by Ralf Specht, author of “Building Corporate Soul: Powering Culture & Success with the Soul System™“
It’s the dream of every leader: hiring only the best talent possible for any open position. It’s the dream of every applicant: landing the dream position at the best company possible. But very often it remains a dream – unless both talent and employer are in full sync about the perfect fit. That’s where the employee value proposition (EVP) comes in – it is actually the shortcut to signal to the desired talent that “this company” is the perfect fit.
Great employee value propositions are inextricably linked to the firm’s customer value proposition.
One of the best examples out there is Microsoft. The tech giant struggled for a long time with its corporate culture but got their act together since 2014 when incoming CEO Satya Nadella took office. Under his leadership, the company created full clarity about its customer value proposition: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more” is Microsoft’s mission. Accordingly, their employee value proposition provides clear direction: “Be the one who empowers millions”. This example exemplifies customer centricity which is not an empty shell, but a focused value that is a critical part to everyone inside the company.
Without a clear value proposition, employer branding is just an empty shell.
Microsoft’s approach is a class act. Based on that value proposition, the employer branding effort ticks all the boxes. Their homepage describes it as this: “Make the most of life
At Microsoft, you’ll take risks, push boundaries, and grow more than you thought possible. And you won’t be alone in that journey. We have something special here; we put our employees at the center of everything we do, and we know that what we offer is essential not only to your work but to your life too.”
The programs feel all-encompassing:
- Invest in your future
- Enjoy the perks
- Take time away
- Care for your family
- Professional and personal growth
- Join in giving
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition – Leaders need to continuously reinforce that value proposition.
Even if the wordings are perfectly aligned as in the Microsoft case, it is very often just an afterthought that is filed somewhere and not often looked at. Companies that want the best talent for their best business need to apply the old Aristotle saying: “It is frequent repetition that produces a natural tendency. The more frequently two things are experienced together, the more likely it will be that the experience of recall of one will stimulate the recall of the other.” It is no different with the EVP – it needs to be linked to the corporate strategy and leaders need to reinforce it every time possible.
Companies with Soul have answered the critical questions about Corporate Culture.
Companies with Soul excel at making their behaviors and actions being in sync with their strategic objectives and plans. The integrity of the Shared Purpose – shared by the leadership team and shared with all stakeholders – with the Shared Understanding (which includes vision, mission, values and spirit) and the Shared Behaviors creates a corporate culture that drives superior performance with all involved.
The Shared Purpose is about the “Being” inside the firm. The two critical questions leaders must be prepared to answer are “Why am I here?” and “Why are we here?”.
The Shared Understanding is about the “Believing” inside the company. Hence leaders need to be able to have a clear view on “What do we believe in?” and “How do we shape belief in others?”.
When it comes to the shared behaviors, it is all about “Belonging”. “What does it feel like to belong here?” and “How do we create belonging for others?” are simple questions – but to answer them requires hard work and a consistent emphasis.
If the answers to these questions are robust and stand the test of reality inside the firm, retention and performance levels will be high. As McKinsey & Co. stated in their analysis in October 2021, the key reason why people leave companies is that they do not feel a sense of belonging. It is critical to build that sense. Everyday.
Five key areas to look into to ensure your EVP is spot on.
Any company – no matter whether it is just the 10 people shop down on main street or Microsoft – becomes a better company if they are able to build their soul. Now it becomes also easier to look into the critical areas to verbalize the EVP:
- Why do existing employees think the company is unique?
- What do they value most about working there?
- Why do they stay?
- Why do they leave?
- Why are potential employees attracted to the company?
The best ways to get real insight into these questions are exit interviews – they are such an amazing tool – as well as regular employee surveys. Also, Glassdoor.com is a great source to learn what people really say when they can comment in an anonymous form. Yes, there’s always a pinch of salt required when reading those comments but they are hugely valuable.
Never forget the basics.
While the percentage of people who look for the purpose of a company as a critical factor in their decision making has been on the rise, companies also need to consider the basic areas such as salary expectations and rewards and recognition programs. But while they are basic, they need focus as applicants will definitely compare them since they have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Make sure you are aware of industry benchmarks – but also be open to newly developed approaches that can create a difference in perception.
Never forget that a Value Proposition means creating real Value.
“Walk the talk” – that is so true for EVPs as is for all actions inside a firm. So, the Employee Value Proposition needs to provide real value to existing and potential new employees. It needs to be inspirational – remember Microsoft’s “Be the one who empowers millions” – and needs that simplicity to appeal to a wide range of professional groups inside the company. Anyone whether being the janitor or the CFO must be able to connect with it. One of the best examples that has been cited so often because it is so powerful is the response of the janitor at the NASA Space Center when President Kennedy asked in passing what his role was and his response was “I am here to put a man on the moon.”. If the receptionist in your firm has got a similar understanding why he or she is here, then you know you got it.
The right EVP is like a magnet – people will want to work with you.
It used to be word-of-mouth; it has become word-in-social-media. Once people become aware of what people in your company say about their experience, they will consider (or not) to apply with your form. Existing employees are the most credible source for your EVP – but obviously you want to make sure that consistency of message is happening with every touchpoint. It needs to be part of your company’s induction plans, reward and recognition schemes, internal communications, policies, and business plans. In short: it needs to be reflected in the daily operations.
Ralf Specht is a visionary business leader and creator of the Soul System™, a framework that aligns value-creating employee action with broader corporate strategy through shared understanding & shared purpose. He is the author of “Beyond The Startup” and “Building Corporate Soul: Powering Culture & Success with the Soul System™“.