Employment1 Nov 2023
New insights on Employee Value Proposition (EVP) Research: What works and what doesn't
In the fast-paced and highly competitive world of business today, sourcing and retaining the best talent is vital for an organisation's prosperity. With the employment rate in Australia at an all time high, it’s a candidate-driven-market, so companies are battling to attract and retain the skilled and qualified professionals they need more than ever before.
That’s why it's imperative to understand what your employees value most. And the best way to do that is through research. Developing an EVP, informed by employee and market research, ensures that your ‘people promise’ is authentic, relatable and differentiating. Only then can you start attracting, engaging and retaining the right talent to move your business forward.
Understanding Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
Employee Value Proposition research has been a subject of increasing interest in the corporate world. Senior business and HR leaders are realising that the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is a powerful tool in creating more belonging and alignment with purpose, values and visions.
Understanding what truly motivates employees and aligning those values with the organisation's goals is vital for building a compelling EVP that helps attract, engage and retain the right talent for the business. It can help create an environment and culture where employees are not only satisfied with their jobs but also deeply connected to the organisation's mission and values and become advocates for the employee experience.
Key insights from recent EVP Research
Here’s a quick summary of some of the key pointers of recent EVP Research
Qualitative research involves collecting non-numerical data, such as open-ended survey responses, focus group discussions, and in-depth interviews while quantitative research involves the collection and analysis of numerical data, typically through surveys or questionnaires. Each approach offers unique insights that, when combined, provide a more holistic understanding of the EVP and its impact on the workforce. Qualitative will tell you the ‘why’ behind the what (providing a richer, deeper human perspective), while quantitative can then help you validate your findings across the organisation; providing statistical evidence overall and by talent segment. This can elevate the confidence you have in developing your strategy and taking preferred messages to market.
Organisations have increasingly recognised the importance of aligning their EVP with a meaningful purpose beyond merely financial success. This purpose-driven approach involves articulating a company's mission, vision, and values in a way that resonates with employees and connects them to a higher cause. The Covid-19 pandemic has only increased the interest in ‘purpose’. See graph on Google trends (2004-2023)
Organisations can tap into this by helping candidates and employees connect more closely with purpose. Your EVP research can uncover the quality of this connection - i.e. ‘Do you feel connected to the organisational purpose? Why or why not?’
When employees feel like they truly belong to the organisation, they become more loyal and committed to its mission and values. We often hear people saying in our research groups that ‘it’s like a family here’. When employees feel accepted and valued within the company's culture, they're more likely to give it their all. Dig into belonging using questions around feeling safe to speak up and bring their true selves to work. Uncover what relationships look like at work. Understanding, and nurturing belonging can have a real impact on the bottom line. Research from BetterUp suggests belonging can increase job performance by 56% and decrease sick days by 75%*.
*BetterUp: The Value of Belonging at Work 2021
Work flexibility is like a breath of fresh air for employees, offering them the freedom and autonomy to strike that perfect work-life balance. Employees love the flexibility to customise their work schedules. When employees have the power to control how and where they work, they become more engaged, motivated, and productive. In a recent report by Randstad , it was found that 83.2% of Australian workers consider flexibility in terms of working hours to be important. Additionally, 74.6% of Australian workers believe that flexibility in terms of location is important.
When employees have the option to work from home, they can experience a boost in productivity and job satisfaction. Life balance becomes much easier to manage. It's like tapping into a whole new level of focus and efficiency. Companies also benefit from this as they have reduced overhead costs, as well as increased employee retention and engagement. It’s also better for the environment with lower transportation emissions.
It appears that the work from home trend may have stabilised (for now). In an article published by The Guardian, ‘transport experts believe post-pandemic work habits have finally stabilised and that the return to the office is unlikely to progress any further. The average working Australian is spending 27% of their working hours at home, calculated across full and part-time employees.’
However, while the covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the work from home concept, many employers are now either encouraging or enforcing employees to come back to office, usually on a part-time basis. This is called a hybrid model. Even Zoom, the videoconference giant who helped enable remote work at scale, is asking employees who live within an 80-kilometre radius of its offices to work onsite two days a week. Where the balance lands will differ from business to business - depending on whether working from home is even possible for the types of roles available. However it ultimately may depend on economic factors influencing the job market, as to whether employees or employers have the power to demand one way or the other. As such a hybrid model may be the right balance for the majority who can.
What works in EVP Research: Strategies and tactics based on recent findings
EVP research involves various strategies and tactics to understand, optimise, and communicate the Employee Value Proposition effectively. There are certain steps that companies need to be taken to form successful EVP strategies:
1. Get clear on objectives first for the business and strategic workforce planning and from there develop the project objectives
2. Write a project brief and battle-test it with key stakeholders - does it define the problem that needs to be solved clearly. If not - refine
3. Provide an environment for authentic, honest employee data - the more ‘real’ the more successful your EVP will be
4. Understand clearly what employees value but also WHY - that’s the heart of your EVP
5. Define the gaps between current offer and what people actually value; and compare this with your competitors for talent. Can you proactively design your ‘employee experience’ so it is set apart?
6. Think about segmenting for different divisions or talent cohorts - the more personalised you can make your EVP for different types of people the more magnetic it will be
7. Look beyond your business, look beyond your market and look at the macro trends for opportunities to leverage and issues to mitigate or avoid
8. Along the way engage your people (through testing at different stages), so they feel they can embrace and ultimately own the EVP - they will be more likely to organically become ambassadors for your Employer Brand
What doesn't work in EVP Research: Common pitfalls and misconceptions
Certain factors can hinder the success of EVP research. Some common pitfalls include:
Developing and implementing an EVP is not solely the responsibility of one person. It requires collaboration and buy-in from leadership, managers, and other key stakeholders across the organisation. Everyone plays a role in shaping and delivering the EVP. It is a whole-of-business tool.
Why you might save some money developing, facilitating and summarising all the research, but in our experience we usually find this means significant gaps in the outputs can arise. For one, employees tend to with-hold their true feelings when HR leads focus groups and interviews, so you get rose-coloured glass responses for fear of reproach. Therefore enlisting the support of an external facilitator who can ensure anonymity usually results in richer, more honest insights (and that’s gold for your EVP).
The process of EVP research requires a thoughtful and methodical approach to gather relevant insights and develop an effective EVP.
EVP research experts have completed dozens if not hundreds of these activities and can provide more robust lines of questions and dig in where necessary to pull out more comprehensive data from your employees and the marketplace.
For instance, without well-defined project and research objectives, and segmented questionnaires that ask the right questions to the right people in the right way, the EVP research may lack focus, leading to scattered data collection and analysis.
Inexperienced researchers might not know precisely what information they need to gather from employees, which can result in irrelevant or insufficient data.
An annual engagement survey can help you to gauge overall employee satisfaction and identify potential areas for improvement.
However, relying solely on this survey as your EVP can lead to missed opportunities and a lack of depth in understanding what truly motivates and engages your employees. An engagement survey lacks the more emotional ‘why’. Even if you have open-ended questions, an engagement survey doesn’t get to the heart of what people value most and why, nor the gaps between the offer and real experience, nor the aspiration of leaders based on workforce strategy. An engagement survey is not designed to understand what attracts and retains people or how your EVP compares to others in the market.
Applying the insights: Recommendations for applying your EVP insights
3 Strategic Lenses - Authenticity, Relatability and Differentiation
At Belong Creative we use a strategic framework to help distil all the research proof points into a compelling, representative and balanced EVP. This framework consists of 3 strategic lenses; Authenticity, Relatability, and Differentiation.
1. Authenticity - Being authentic means showcasing your organisation's genuine culture, values, and employee experiences. It is the cornerstone of a successful proposition.
2. Relatability - Your EVP needs to speak directly to the needs and aspirations of your employees. It involves tailoring your message to connect with your employees and what they actually value the most.
3. Differentiation - What makes your organisation special? Showcase what sets your organisation apart from others by highlighting your unique combination of offerings, benefits and work culture. It's all about painting a picture that not only defines your employee experience but sets it apart in a human way.
Applying Macro Trends
Make sure your EVP project goes beyond ‘navel gazing’. Once you’ve pulled out the key insights, stop and look at the broader context of social, market and brand trends that you can leverage.
For example, the job market in Australia is better than ever before with unemployment rates reaching record lows. This success has sparked a race among employers to attract and keep the best talent. However with inflation and increasing mortgage interest rates, cost of living pressures are mounting on everyday Australians. Companies who offer employee support programs (financial, mental health and wellbeing) can show empathy to their people - helping increase retention. Senior Australians may also be delaying retirement due to economic conditions, which creates an opportunity for the EVP to appeal directly to this segment and leverage their depth of experience. Or perhaps as part of your EVP positioning, your organisation is deeply committed to sustainability and this can influence and attract a certain talent segment. These are just some examples of how the EVP can leverage macro trends.
These macro trends are more than just numbers; they're shaping the way employees work. By recognising and responding positively to these trends, you can craft an EVP that's not just about today. It's about building a future where your employees' needs are met, keeping them engaged and productive.
Summarising into Strategic Pillars
The final step is ‘bucketing’ the proof-points into 4-5 different facets of the workplace to help create pillar themes that are more relatable to your audience. It is not 1 on its own but the combination of these pillars that makes your employee experience and therefore your Employee Value Proposition unique to you.
Look to create breadth using diverse facets of the workplace such as;
1. Why; purpose, vision and journey ahead
2. Who; people, culture, relationships
3. What; quality and type/s of work product/services
4. How; ways of working, attitudes, values and behaviours
5. Where; if geography or physical workplace is important
For each pillar, you may be able to apply a branded theme that connects the pillars together, helping your EVP to be ownable only to you.
Leveraging Research Findings: Transforming your Employer Brand
Your organisation can create a compelling and transformational Employer Brand strategy that resonates with both current employees and potential candidates by leveraging the insights gained through EVP research.
An EVP that supports your organisation's mission and workforce strategy will be much more effective. Getting clear on the problems you need to solve first is key. Be data-led. Where are the pain points now and what are they projected to be in the future as obstacles to your business goals. What is it that your EVP must do, to help you attract, engage and retain the RIGHT talent, not just for today but into the short and medium term.
You can create an EVP that truly resonates with different talent segments by assessing your future business needs and finding what motivates & drives particular types of employees and candidates. Customise your proof-points (gathered in research) into these talent segments and go to market with messaging that speaks to their drivers and values. This will not only help attract the right talent but also increase employee engagement and reduce unnecessary attrition in the future.
As part of developing an EVP it is essential to understand what differentiates your employment experience in the market. It’s one thing to be authentic and promote your differences, but consider taking it to the next level (using your EVP research insights) to proactively design a more unique employee experience. Can you tweak some of your tangible benefits to make them more compelling, more human or more relatable than your competitors. The better you know what your people value (and future ideal talent) the more magnetic your Employer Brand will become over time.
Belong Creative has had the privilege of looking ‘under the hood’ of some of Australia’s most sought-after employers. Our team of researchers and brand strategists know what it takes to deliver an EVP that works for your organisation. If you would like some support, please reach out, as we’d love to help you create more belonging for your brand.
With a menu of proven creative ideas, including costings, deliverables and live examples you will have everything you need to build a comprehensive budget to activate your Employer Brand.