How Company Culture is Shaping Employer Branding
Employer branding has more influence than ever before in determining the imperative for companies to engage employees and align actual company culture to stated values. While the company culture ultimately shapes the employer brand, it’s the employer value proposition that truly differentiates an organization and its culture from the competition. When properly fashioned and implemented, the corporate value proposition is the nucleus of a durable organizational culture as it is communicated directly from the mouths of its employees.
At the most basic level, an employee value proposition (EVP) is the unique set of benefits employees receive in return for the skills, capabilities and experiences they bring to a company. An EVP is about defining the essence of your company—how it is unique and what it stands for. It describes the mix of characteristics, benefits and ways of working in an organization. It’s the deal struck between company and employee in return for their contribution and performance. This “deal” characterizes an employer and differentiates it from the competition.
How your EVP impacts retention and company culture
Developing a strong EVP or employee value proposition is key to any recruiting and retention effort.Your EVP represents everything of value that your company provides to its employees—pay, benefits, training, career development opportunities and so on—and it is then “marketed” to the workforce.
EVP’s matter because they form the foundation upon which you your brand and internal retention and external recruiting efforts are built. The culture you have now might look very different from the way your company culture looked ten years ago, and it will look different ten years from now. Rapidly changing external and internal forces are the reasons we rely on our workforce to define our workplace cultures and shape our employer brands.
Many companies miss the mark when creating an EVP when they rely too heavily on the leadership of their company, rather than making the EVP employee-focused. For recruiting and retention, your EVP statement must reflect the value to the employee, not the value to company leadership or the bottom line (while those are both nice side effects of a solid, “talk-the-talk” and “walk-the-walk” EVP). Here are a handful of my favorite EVP examples.
To ensure that your EVP reflects your current employee sentiment, it’s best to develop your EVP in the words of your employees and potential candidates. Here are some ways to find out how your employees are talking about their experiences:
- Conduct executive interviews and workshops with key stakeholders to understand talent priorities from a strategic perspective
- Hold qualitative focus groups that enrich your understanding of employee values and perceptions
- Elicit support from branding and marketing teams to develop optimal and differentiated messaging
- Test internally by inviting employees to weigh in on messaging and suggest wording that reflects their experiences
Creating your employee value proposition
It’s easy to throw a few value propositions into a statement and put it on your careers site or have it stenciled on a wall. However, it’s key to create an EVP that reflects the current values of your workplace, and that means turning your attention internally. How is your company morale? If your EVP talks about how much your employees love working for your organization and why, but your current employees would roll their eyes at the statement, you have two options: 1) Rewrite your EVP or 2) Focus on improving morale for your current employees before you start marketing a value proposition to potential employees.
This is really what we try to do when it comes to our retention efforts - with focus group meetings, for example - but employer branding is far more strategic and far reaching. It forces us as workplace leaders to really pair down and also package exactly what the employees believe defines the organization with them.
“Improving morale” seems like a never-ending, broad, depends on who you talk to kind of task. As an HR professional, your employees are not only the best advocates for your brand, they can sniff out a full-of-fluff brand statement from a mile away. You’re never going to make 100 percent of your employees happy 100 percent of the time, but what you can do is find out if there are one or two common threads that may be impacting employee morale negatively. Consider anonymous surveys (and understand that, depending on the state of your company morale, many employees will not believe the surveys are anonymous), establish trust between human resources and employees of the company, and use surveys not only to try and uncover negatives, but also to isolate the positives. Start with the positives.
Asking your current employees what they love about your company is going to be the best resource for crafting a strong EVP statement. If you discover that most employees rate the CEO negatively (pro tip: take a look at your company’s Glassdoor reviews), but they love their own autonomy and that they’re not micromanaged, your EVP could focus on the fact that your employees are empowered to make their own decisions, to take risks without consequences, that they feel their creativity is rewarded and so on.
An employee survey can also help you identify what you could easily fix from a human resources perspective. Some years ago, I consulted for a company CEO who loved to promote the fact that he met one-on-one with every single employee, every quarter. However, employees didn’t exactly see these meetings as a benefit. Perhaps because the company had a large millennial employee base, employees felt that these one-on-ones with their CEO was akin to being “called to the principal’s office.” They took every suggestion or comment during these meetings as criticism. When asked what they preferred, the answer was more communication with their direct supervisors. Did they care whether or not the CEO knew them personally or understood what they did at the company? No. They cared about whether or not the CEO was equipped to steer the company in a positive direction that would make an impact on the company’s bottom line. The result? No more one-on-one meetings, more regular and transparent updates from the CEO on the financial health of the company.
Key to a great workplace culture: Knowing your employees
Knowing what employees want and value is the foundation of a successful EVP. Just like your consumer brand statement and your mission statement, the EVP helps you convey exactly what your organization offers to its employees. By having an EVP, you also have the clarity you need to drive all other efforts with true intention and purpose. Culturally, it’s good practice to give employees the opportunity to set the bar for your EVP by providing their insights and opinions, making the employer/employee relationship a true partnership.