EVP: Your talent attraction & retention secret weapon

10/14/2021

Carla McKelvey

Vice President of Professional & Industrial Recruiting, North Market

In the midst of what will likely go down in history as the most challenging hiring market of our lifetime, employers continue to look for new ways to attract talent. And while 43% of all employers nationwide say they’ve increased wages in 2021 as a means to attract applicants, competing on rate alone is far from a sustainable business model. 

Feel you’re close to hitting the wage ceiling? Need a creative, exciting way to attract talent? An effective employee value proposition (EVP) is an important tool for companies to differentiate themselves in the market for applicants and build loyalty among current employees.

What is EVP?

An Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is a company’s set of benefits and core beliefs that define its brand as an employer. It describes what a company and culture can offer an applicant or employee in exchange for their time and talent. It helps an applicant answer ‘Why should I work here?’ – and ‘Why should I stay’ for a current employee – by presenting total compensation – both tangible and intangible – in one nice, neat package. Companies who are effective in marketing their EVP to jobseekers typically decrease annual turnover by 69% and increase new hire commitment by nearly 30%.

The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed many Americans to rethink work. While some have left the workforce altogether, many more want their work to better align with their personal lives and values. Today, more than ever, workers are interested in how fulfilled they’ll feel working at your organization, their personal alignment with the company’s mission or product, how your company treats its workers and the environment, how your company is perceived in the community, your company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion – to name a few.

While so much of your EVP is centered around values, your benefits package and perks offered are a big draw and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Of course, core benefits, like health insurance and PTO are a given. But company perks help organizations stand out by offering meaningful, unique benefits to their staff, like: product discounts, free or discounted gym membership, a free snack or espresso bar for all staff, or “Summer Fridays”. Additional flex time to spend with family, mental health days, and opportunities for growth within the company are also great ways to invest in your workforce.

Yes, people work to earn money. But in a world where 86% of working-age Americans would rather stay unemployed than work for a company that treats employees poorly, workers want to enjoy what they do and the people they do it with and feel respected while doing it – all at a company that aligns with their personal values. As employers compete for talent by attempting to outbid one another wage increase by wage increase, an attractive EVP provides a company the opportunity to retain and attract talent in ways aside from increasing compensation by presenting its culture and beliefs in a clear way.

Is EVP better for attraction or retention?

You can’t effectively attract talent without first focusing on retention. Ensuring the people you already have are happy, engaged brand ambassadors is important to your EVP and reputation.

Why?

Because 75% of candidates research employer brand and reputation before applying for a job, and how you operate internally spills out into the public in the form of Glassdoor reviews, social media, and how people talk about your company with their friends, family, and strangers. In fact, jobseekers are three times more likely to trust a company’s employees than the company itself to provide credible information on what it’s like to work there.

Retention

An annual study of worker attraction and retention conducted in 2020 reported that 15% of employers saw retention as a challenge. In 2021, that figure ballooned to 61%, with a majority of the surveyed group expecting the problem to persist into 2022 (Source: Willis Towers Watson study).

It’s no secret that retention has become a serious – and worsening – issue in 2021. While many companies have arguably skated by on the loyalty of their loyal Baby Boomer workforce, the new majority made up of Gen Xers and Millennials perceive job hopping as a necessary, expected career move. Combined with the fact that job hoppers can expect to see a 13% salary increase at their new company, it’s no wonder retention is a serious issue.

With many of your workers at risk of leaving, creating a positive, engaging experience for current employees is an important factor in talent retention. How your company engages with employees – and how it keeps them engaged – are key themes of your EVP, and show up in a variety of ways. Tying these positive elements into an EVP means that your company is living up to its promises – and creates a set of core beliefs that everyone can rally around.

What is my EVP?

If your company doesn’t have a formalized or documented EVP and think you’re starting from scratch, think again. Because your EVP has a lot to do with your company’s culture, chances are you just need to understand what your company’s “secret sauce” is.

Get a sense of where you stand by surveying your employees (keep it anonymous) to capture:

  • Their favorite things about working at the company.
  • Words/feelings they associate with working there/the culture.
  • If they feel supported, motivated, appreciated by their manager.
  • If they feel like a valued part of the company’s mission/success.
  • Whether the company is a good steward of its community/environment.
  • If benefits and company perks are sufficient.

The results can serve as the foundation of your company’s EVP, as well as an identifier of necessary change.  

Need to change? Don’t wait.

If you find yourself with less-than-positive survey results, it’s time to get to work. Get a plan in place and communicate to staff that they have been heard, and the company’s commitment to making changes to ensure it is a great place to work.

Change doesn’t need to be large or sweeping. It can start from any level of your organization, and doesn’t need to be formal to be effective. A great first step is to empower your employees to help lead the change.

Ask HR to create and lead an employee ambassador group to identify what matters to employees, what the company is doing right, what could be better, and how to move the needle. Make this group ‘a safe place’ where candid conversation is encouraged. Task the group with leading changes, so long as they are relevant to the people in your company and within reach of your organization (even if only by one small step at a time) in order to be effective and welcomed by workers.

Not sure where to start? Here are some areas of your business to consider:

Your hiring procedures.
An employee’s experience begins before they ever set foot in your building. Look at how your hiring teams engage with candidates – communications should be prompt, transparent, and positive. Further, ensure your operation is hiring people that are a good culture fit – they’ll be more likely to stay, thrive, and contribute positively. Make culture part of the interview process and highlight it alongside your benefits package (after all, great culture is a perk).

Your onboarding process.
Nearly one-third of workers have left a job before their six-month anniversary. Why? Top reasons, according to a study conducted by BambooHR:

  • Poor onboarding experience
  • Lack of clarity surrounding job duties and expectations
  • A bad boss

The good news: These elements are all within an employer’s control and can be mitigated with proper employee onboarding. Effective onboarding has been shown to improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by 70% (source: Glassdoor), so ensure a new hire’s first days are filled with clarity around their role, introduction to a friendly internal network of trusted coworkers, and a clear path to success.

Onboarding shouldn’t end after the first week of work. Continue to engage new employees with well-timed content and touchpoints their first 30 days on the job. Commit to reviewing main points of orientation at the end of 30 days once the teammate is more comfortable with the role (and likely more willing to ask questions) to ensure nothing was missed.

Your managers.
We’ve all heard the saying, “people don’t quit a company, they quit their manager.” Are your managers equipped to engage and motivate their teams? Many managers – both newly-minted and veterans alike – need a refresher course on soft skills that help them better communicate and motivate their teams. Key areas include:

  • How to give recognition/credit
  • The right way to give feedback
  • How to talk to/manage/motivate people

Overlooking recognition of individuals in your organization and the value they bring to the table gives them the impression that their skills are being taken for granted, or worse yet, their contributions are not valued. Multiply this across the largest or most important team in your operation. Imagine the impact it would have on the company, morale, culture, and bottom line. The result could be an unhappy/unengaged team and higher turnover – all because of one ‘bad apple’ manager.

Everyday interactions
Sometimes the easiest thing to do is the easiest thing to overlook. Encourage all levels of leadership to take five minutes to get to know employees – both full-time workers and contractors. Thank them for a job well done, listen, let them know where the company stands against its goals, and how the individual is a key part of its attainment. When people feel like part of a larger effort, they feel more engaged and will stretch further to help achieve the goal.

Company benefits.
A recent attraction and retention survey captured some of the ways companies are reevaluating their EVP and found improved health and wellbeing benefits and focus on matters that employees care about on the rise.

Leading areas of focus for retaining workers:

  • 73% increasing workplace flexibility
  • 65% adding tuition reimbursement to its benefits package
  • 49% planning or considering market movement adjustments and offering higher base salary increases

Leading areas of focus for attracting workers:

  • 61% offering greater workplace flexibility
  • 43% raising wages

Consider exciting perks as well. Ask your employee ambassador group to brainstorm on perks that would be meaningful to the team and align with the company. Things like free snacks, premium coffee, flexible time to spend with family or to volunteer are popular places to start.

No matter what you choose to improve the employee experience, don’t stop. Already reached your goal? Set a new one, and keep working! Maintaining your company’s culture and an attractive EVP is an ongoing process to stay relevant and competitive.

Broadcast your EVP

With a polished, complete EVP, it’s time to tell your company’s story in words and deeds across your website, online professional networks, social media, in job posts, and employee onboarding. But don’t stop there. Encourage your employees to be part of the conversation online, too – after all, it means nothing if employees don’t also stand behind it.

Demonstrate your company’s core values, beliefs, mission, points of pride, workplace flexibility, DEI and staff comradery through:

  • Community engagement/giving back
  • Local media
  • Brand videos
  • Employee awards and recognition

Encourage employees to share their experience and rate your organization on Glassdoor to show potential candidates current perspectives of employees. Just as importantly, ensure your staff also has a channel to express needs or complaints internally, without worry of same or retaliation.

As employers muscle for rank as the highest-paying company in town in an historically tight talent market, many will eventually max out on wage increases. That’s where a strong, attractive EVP comes in. From driving loyalty by creating a set of values to rally around, to standing out to top candidates, your employee value proposition is a powerful tool for retaining and attracting talent.