, or even networking.

The values you choose to emphasize in your EVP should map to the ones your employees emphasized in their survey responses. And the language you use to articulate those concepts should be consistent with your overall employer brand. Incorporating everything you want to touch on in one aligned, compelling statement is no easy task and will likely take you a few drafts. Keep at it, and you’ll land on a version that strikes the right tone while hitting the most important points. Then it’s time for more market testing.

Put your EVP to the test

Once you’ve finished the first draft of an EVP that thoughtfully communicates your company’s unique selling points, you’ll want to subject it to some reviews. As you might have guessed, your focus group will look a lot like your research team.

Send your EVP draft out to employees and solicit feedback. Ask them whether the EVP effectively articulates the tangible and intangible benefits that first drew them to the company. Also ask whether it rings true to them as current employees and whether it accurately reflects the reasons they remain with the company. If you're off the mark, make some tweaks and send it around again.

Once you’ve officially settled on an employee value proposition, proudly post it on your careers page, include it in your job posts, and share it broadly across your talent communication channels.

Ensure your EVP evolves with the company

Your company is likely to change and develop over time, and language is certain to keep evolving. Be sure to periodically review and refresh your EVP to confirm that it continues to align with your company’s values, promises, and expectations.

You can maintain an ongoing data set by continuing to ask questions related to your employee value proposition during performance reviews, onboarding questionnaires for new hires, and exit interviews for employees who are moving on. And if you make any big changes to your employer brand, remember to alter your EVP to reflect those updates.

The true impact of your EVP’s effectiveness will ultimately show up in your company’s recruitment, engagement, and retention rates. Language creates and reflects culture, so whenever those metrics move in the wrong direction, you should take a look at the language of your employee value proposition. Either it’s not doing justice to your company, or your company’s not doing justice to it.

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