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August 25, 2021 // Paul Sears // Opinion  //       //  Opinion

A Strong Employee Value Proposition Completes the ‘Whole Brand’

The impact of talent on a company’s ability to achieve its strategy can’t be overstated. Research from McKinsey & Company in 2017 suggested high performers can outproduce average performers by 50% to 800%, depending on the complexity of the work. Yet the same study noted some 82% of Fortune 500 executives don’t believe their firms recruit highly talented people.

We believe the power of Employer Brand is too often underestimated as a driver of talent acquisition and retention. The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is a key tool in delivering the “whole brand” to the market - to customers and talent alike.

Brand. Business. Employee Experience. They’re All Part of the Same Story.

We recognize the business, the corporate brand and the employee experience are fundamentally connected. They’re all part of the same story and all part of the same strategic problem to solve. Even though they may be handled by different teams within the enterprise, the external world doesn’t see them as separate items. There’s a good chance prospective employees are also customers. In addition to career pages, job descriptions and culture overviews, candidates research the corporate brand, products and customer reviews. Annual reports, CSR, DE&I - all are part of an organization’s truth. All shape current and prospective talent’s viewpoints.

Disruption Impacts Employees as well as Customers

When we develop corporate brand strategy, we acknowledge disruption has changed the very nature and meaning of brand. Likewise, when we develop an EVP, we know the same truths apply. Customers have exponentially more choice than ever, and so do employees. Category lines blur if not disappear entirely.  Team roles and functions overlap, making career transitions much easier. Customers expect more than just products and services. Team members expect a holistic experience that develops them personally and professionally while providing basic needs, such as compensation, benefits and balance.  

Listen. Learn. Understand. Repeat

Understanding how employees feel the brand is delivered is critical for the EVP.  Employee Experience (EX) surveys are a great starting point, according to Allison+Partners Senior Vice President of Research & Insights Katie Malark. 

"Recurring EX surveys track all of the drivers that impact employee success,” Malark said. “They allow us to see the dynamic relationship between the environment we set out to create for employees and the delivery of that promise."

Understanding the external zeitgeist is just as critical - talent is everywhere and sees anything and everything a customer would. We conduct a holistic digital conversation analysis across social channels, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, blogs, media coverage and more. An EVP must be real and credible to be believed, so we always audit the competition to understand where we can meaningfully differentiate in real terms. How are they delivering? How are we delivering?  What are the gaps and how do we fill them?

Embrace the Brand’s VITAL-ity

Corporate brands and employer brands are nothing more than thoughts and feelings in the hearts and minds of human beings - shortcuts constructed by humans for humans to help them link ideas together on gut. In other words, brands must embrace their humanity. The employer brand and EVP are even more human expressions of brand. By their very nature, they deal entirely with people. This is why we spend so much time engaging employees directly - before, during and after.

We believe strong brands are V.I.T.A.L. - they express a clear and believable Vision, their purpose and voice provide Inspiration, their behavior creates Trust, their values are in Alignment with those of their constituents, and they demonstrate Leadership in everything they do. When we build empathy and shared purpose with employees, we enable the brand to more fully deliver on this promise every day.  

North Star Research Senior Vice President and North American Managing Director Jennifer Yellin highlights this point. 

“We developed the V.I.T.A.L. methodology with Allison+Partners to provide space for the humanity of brands – whether that refers to customers, partners, employees or prospective talent,” Yellin said. “How do they think about a brand?  How does a brand make them feel? How do they react in their gut? Can they see themselves in the story? Is there proof in action? When brands do these things right, they reflect our humanity.”   

Whether during discovery, testing out our ideas or facilitating change management, engaging employees directly earns their engagement and buy-in.  

Survive and Thrive in an Age of Disruption

Bain & Co. has done a great job of connecting the employee value proposition to day-to-day delivery. Bain’s EVP states: 

“Picture yourself at one of the world’s best places to work, surrounded by teams and people who challenge you, support you, and inspire you to be extraordinary.”  

It doesn’t say specifically what it makes, does or sells. But it provides a platform for opportunity and growth, camaraderie and connection. It sets an expectation for excellence and provides a pathway to achieve it. Not surprisingly, Bain’s global average Glassdoor rating is 4.7 out of 5.  

In the face of constant disruption, completing the “whole brand” has never been more important. We must work together across disciplines, break down silos and tell the whole story to all stakeholders in a unified voice. Establishing a clear and powerful EVP is a key to unlocking a strong employer brand, and in turn driving success for the corporate brand and the business.

Paul Sears is Executive Vice President, Brand & Engagement Strategy. With nearly 20 years of experience in strategic planning, Paul’s team has helped more than 75 B2B and consumer clients with purpose-driven brand strategy, product marketing, customer experience planning, go to market strategy, and ‘big idea” creative strategy. 

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