March 17, 2021

Demystifying the Employee Value Proposition (EVP)


Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Highlights

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Employee Value Propositions are seen as a core pillar of your employer brand. The defining statement of how you want the world to see you. They take time and effort to develop, with a high price tag to match. So you better get it right.

But…what if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? You’re still figuring out the business, or rapidly changing?

In reality, creating an EVP doesn’t have to be that hard. Nate Guggia and James Hornick will simplify the whole thing. 

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Transcript

All right, everybody.

Welcome to the employer. Content show part of the talent insights series brought to you by Hirewell and Careerwell, I’m your host, James Hornick joining me is my co-host from job portraits, employer brand phenom Nate Guggia. Running out of adjectives. That’s good. Yeah. Today’s segment demystifying, the employer value proposition, or we’ll call it EVP for the rest of this conversation.

this is one that, I think we’ve been kind of wanting to do for a while, since you really introduced me to the wider world of EVP almost a year ago, when I had that.  troll post that went sideways on me. If you remember that. Yeah. So, but first off, so I can start getting into what does an EBP, there’s a lot of, let’s see, there’s a lot of definitions out there.

I think the way that we think of an EVP is it’s key messaging that you share with candidates to help them understand who you are, what you do and what they’ll get, and also give. In working with you. And I think the most important aspect of doing this kind of work is it helps, you know, what to say to candidates, to help you both make the best possible decision about working together.

  that’s what it really comes down to. It’s like a, I see it’s a communication tool.  we can talk about ways to like, get to that point, but, . It shouldn’t be about words on a career site, or think that it’s anything that is going to attract candidates. because like when it comes down to it, I don’t know.

There’s probably only 10 words that most companies use to describe themselves in one way or another. So I think like a differentiator, it’s not really differentiator in my opinion. I think it’s just more of a, like a really clear communication tool that can align people internally and externally. Okay.

All right,  so let me get everyone caught up to speed on my take here, because, and this is why I thought it was kind of a silly topic and ridiculous thing.  this is going to piss off a lot of the employer brand traditionalist, undoubtedly, but I’m saying this as an outsider to someone who is, you know, I’ve been in this industry for 15 years.

Right.  I had heard the term loosely over the years, but not really locked in.  it wasn’t until like a year ago when you were in, I talking where I really kind of understood it was and why it’s seen as so extremely important. And I’m saying extremely important from a monetary value standpoint, amount of money that gets thrown around in these things.

So outsider takes, to me, it’s like a hundred words of fluffy texts. Hmm. anybody out there, Google employer value proposition and examples, and you’ll read them and it looks like some copy that someone wrote pretty quickly. Right. And then I know that’s not what’s . Happening. There’s tons of research that goes into it, but still, no one ever reads these things.

 I can say from a standpoint of a recruiter, the amount of intake calls I’ve done. Over the years with companies, for jobs, qualifying jobs, coughing, what they’re doing. I see, company values come up a ton. Yeah. Key selling points come up a ton. EVP has never wants to come up. Never had a company say here’s our EVP.

So it’s just not something that’s not top of mind with companies. I don’t know which companies that have worked with do, and don’t have one because it’s not something they talk about typically.   but again, the last point is it wasn’t until, and all this is fine, but it wasn’t until like, I learned the numbers around some of these things, like companies pay five figures, sometimes six figures to create an employee value, to create an EVP, which to me is like, why would anyone do this?

so I can say not going to say defend your boys, but,  but yeah,  so that’s just me from the outside. Okay. So how has this use, why is it important? Maybe  why is it important before we talk about maybe how it should be done differently? Okay. I have seen one of the, I think the best, like use cases for an EDP that I’ve seen or been a part of is when companies I’m thinking of this in terms of really high growth.

Startups venture backed companies specifically who grow at like these exponential rates.  in a matter of like, you know, three years, they could go from like maybe a couple of hundred to like into the thousands of employees and things are changing drastically internally. and they go through an identity crisis as a company.

Everything is very different. Lots and lots of employees, they might have a board, senior leadership might’ve turned over. it’s kind of like they get to this point where they really stop and look up. I’ve talked about this before, but they stopped and look up and go like, who are we now?   we’re still a startup, but we’re nothing like the 20 or 50 people who started this company, you know?

and that’s where, the initial,  like values and, and we’ll say like, whatever version of an EVP they had when they started the company is now very different.  and that’s when, it’s important to hit the pause button and either do this internally or bring in somebody like externally to kind of guide this process, to ask a lot of people, the right questions to surface this new identity and to help brand that for this next generation of talent.

 is it fair to say in the traditional sense, not in the sense that I think that you want to kind of lay it up as that.  , this is the core of what your company, how you want to brand yourselves, and then you create content from there and different ideas from there centered around this kind of yeah, exactly.

so that is the strategic aspect that can drive them the content. And actually when it comes down to it, the execution of an EVP, whether you do it in a formal way or not, whatever point you get to the execution. Around. That is really the only thing that matters. but what happens too often is that there will be a lot of money.

paid to do an EVP or a lot of like, even if somebody, if you do it internally and don’t outsource it to an agency, the amount of time and energy and resources that need to like come together in order to do this over a long period of time, you’ll have like a, let’s say a shiny deliverable in the form of like a deck or whatever, do a presentation.

And everyone’s like, Oh, that’s cool. You know, we have some, and then you don’t do anything with it.  it like seriously,  sits on a shelf and collects dust. and  at the pace that companies are growing, that work becomes irrelevant quickly. Like if we think sitting on the shelf, the shelf life of something like that is very short, because things are changing so fast and that’s why If anybody’s really thinking about putting in that much work and spending that much money, you have to really think about, about that.

Like however green is an EBP really going to be. And what kind of resources do you have to actually create stuff that is going to show people what this means? Because that’s yeah. It’s like show don’t tell. Yeah. That’s that’s the thing is, cause I’ve seen, , I get as a internal practitioner of content, that’s also our employer brand content so that you, and I’ve talked about that before.

A lot of what we do here is also,  it wasn’t designed this way, but ends up being something that attracts talent to us. I talk to people who want to in different industries, one on one kind of want to do what we’re doing from the content side, but struggle just because they’re what their makeup is, or they don’t have the resources or whatever.

So I question. Creating this core identity, EVP, if you don’t actually have a distribution plan, you know what I mean? Like what’s the point there is. Yeah. Yeah. I actually don’t think there is a point. there’s probably a lot of arguments against that, but like the way that I think about it is like, again, going back to this like show don’t tell mindset that telling me what your EVP is and putting that on a career site, whatever, like.

I don’t know what that means,  but if you tell me stories that are examples and describe what those things mean. Well, then suddenly, yeah, I can see that if you have, if you’ve got a core message and then like, okay, what stories do we have? We can, that, that exemplify this, that we can kind of tell that makes sense to me, how much of this is, and I’m curious, like, I know that the reason why the cost is so high is because there was a tremendous amount of research down there.

There should be a tremendous amount of research done. We’re paying for these, right. Is it how much of it is like, from,  internal versus external? Is it even in a traditional I’m sure it’s different depending on who does it. Right. You know, but like, I’m sure you’re talking to employees, but then are you talking externally to understand people’s perception of your company?

Okay. Well, we are. I don’t want to make this about the way that we do. But yeah, maybe some companies do it like trash and they don’t care. So I’m doing an internal interview is I don’t want to say it’s easy, but that’s like, just comment like it, like that’s table stakes.  doing external research on candidates,  is really where you get to see like what brand perception is, And that’s where you can really start making the necessary changes.

And that level of feedback is, is so key.  it’s critical. So, I think you need to do large rounds of internal interviews and you need to do maybe not equal amounts, but you just definitely need to put a heavy emphasis on doing external research.  and there’s great resources you can use to do that, but, yeah.

Okay. So. Let me in an awful way, summarize the traditional approach. Tell me where I’m wrong. So I want to be fair to everyone out there. So, gonna hire a company or get someone or whatever you’re going to interview. You’ve got some sort of interview templates or whatever, going, gonna use all your internal employees.

You’re gonna do the same thing with a external, hopefully with a user groups or something like that. You’re going to take all that stuff, mash it together, figure out what keywords work. We’ll start writing some copy. Sure. There’s something else here that goes into the process and then spit out your value proposition, which you then use to decide.

Okay, well, now that we’re going to create content based on this, which is why as you said, is what doesn’t always happen, which is the most important part. And that’s ultimately that’s okay. The fair summary. Now what’s your method. Cause that’s what we kind of yeah. Advertise this for is that you have a different approach, which.

Spoiler to everyone out there. This makes a lot of sense to me because it’s a, lean startup, accounting, innovation, accounting, minimum viable product approach, because yeah. So,  I’ll preface this with this can apply to companies who aren’t at that identity crisis stage, or let’s say a mature even global organization.

That we’re going to set those aside. We’re going to say, but the vast majority of companies I think can get to this point without having to go through the grueling expensive  EVP process. And I think the reason is, is because if you look at it and EVP, they all lead back to autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

And if you ask the right questions, you can actually create content that sources your EDP. During the creative process. And so it’s like it’s flipping it on its head and thinking of it as like a reverse EVP. So instead of starting with strategy, you actually start with content and you allow the content to drive the strategy and you iterate from there.

And so, it’s asking just a series of questions that are all basically around this idea of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Source and AVP creating the content. and then that content allows you to test messaging both internally and externally with candidates. It gives you really quick wins. It gets leadership bought in and excited instead of them being a blocker, which just so you know, historically leadership can be a blocker to an EVP after it gets to that final stage.

Like after you’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have experienced it. And I know many who, many practitioners out there have to where it will get to that final, let’s say approval stage or close to it. And the senior leadership will come in and say like, no, we don’t agree with this.

And you’re just stuck , and whoever’s leading this charge is stuck but we put in all this work and this is what the people say, and that, really happens. And so,  reversing this process and starting with content, in my opinion, is the fastest way to get to what you actually want to get to with an EBP and allow the content to create the strategy for you.

 so I think that’s what,  when you and I were kind of talking about this before, that’s what always struck me in it think cause you and I kind of live this every day. What matters most is what the whole point of all this is, is changing the perception of external people to your company.

Now you want it to be true to your brand. So I’m not going to say that,  or true to who you are. So I’m not going to say that like the external feedback is more important than the internal feedback. Like it has to be a good kind of mixture of both. But to me, it just seems like if you’re not. Getting external feedback is free, you know, and it’s fast and by posting contents and  various channels, whatever you have, it just seems like that’s something you should be doing on day one, just to understand what the market’s perception is, how you could be completely wrong.

the amount of times, like I’m sure everyone out there has been in internal meetings on whatever topic. And they got feedback from everyone internally. Everyone thought this was a great idea. They ran it by a few friends or people externally. I mean maybe if they have, if you’re getting proper focus groups, it might be different, but it’s just a different thing.

When you finally put it live and you find out that maybe the whole thing kind of fell flat. Like I just think that getting wide-scale external feedback on any kind of initiative that’s content driven is like paramount. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. we see starting with content, it’s like the agile version of an EBP.

I think most importantly though, it’s always relevant. It’s always up to date and it’s this mindset of documenting instead of just creating something that could potentially become irrelevant very quickly.  the thing that I think about is like,  when you’re able to create this stuff becomes, this option becomes available to you.

But if you’re, whether you’re external or internal, you know, applies to both, if you don’t have the creative ability to tell stories in compelling ways that make people care, then this isn’t an option. If you’re just like,  an agency that turns out EBPs that can’t create content, this is what never be an option.

And the same goes for companies, right? That’s why, like, I I’ve, I’ve been pretty opinionated about this idea that it’s, it’s safer and in a lot of ways, easier to sit in strategy mode. Did they actually create stuff? strategy mode, even if we like pay tons and tons of money,  it feels kind of safe because you’re not.

 putting anything out there. And this whole idea is like, put it out there, test it, get the feedback and keep going from there. So yeah, I like to look at it too, from the lens of like, what’s happened this year because you know  what we’re kind of talking about is most applicable to startups who are changing fast.

But a lot of companies change fast this year. You know, a lot of companies probably had to reevaluate who they are, what they’re about, what was important to them. even the don’t fall on that start-up category. And I think that,  I would even venture to say that like if somebody put together an EVP that was a more stable industry in March, like might look a lot different now, you know, even if it’s just a thought.

So, yeah. I was going to give a third option if you want me to go, go for it. So I went full EVP. I went. Reverse engineer. It starting with content. There is a middle ground that can apply to a lot of companies who they still need to discover some things.  maybe they have gone through  somewhat of a re-invention or identity crisis since COVID or, you know, whatever.

and it’s this idea of an, of a nimble EDP and you take.  it’s a mini research session, right. Maybe who knows one to three hours, let’s say with key company leaders priority hiring managers, somebody from like DNI, somebody from marketing. If you have a brand and creative department include them and then members of the talent acquisition team.

Right? So like maybe maximum 15 people, set aside some time. To go through a series of focus group questions, that I’m happy to share by the way. and from there,  throughout that time together, you surface themes, you start surfacing stories and you start surfacing characters, people in your company that you want to start profiling and telling stories about, that you can take all of that information in that session.

And maybe assign it out to a couple of people and in a relatively short period of time, turn around, think about it as like an internal communications guide.  we think of it like a candidate messaging playbook, where, you have your statement of like your employer brand one-liner, it’s like, this is who you are as a company.

You know, you get clear on  Your job descriptions, your about company, your LinkedIn, your glass door, everything is all updated.  you have an idea of like what your, brand pillars are from this perspective communication do’s and don’ts, and then like employer brand best practices.

those are the core things that most companies, especially most employees are missing. It’s easy to talk about, Doing these things, but most employees don’t know how to do them. And what this is doing is giving them the exact messaging, the copy, everything to like, make all of their profiles up to date and look slick,  to start them creating their own content.

 it’s just this how to playbook.  And I think that’s like this condensed version of an EVP that can be accomplished in a short period of time, with relatively  low amount of resources. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s kind of like earlier in the conversation, I was saying that like c’mon, I’ve had countless hundreds, maybe thousands of intake calls on jobs.

It’s never come up once and maybe values come up, you know,  key points. Maybe everyone has their own versions of why their company’s great, you know, but like consolidated concise. It’s very rare. I never hear VPs, but even like, It’s very rare that I talk with companies where if I talk with two or three different people involved in the process that they’re giving the exact same things yeah.

As selling points. so what I just described, , I actually have outlined that I’m happy to share with anybody. If they want to email me, shoot me an email and I’ll just, I’ll give you the framework and   it’s a great, like, do it yourself starter. That’s

That’s I will also, I will also post this sometime soon. I’ll put it together in a doc, in my chair as a slider or as a doc post. but yeah, I think that’s a good middle ground. Yeah. Well the best part was my last question for you was going to be like, you know, me, I’m a DIY guy, so like, is this realistic take on it?

The DIY project and. Right there, perhaps it is. So, you know, it is, I just think about this. Do any, any of this kind of stuff? the real benefit when it comes to employer branding, is that it gets the other people in your company, understanding what it is that you do and why it’s important, which is often the biggest blocker that anyone leading this initiative has, It’s just an awareness problem. Really? I think we can all agree that in one way or another employer, branding is important. Whatever that looks like for you could be different or we could maybe disagree on those things, but it’s important now, but most people are like outside of this little bubble, especially in the company, don’t know  what that actually means.

And this is bringing in people  to give their perspective and chime in and be participants in it. It goes a long way. I’m glad you said that because I can tie that point. You know, some of the points I make when I’m talking with Jeff on the 10 minute talent rant in any kind of, anytime I’m talking with someone, who’s like, they had a bad candidate experience related things, or why HR technology is terrible.

Like all these things, it all comes down to, HR TA he be . Like all of these groups, not having a high enough profile or enough juice to their company to make an impactful change, to make things better. That too many companies they’re either overworked, understaffed, don’t have the budget to spend on things because no one quite understands how tricky or how important and what it is, what they do is.

 which is why I really like what you’re talking about here, because this addresses that core problem, which I think is the core problem for most of the core problems in kind of the HR and TA space. Yeah. All right. Any last thoughts?   I don’t think so. No. All right. Cool.

That’s a wrap for the employer content show. If you want to hear more of what Nate and I have to say, you can subscribe to the Hirewell channel on YouTube, where we have a playlist of all of our episodes and the talent insights podcast, which is available on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify and Amazon.

Nate. Thanks again. All right, buddy. Everyone else out there. We’ll see you soon. Okay. Bye.   


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