Meaningful Marketing

Value propositions aren’t just for customers. Today’s top talent demands them, too.

Rod AlexanderSenior Partner
Meaningful Marketing
A group of employees sitting at a table discussing a project

The challenge of finding—and retaining—talented workers for just about every industry has been an issue for many years. And now it’s getting worse.

Why? Lots of reasons. Let’s start with COVID, but let’s not forget inflation, political upheaval, climate change, social unrest, the war in Ukraine and overall economic instability sparked by fears of a recession.

The question of how to address the talent issues is exacerbated by all these obstacles, and companies are searching for answers. I believe one way to address it that might provide some answers is to look at the Employee Value Proposition (EVP), a popular HR tool that companies in almost all industries have been using in some form for years.

The time is right not only to revisit the EVP, but perhaps to completely rewrite it so that it meets the unique challenges posed by an ever-changing post-pandemic workplace.

What is an EVP? Definitions vary significantly in their details, but most contain similar basic elements. At its core, an EVP is a way for companies to market themselves to potential employees by highlighting their mission, values, culture, and overall benefits, beyond simple remuneration.

Why is an EVP revaluation needed? For one thing, business leaders and employers everywhere need to understand that the COVID pandemic has changed everything. The way we used to do business before March 2020 is never coming back. Anyone who rejects that reality does so at their own peril.

The most obvious change falls under the umbrella heading of employee expectations. When it comes to hiring, the shoe is now on the other foot, and employees (as well as prospects) hold more clout and leverage than ever before. And that’s not going to change, even if we do enter a recession. Keep in mind that despite economic uncertainty, U.S. unemployment is at an extremely low 3.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employees want more flexible working hours, new benefits such as childcare and expanded work-from-home opportunities. They also want to work for companies that demonstrate a genuine stake in—excuse the cliché—making the world a better place. Many employees want to work within a corporate culture that is compatible with their beliefs and allows them to flourish doing work that is personally important them.

Author, TED speaker and futurist Jacob Morgan has a great quote that sums it up well:
“In a world where money is no longer the primary motivating factor for employees, focusing on the employee experience is the most promising competitive advantage that organizations can create.”

Here are seven suggestions for how employers can create a new version of an EVP that meets the challenges created by a new, post-pandemic working environment.

  • Make sure that every level of corporate management, from the CEO down to the lowest level of employee manager, endorses your EVP. Otherwise, it will lack credibility. Employees will see through it and view it as mere lip service.
  • Make your EVP genuinely actionable. As my AHA colleague and senior strategist Brian Lanahan says, “Any genuine EVP has to come off the walls and into the halls.” If it doesn’t, the workforce will see it as a paper tiger.
  • When reviewing and revising an EVP, seek input from a cross-section of employees. It’s essential that a credible and forceful EVP include grassroots input. That way, the workforce will know they have skin in the game. A truly effective EVP needs to articulate the beliefs and desires of the people it will impact the most.
  • Ensure that your EVP benefits both sides. You don’t need to sacrifice everything to your workers. Just make sure they know you are sincere in your efforts to develop a plan that works for everyone.
  • Merge your revamped EVP into an overall corporate campaign strategy that describes how it would work in real terms. Create messages for employees and a tagline for the overall program.
  • Make it clear that your EVP is fluid and evolving. Employees need to be reassured that the EVP will be regularly re-evaluated to reflect what they want and need.
  • View your employees as the foundation for success, and treat them accordingly.

An EVP can work for employers and employees alike, but it needs to honestly and forcefully address the needs of a new generation of workers who simply don’t view the world the same way we did before the pandemic. The world has changed, and any employer who wants to succeed needs to ride the change or risk losing out. The best way is to create a new blueprint for hiring and retaining talent that realistically meets the needs of employees who are living and working in an ever-changing, post-pandemic marketplace.

Rod Alexander is Senior Partner at AHA, a FINN Partners Company

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