“With offices on every continent on the globe — except for Antarctica — you will have the opportunity to work with the smartest, and most talented people in the world.” This, along with some vibrant images of good looking, smiling employees at various tasks – from poring over a desktop and discussing in a group, to playing foosball and filling a blackboard with graffiti – is what greets you when you open the careers section on the InMobi website. ‘Global company’ and ‘great colleagues’ are the highlights of what in HR jargon, would be InMobi’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP) or Employer Brand.
A company’s EVP is a clear, succinct statement that summarizes the most important benefits of working at that company. It is that first response that a company should consistently give whenever a potential candidate asks – “So why should I join your company?” Just as you must have a clear unique selling point for your customers and the elevator pitch for your investors, you must have an EVP for your employees. While an EVP is important for any company, it becomes critical for a startup. After all, as an early stage company, you will probably lack the brand visibility, job security, salary package and benefits that the biggies offer. How then, will you be able to hire and retain the highly capable, extremely motivated employees that your business needs? The EVP is that ‘sales pitch’ which will help you attract the best and that ‘customer experience’ that will help you retain them. Here are 5 tips that will help you articulate and communicate a compelling EVP:
Ask your employees
The EVP is not some magic wand that will solve all your talent issues. It is a reflection of what you are as an employer and what working for you means to your employees. I have seen HR teams get into brainstorming sessions on what they think that employees will value. This gets collated on a powerpoint slide as the EVP. Unfortunately, employees are not as gullible as those HR teams would desire. Very few people today join a job without first speaking to current or ex employees of that company. Even if you fool some of them, they will soon see the lies when they come onboard. Instead, speak to your current employees and ask them what they like best about working for you. Pick up on the themes that are repeated most often and there is the starting point of your EVP. An EVP is what you actually offer, not what you aspire to offer. That is why you articulate an EVP, not create it!
Make it compelling
It is at this time that you should brainstorm on what employees would typically value. Compare this to what you heard from employees about the experience at your company. Once you have the overall themes, you need to decide which of those is genuinely likely to make an impact on the reader/ listener. Even more importantly, which of those things are unique to you and can really be leveraged as differentiators? I just saw the website of a company that mentioned 5 points on what they offered – “…smart, young and dynamic team, entrepreneurial setup, working on cutting edge issues, broadening your professional skills, building your leadership skills…” Incidentally, this is a research & consulting startup with 12-15 people. Not only do the last 3 points seem a bit overboard, they are just so generic.
Keep it short
Brevity is a vital aspect of making something compelling and captivating. If you cannot pitch in 2 lines, maybe it is not even worth pitching. Let us go back to the elevator pitch for investors. Investors are extremely busy people, often with short attention spans when it comes to ‘noise’; you have to make your impact in 60 seconds. Why should good potential employees be any different? There is no dearth of jobs for the best talent. Even if you have a very compelling proposition, you will not have the luxury of time to grab their attention. On the careers page of one of India’s leading E-commerce websites, the section on ‘What We Offer’ is a 190 words. The 1st 120 are about the industry and what the company is doing. The next 30 describe the kind of people the company is looking for. It is only in the last sentence that they really talk about the compelling stuff, that too after another 15 words of generic stuff! Had this company not had the brand it has, I doubt if anyone would have spent the time to read through all they had to say. If nothing else, the core proposition should have been highlighted upfront and the verbiage could have followed.
Drive consistent messaging
Once you have your EVP in place, you need to ensure that your entire company espouses the same. This includes not just your founding team and HR but every current and ex-employee as well. Yes, there will always be different strokes for different folks but whenever any of them speak about working at your company, they must include the key aspects of the EVP. Part of this will get taken care of automatically if you have articulated the EVP well; a large part of it will depend on how well you have driven the message down. As a leader, you should always include some of the key-words from your EVP when you talk to anyone and encourage others in your company to do the same.
Live your promise
This is probably the toughest aspect of managing your EVP and yet, the most critical. The EVP is not a one-time effort but rather, an ongoing effort. Often, when your business is growing, you tend to lose sight of the employment promises that you had made. Communicating an EVP that no longer holds true could be extremely damaging. Even worse is the impact that deviation from your original EVP could have on your existing employees. Make sure that you periodically assess the adherence to your EVP. Ask your employees what they think and seek their suggestions. Most importantly, make corrections to address deviations from the EVP, if any.
The EVP is a reflection of your company and its employment culture. You may not immediately feel the need for it in the short-term but HR experts will tell you that this is a key tool. If executed well, the EVP will really help drive attraction & retention and be your differentiator in this fiercely competitive talent market.