What is an EVP and how do you create one?

Employer Value Proposition. Employee Value Proposition. Employment Value Proposition. An EVP goes by any of those names (Harvard Business Review uses the last one – does that make it official?)

Whatever you extrapolate it out to, your EVP describes what is great about working for you. It's not your brand, it's about what it is to work for your business. It's very personal, and while it can be a bit aspirational, it must be based on enough current-state reality that people don't turn up and on day one wonder if they walked through the right door.

It's essential that it represents you. Stealing Apple's EVP is going to be meaningless. What you bring as the employer will be unique, and if you can capture that, you will have a much great chance of hiring 'your' people. If you're starting out or bootstrapping, it can feel like you don't have a lot to offer; but it doesn't have to be about perks or 'brand'; it can focus on the impact of the work you do, it's complexity or simplicity; it might be that you have strong values that authentically underpin your work that will deeply connect with someone's search for doing meaningful work; maybe it's whom you're working with – whether that's people in need or celebrities there will be a candidate market that will appeal to.

It has to be true because if you sell yourself as a thing and it's apparent to new hires that is not who you are, they're much more likely to leave. My favourite ever EVP conversation was with an organisation that aspired to be the best in Australia at what they did. They wanted their EVP to reflect this, and to described the exceptional L&D opportunities that they didn't yet offer in the hope it would attract more highly skilled candidates than they were getting. You can imagine what turning up day one would be like, only to find that no formal training plan existed and, in fact, that your peers were probably not quite up to industry standard.

So what did I do with that organisation? We flipped it on its head. Let's look at the process:

  1. Ask your current employees what is great about working for you. If you don't have any yet, reflect honestly on what you can offer and, if appropriate, perhaps ask some trusted clients what they think is great about partnering with you. Current staff are a great source of insight because the things they love are often not the things you would necessarily think of. You might think they love the free parking and Friday afternoon drinks, when in fact, they love that it's a supportive and flexible environment that allows them to be human at work.

  2. Ask them what's missing. Maybe let them do it anonymously (if you can … obviously if you've only got one person, that's hard!) unless you're really prepared to listen and not defend. What's missing is useful because it can help you redefine that as an opportunity rather than a drawback. Take the scenario above; we used the fact they needed to upskill the workforce to frame the role as one where a technically skilled candidate would be able to develop their leadership and training capabilities and shape the future of the business (this was backed by their being space available in their role to pursue this). In EVP terms, this meant the business offered an opportunity to grow professionally and exert influence on its future direction. And while it's not your brand, it shouldn't contradict and ideally should complement your brand.

  3. Write it up. You can find examples here, and here, and here. Get some help if you're not great with words. Circulate it among existing staff where you can, or people who know you and your business if you can't.

  4. Live it. As I said, you have to be true to it. Don't stick it in a folder on your laptop, and never look at it again save for the odd position description update. Use it as a cultural artifact to bring you back on course when needed. Track it if you can. Use it to design performance metrics for your managers. Use it in your social media to personalise your culture. Obviously, use it in your hiring practices. Make sure your systems and policies support it.

Fundamentally, your particular combination of mission, culture and opportunity is going to be unique to you. It won't, and shouldn't appeal to everyone because not everyone is looking for the right thing. Misrepresenting yourself, or taking on the voice of someone else is a wasted opportunity. Be proud of what you do and who you are, live up to your values and it'll rub off on your workforce.