Why it’s time for HR to lead the EVP revolution

We all know that pay and rewards will not, on their own, provide a proposition to attract and retain high-quality employees

How would you like to improve the commitment of new employees by almost a third? Or slash your new hire compensation premiums by half? Maybe you’d like to increase enthusiasm of your staff? Well what if I could tell you that I have a way to boost their advocacy by between 24% and 47%? Interested?

I’d say that, at the very least, you’d be intrigued. So what’s the secret formula? It’s contained in the three letters EVP. So what is this magical employee value proposition?

Put simply, an EVP sets out what a business will provide an employee economically, functionally and emotionally. We all know that pay and rewards will not, on their own, provide a proposition to attract and retain high-quality employees.

A good, effective EVP should be a clear way to differentiate your company from all its competitors – and give you a major advantage when it comes to both recruiting the best and most talented employees and retaining them for the longer term. The good news is that whatever the size of your company, whatever the sector, an EVP can work for you. If you get it right.

Almost all companies, whether or not they articulate it, have a unique EVP. However, in most cases it is some form of mission statement on the recruitment section of its website or in the foyer of the reception area. Valuable as it may be, it’s probably the result of a top-down process. An EVP starts from the bottom up, by involving employees at all levels in a discussion (usually managed by an external consultancy, for obvious reasons of independence) of a range of key issues such as: what attracted them to work for you?; what do they think is the USP of the business?; what is the company brand?; what is the culture of the business?; what do they value about working for you?; what makes them stay?; and what would make them leave?

You may well have some survey data from employees already. That’s good, but probably won’t give you a clear indication of just what matters most to employees . Once you have these crucial indicators the real work starts. Because they are nothing unless you respond to them. Most importantly, don’t ignore what is uncomfortable or difficult. Any good EVP is going to have to be part of your longer-term business planning, so needs to match with the aspirations of your company. If something can’t be changed you need to make it clear why that can’t be done, be that an unpopular location or a way of working. The proposition should then focus on what you can offer to balance it out.

While it’s clearly beneficial for HR to lead this process – and indeed it’s probably going to be HR that starts things moving – the early stages need to be collaborative across all departments. This is a business-wide process, and nothing is going to sink it faster than being seen as the brainchild of one particular part of the organisation. Any good EVP has to be created with input from all areas of the business.

A number of companies have started down the route of an EVP and have completed the first three steps (assess, improve, embed) but have often missed the final stage, which is the most important – brand. Your final EVP needs to be branded, avoid jargon, and be instantly engaging, understandable and meaningful. This is going to be the recruitment shop window for your organisation; the defining statement that explains what makes working for your company such a unique experience. It also has to be flexible and reflect the different needs and priorities of very different age groups and cultures. It’s also a continual process. As new employees join and others leave, and as the challenges facing the business change with time, as the employee’s career progresses, you need to make sure that you continually assess and enhance your EVP. That includes making it part of the induction process, ensuring that from the moment a new employee comes on board their goals and ambitions match those you have already set out for them. Most importantly, you must enable simple ways of testing key parts of the proposition throughout the employee’s life cycle, as this way you gain a pulse for your proposition and see where attention is needed.

Global markets exist for talent just as they do for other commodities. For highly-motivated and flexible employees the world is, quite literally, their oyster. You’re not just competing for talent in the UK anymore, and companies across the world can cherry pick your best people. That puts even more pressure on you to ensure that employees choose to stay with you. So it’s essential to know what truly motivates them, not least as pure financial rewards can easily be copied. Culture, team values and benefits, opportunities – the emotional aspects of what attracts someone to your business – these are far harder to copy and in the end are what makes any business unique as a career destination. An EVP puts that into powerful words and persuasive images.

One last figure from that research I started with: firms with unattractive EVPs have to pay a fifth more when it comes to the cost of hiring employees. For those with good ones this is cut to just 11%. The figures and the argument all add up to one thing, so isn’t it time you had a serious look at what EVPs could deliver for your business?

Tony Nevin, pictured, is director of employee benefits at Mazars