Is your Employee Value Proposition selling the… | Gagen MacDonald

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Is your Employee Value Proposition selling the truth?

Jul 26, 2022

If your people think it's more fiction than fact, you have an urgent challenge to address.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy

For today’s talent leaders, the easy living Ella Fitzgerald famously sang of feels far away.

As they plan around business transformations and a looming recession, the “great resignation” still shows few signs of slowing. In sectors like airlines, logistics and transportation, acute labor shortages are creating line-ups of customers reminiscent of opening-day Disney rides or Marvel summer blockbusters. It’s easy to see why hiring remains the biggest priority and challenge for HR leaders.

But the businesses with powerful talent strategy will be the ones that continue to grow, profit and thrive in the longer term. And in our opinion, many could find and keep a lot more of the right people if they conducted an honest, comprehensive assessment of how their Employee Value Proposition, or EVP, translates to the real employee experience.

This assessment should focus less on the value your EVP proposes and more on the value your company truly provides to employees. The way to a more powerful EVP starts with human-centered, employee-focused insights into the employee experience.

When EVPs fail to be effective, the problem is often chasms between aspiration and reality — between the experience promised and the experience employees truly receive. However, when companies try to revamp their EVPs, they frequently look to add new promises, rather than focusing on bridging these gaps. They offer a new type of insurance, for instance, or a new professional learning incentive. Maybe they revamp their core values. These initiatives can all be effective in the right contexts, but in our experience, they are rarely the right first step. Rather, the first step should be an honest, fastidious attempt to understand employees’ experiences, and how they stack up with the experiences you’ve been selling them on.

Once you have a clear, unflinching portrait of the employee experience, you can begin the work of building a more transparent, authentic, differentiated talent brand. In many cases, your company’s time and dollars are better spent activating your current EVP than tacking on new offerings.

Because when you boil this work down to its essence, it really is all about aligning what you promise to what you can deliver.

Before you tell a candidate with an expressed dislike for hierarchical decision-making that your company operates with a flat, collaborative structure, make sure that’s the truth.

Before you advertise the flexible location of a position, make sure your leadership is committed to maintaining that flexibility.

Before you highlight your last International Women’s Day post or show your company’s Diversity value statement to a candidate passionate about activism and feminist causes, make sure that person will really find like-minded peers, supportive leadership and avenues to use her voice in your organization.

Amid this labor shortage, it’s tempting to build a talent brand that casts as wide a net as possible, selling your organization as a fit for everyone. It takes bravery — and comfort with who you really are — to be honest, and to recognize that ultimately, a one-size-fits-all culture fits no one at all.

Travelers wait in line at an understaffed airport. | Credit: Steve Parsons (creator), PA Images via Getty Images

To put it another way: you should not be looking for all top talent. You should be looking for the right top talent.

That’s why the process has to start with understanding your organization. When you’ve done the hard work of assessing your company’s reality, the challenge of finding, keeping and caring for the right people stops feeling like such a crapshoot.

Perhaps you’re wondering what you do after you’ve conducted the assessment. The answer is that it depends entirely on the gaps you identify. Sometimes, the information will spur you to change the reality of the employee experience; other times, it will indicate that you just need to adjust how you’re describing it. For instance, if you find that there’s a gap between the seamless, intuitive digital workspace you advertise and the convoluted tech stack employees use in practice, you may choose to focus on changing reality and directly improving the tech setup. On the other hand, if your assessment reveals that some employees’ ethical obligations to certain customers are hurting their employee experience, the takeaway may just be that you need to be more upfront about that in recruiting.

As you do all this work, you’ll probably hear from your people what everyone has been saying about today’s employees. They really are thinking more deeply and broadly than ever before about where they work, and about the non-transactional value they get from their jobs. As we covered at the end of 2021, today’s employees are seeking autonomy, the ability to do important work, growth opportunities and, often, an avenue for social impact, among other things. They’re also valuing authenticity at a higher premium than ever.

It's a lot of ground to cover, but it doesn’t all have to change at once. If you’re clear-eyed and committed to listening, your people will help you prioritize.

Because at the end of the day, the difference between top talent and the right top talent is whether or not they want to be there. If they’re comfortable with your expectations and you’re comfortable with theirs, you have found someone who’s a fit. And if you do the hard work of building a truly authentic and differentiated EVP, you will end up with enough of these people to thrive.

At that point, it may be time for another part from that famous Ella song:

One of these mornings you're gonna rise up singing
Yes, you'll spread your wings and you'll take to the sky

Now wouldn’t that make for a great summer?

For more information on how Gagen collaborates with companies on EVPs and other transformation efforts, explore our case studies.

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