5 steps to building your EVP business case

September 8, 2015

what you need to know to help HR become more business-critical than ever before

The biggest change we will see in Employee Value Proposition (EVP) branding in the next five years is more companies focusing on their long-term recruitment needs and building global employer brands that successfully translate to local markets. The reason is simple: the war for talent is over, the great candidates won, and now more work is needed to attract and engage. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are not effective at this.

Attracting the best people is the differentiator that could fundamentally affect an organization’s capability to execute their strategic goals so why ignore a key element of branding? Has HR not fully grasped the link between the EVP and corporate strategy? It seems so as only 60% of companies have EVP strategies in place, according to networkworld.com. Having an effective EVP can positively enhance the success of your business. Your EVP and your brand is not what you say it is; it is what your employees and candidates acknowledge it to be.

the Microsoft example 
The good news is that measurable improvements can be made quickly, even in circumstances where your brand has suffered or is perceived to be weak. The Randstad Award research demonstrates how quickly companies can make a difference in their brand awareness and subsequent impact on their attractiveness as an employer of choice. Just look at Microsoft’s story and its meteoric success in employer brand recognition, which is largely based on integrated, multichannel marketing of its EVP. This is no bland corporate messaging but thoughtful and targeted content created for their target audience (the Women at Microsoft Facebook page is a good example). Microsoft also made the most of its best brand advocates: their employees.

The clock is ticking, and if you compete within crowded markets, your EVP and employer branding is every bit as critical as your corporate brand. If you still remain unconvinced, note that recently a LinkedIin article suggested that no amount of money could tempt half of UK workers (53%) to consider a role at a company with a poor employer brand — same is true of other global markets, especially Asia Pacific. How do you build a compelling business case to gain both the investment and executive sponsorship you need?

1. Map out your current and future state. Talent acquisition begins with retention. Be mindful of this, but remember that the EVP is an external brand focus and should only start with a litmus test internally before focusing outside of the organization. Why? Because if your EVP does not resonate with your current employees, how will it succeed in the candidate marketplace? To ensure your EVP is in the right place, there should be a consultative process involving representation from all levels of your business.

I make this point because the majority of EVPs then go on to use inward-looking KPIs to measure success, which is not the right set of measurements. Average retention, new hire quality, and employee engagement are relevant, but don’t miss the metrics that are outwardly focused, such as social rankings (likes and followers), brand perception, new candidate registrations, CVs submitted, interviews conducted, and successful placements.

Remember, your current state is equivalent to the internal perspective, while the future state is how you want to set up your external view. This is where you build your connection to the corporate mission and to senior leadership.

2. List your options and recommend your desired approach. Look to the core commercial business and not just the function you represent. Look beyond HR as a set of functional duties. Build an EVP that has an emotional connection with your audience. Why is HR often described as the new marketing? Some key marketing tasks — understanding your audience, conducting market research, building buyer personas, carefully crafting messages targeted to a specific markets, using social media and digital channels to communicate — are similar to HR tasks.

Think of your EVP as your corporate brand and in terms of a start-up. When you want to introduce a new product or service, the first step is to create awareness within your target market. Do you know who your customers are? What are their attributes? What do they like? What are the most effective channels for reaching them? What messages will attract their interest? Such segmentation is a vital first step.

Next, you need to build up the hype. Find your audience using multiple channels with appropriately targeted content. Once you have acquired talent, use this valuable resource by gaining their feedback and endorsement, which will help you in the next wave of candidate acquisition. Detail the channels you wish to use, and get inputs from your marketing team. Ensure you go digital and social, which offers an array of tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and blogging channels. If you are not using these channels to support your employer brand, you will suffer a very real market handicap. The EVP winners will execute socially.

3. Define your KPIs and ROI. Your EVP should focus on the engagement piece — the area that will give you a return on investment. These measurable factors could be candidate registrations, high-quality inbound CVs, and an increase in placements. Effectively communicating your EVP can result in an estimated 29% increase in access to passive job candidates. The results should manifest themselves in your market position and how your employer brand is perceived in the candidate market.

Take this opportunity to grab the attention of the senior business leaders. Show tangibly the linkage between corporate brand influence and EVP. The senior management team focuses on customers in acquisition and retention terms, therefore the corporate brand and marketing drive are paramount. However, what your candidates are saying about you and whether they choose to join your company also reflect on your brand. Unhappy candidates can be as damaging as unhappy customers.

We all know the impact a bad customer experience can have on a business, so you can expect a bad candidate experience to have the same impact on prospective employees. A study by salesforce.com shows that 78% of customers ended a business relationship due to bad service, while 61% chose to take their business to a direct competitor. The same kind of ratio can be applied to someone who has had a bad candidate experience. Be aware that the candidate community talks and formulates an opinion on employer brands based in part on word of mouth.

To ensure that you provide a consistent and thorough candidate experience, build a world-class recruitment and onboarding process that consistently supports your EVP. Ensure you mystery shop and get input from outsiders who do not know your company. If you don’t pay attention to what it’s actually like to read a job description, interview, and join your organization, you could unwittingly end up doing the work of your competitors. (Read more here on defining your EVP proposition).

4. Define your implementation plan. Every business case needs to define its project plan and milestones. This is all part of scoping out your underlying steps;it is also the time you get support from all stakeholders.

Define your milestones and review points. Be bold and define when you expect measurable outcomes. Ensure your monitoring channels and feedback loops are defined. Be flexible and adapt your strategy to take advantage of what is working. Don’t be afraid to kill communications that do not advance the creation of a candidate pool. Adaptation will be key so consider what the EVP project looks like within a “business as usual” context.

5. Describe your project governance. This is vital to ensuring your EVP project is aligned to organizational objectives and delivered successfully. It also ensures that all stakeholders will receive timely and actionable updates. Bear in mind that an EVP project involves the senior management team, HR, and marketing. Overall responsibility for the project should sit with HR, but the delivery must be through a cross-functional team.

Executive sponsorship must come from the top level. Keep in mind only 53% of CEOs believe that closer cooperation is needed between EVP stakeholders, according to Universum. Why is this? Again, accountability and project leadership should sit within HR.

The benefits of good governance include:

  • Clearly defined roles, responsibilities and KPIs
  • Internal project controls – approval gates and spend decisions
  • Flexibility – recorded decisions at approval gates allows for changes to be maximized
  • Reassurance externally that spend is justified
  • Allowing delegated groups independence of action
  • Cross departmental reporting and communication
  • Aligned goals and apportionment of risk and reward

We often hear about what CEOs expect from their HR leaders in order to have a seat at the table. An EVP project is an opportunity to align talent acquisition and HR strategy with business objectives. The EVP supports HR organizational design and people planning to ensure that business goals can be met and that the employer brand resonates and works successfully in a complex world of multiple generations, talent shortage, and fierce competition. For this reason, HR’s role in the business has never been more crucial.

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