The power of a simple, culture-led employee value proposition
With ongoing and intense competition for talent, employers are constantly raising the bar to meet the elevated expectations of today’s candidates. Flexible hours. Flexible workplaces. Sabbaticals. Subsidised tuition. Mental health support. Fitness programmes. Pet insurance. The employee value proposition (EVP) has become a convoluted beast and moveable feast. But is it working?
Drawbacks of a complex and benefits-led EVP
Through our regular conversations with clients, we often hear that EVPs are losing some of their focus on culture, vision and values as they morph into an exhaustive list of benefits. This tantalising taster menu may succeed in bringing people through the door, but what then? It’s at this point that the complex and benefits-led EVP can begin to unravel. 
Constant updates
One drawback is that companies need to constantly update and expand their EVPs to keep pace with their peers – not just in response to direct demands from employees and job candidates but also the precedents set on social media. Business-focused platform LinkedIn, for example, makes professionals hyper-aware of what workplace perks exist, and naturally they will draw comparisons with their own employers.
Diverse priorities
To complicate matters, the growing diversity of workforces makes it unlikely that a prescriptive and benefit-first EVP will resonate uniformly with everyone. Employees tend to have different priorities according to their age, circumstances, culture and geographical location. 
Workers in Mexico, for instance, will have a different culture outlook to workers in Tokyo. Similarly, research by McKinsey found big differences in the priorities of the ​‘non-traditionalist’ workers that businesses need to attract and retain in order to address talent shortages. Students and young part-timers tend to prize training opportunities and meaningful work far above pay, whereas parents and other caregivers put adequate total compensation at the top of their agenda and rate support for health and wellbeing highly.
Promises, promises
Brands are judged on what they do, not what they say, and a complex benefits-led EVP needs to make good on a lot of promises. If there is an unfavourable mismatch between what is promised externally and what is delivered internally, it erodes the long-term employee experience, dents retention and potentially harms the organisation’s reputation. 
Should new and diverse talent arrive in a workplace that doesn’t foster a sense of belonging or inclusivity, for example, the success of the EVP will be short-lived. It may have introduced fresh faces, but if the culture is weak, they won’t stick around.
Indeed, attrition rates are still high in 2023. In the UK, voluntary turnover among employers stood at 16.4% in 2022, compared with 9.6% in 2021.
Advantages of a simple, culture-first EVP
Beyond pay and perks, survey after survey shows that employees crave meaningful work. To derive that meaning they need to be inspired and energised by the organisation’s culture and vision, imbued with the sense that everyone is united in a common purpose.
Younger employees, in particular, want to be empowered to drive change within their organisations, according to research by Deloitte. It found that four in 10 Gen Zs and a third of Millennials had turned down employers that did not align with their values while around the same proportion had rejected assignments due to ethical concerns.
When companies do foster a sense of shared purpose, deep connections, radical flexibility, personal growth and holistic wellbeing, employee satisfaction in the EVP increases by 15%, according to research by Gartner. This chimes with our experience that a simple culture-first EVP is more effective at securing talent long term.
Staying power
An EVP rooted in culture has longevity, which means you can refresh it rather than having to constantly reassess and rewrite it. Instead of reacting to the latest recruitment trends, you’re setting expectations for the full lifecycle of the employee experience and then delivering on that in a way that engages and motivates your employees so they have a compelling reason to stay. 
Simplicity and flexibility
The beauty of a simple EVP is that you can stay true to your core and convey a memorable message that employees are more likely to take to heart. We would recommend between three and five high-level values that are meaningful to people working in every function, at every level and in every geographical location of the business. 
By keeping your core message simple, you can then dial up certain values and personal attributes according to what resonates with people in different departments, cultures, circumstances and parts of the world.
Here at People Made, we are proud of the simple, flexible EVP we helped develop for online fashion retailer Farfetch. Having risen in just seven years from tech startup to the world’s first ever fashion ​‘unicorn’ – with a $1 billion valuation – the London-based brand wanted help to become the place where world-class talent wanted to be. 
Alongside a succinct People Promise speaking directly to tech talent, we spelled out ​‘five big reasons to join Farfetch’ and ​‘five big reasons to be here.’ The five reasons were the same, whether aimed at future or existing employees, but the messaging beneath each was tailored to resonate with the different readerships.
Of course, we promised jobseekers ​‘great perks’. But our main endeavour was to stir the passions of people who could have a long and fulfilling career at Farfetch because its proposition was meaningful to them – people who wanted to make an impact on the world of fashion and share in the success of an ambitious, diverse, fast-growing, radical firm at a crucial moment in its history.
If the benefit-led EVP is the key to a dazzling first date, think of the culture-led EVP as the recipe to a long and happy relationship. We all know it’s better to be upfront about who you really are and what you truly believe in. That way you’re more likely to attract the right people, keep the passion alive and work happily ever after.
At People Made, we advise businesses at all stages of growth to define their EVP.
Get in touch. We’d love to hear from you: hello@​people-​made.​com