The employee value proposition is a positioning statement designed to share the primary reason why a person should “work for you”.
It’s often stated as a reason (“here’s why you should work here), or as a feature (“this makes our company better than others”), or as a problem the company solves (“you will not be bored working here”), or as a value or benefit (“you will grow and find purposeful work here”).
When we tell someone we have “back pain”, what we usually mean is that something is off somewhere along our spine – with or between one or more of our 33 vertebrae. As a system of parts, our vertebrae work together to support our weight. Our vertebrae are the individual parts and our spine represents the whole.
In a similar way, it might be helpful to think of our values, or value statements, as the individual parts and our employee value proposition as a representation of the whole – a single expression designed to make your company attractive and help it to stand out in a crowd.
Good, now let’s begin…
Collect employer data
The first step to creating an effective employer value proposition is to interview your leadership team and ask them their opinions and thoughts on the following questions:
- What do we believe?
- What is our vision and purpose?
- How do we judge performance?
- How do we reach our goals?
- Why does this company exist?
- Why do people stay?
- Why do people work here?
- Why is the company unique?
- What makes this a great place to work?
- What do we want people to believe, feel and think about our company?
- What about the location is most attractive?
- Why do new employees want to work here?
- What type of skills do we need most?
- How do we develop skills and talents?
Let’s say your company is a healthcare technology firm and is located downtown in the tallest building in the city and is filled with serial entrepreneurs and well-known scientists that love to work hard and have fun. Your research might show that your leadership team:
- values transparency and the ability to move ideas forward toward execution.
- cares deeply about independence, quality for all, self expression, open expression, and authenticity.
- strives to hire people who are media-savvy and have prior experience working in a large consulting firm.
- tries to hire people with advanced degrees and deep industry experience.
- values SME’s who were pioneers in the field of work and the number of patents you hold.
- views (only the first) failure as a “learning moment”.
- considers themselves gritty; 45% have a military background.
- connects accountability to responsibility; believes to be a key to performance.
- values cultural differences and diversity in beliefs.
- tries to hires people with a high emotional quotient.
- cares deeply about winning awards.
- is proud of employees who publish articles in top industry mags.
- places a very high value one-on-one mentoring for career growth.
- promotes flexible hours and values four weeks paid vacation every year.
- cares deeply about paying 100% benefits for all employees.
- loves that 99 food trucks and 32 restaurants are all within a 3 minute walk.
- is completely committed to 100% reimbursement for continuing education.
- prizes skills in machine learning and deep learning above all other tech skills.
- and so on…
Review your internal data
To gain additional insights, you might want to look into your own data to explore the following questions:
- Who succeeds here?
- What backgrounds and experiences do our best employees possess?
- What behaviors and character traits do our best employees possess?
- What is our ideal target audience?
- What is our ideal candidate’s current employer or occupation?
- How many years of experience do they have?
- Are our candidates most likely working for the competition? If so, which ones?
Your raw data might end up looking something like this:
- 72% of our employees were in a competitive sport.
- 92% of our employees have between 5-12 years experience.
- 16% of our employees come from(this or that) company.
- Every one of our employees had full accountability in roles prior.
- 80% of our employees have a gym membership and go 4x+ per week.
- 79% of our employees have a 4 year college degree
- 58% of our employees have traveled to India or China or both.
- 65% of our employees have 2+ years experience in machine learning.
- and so on.
Collect employee data
Next, have a few of your top employees answer the questions below:
- Which of our values are most important to you?
- What attracted you to join?
- Why did you apply?
- What keeps you engaged and committed?
- What convinced you to join?
- What do you like most about our culture?
- In your own words, what does our culture mean to you?
- What do you like most about the company?
- In your own words, what is our management style?
- What’s your work background and experience?
The feedback you get from this exercise might end up looking something like this:
- Stacey says “The team is quick to adapt, treats each other with respect, and is accountable to each other in reaching common goals”.
- Mark says “I like that I know what’s expected of me. I am 100% accountable for my work”.
- Yolonda says “It’s important for me to be held accountable. In fact, it’s why I took the job”.
- and so on.
Translate your data and use it to develop value statements
After you collect all your data and translate it into useful insights, the next step is to extract what’s most meaningful and structure it as a suite of statements.
Imagine that after doing the exercise above, you end up with the following:
Core Values: Growth Mindset, Autonomy, Trust, Ownership, Collaboration, Accountability, High-Impact Performance, Scientific Approach, Professional Worker, Smart, and Kind/Caring.
Attributes and Competencies: Professional over time. Confident yet humble. Ability to self-monitor. Intellectually curious. Disciplined. Possess an achievement orientation. Accountability goes with responsibility. Continuous learners. Care for and respect others.
If this were your real data, you might focus on the word “accountability”. Depending on how many times it was brought up in the surveys, you might determine it's important enough to include in your set of aspirational and authentic values used to explain work and life inside the company. After a while, your list of value statements might begin to look something like this below:
- “We have a continuous learning environment”
- “Moving ideas forward is expected”
- “Teamwork beats working by myself”
- “Accountability matters”
- and so on…
Now, let’s assume that your company and people do place a very high value on accountability. In a survey, one of your best employees said “we perform well because we marry accountability to responsibility”. Your internal data shows you that your people come from roles and/or other companies where accountability and responsibility went hand-in-hand. In addition, most of those you surveyed above mentioned accountability as the reason for taking the role and remaining at your company.
If your data points toward accountability as a central value or theme, then it might make sense to build up some messaging around the idea of accountability. If your top employees and company care deeply about accountability, then prospective candidates might as well. Talking about accountability might resonate with at least some of them. Speaking to accountability (as a value) might help you attract more of the right people. It might also work as a repellant, or filter, and push away all those people who might be a poor fit for you across culture, performance and job or role. If your data tells you that accountability is a real and important value to your company and the people inside, then it’s reasonable to assume accountability (as a message) might be an attractive signal to use.
What is it about this word "accountability"? Well, for starters, the relationship between responsibility and accountability might speak to (1) how well your organization can successfully hand over control and delegate to its people and (2) how well your employees can take ownership over work and move toward positive outcomes. Maybe, what we’re really talking about here is the relationship your people and company have with control, ownership, and blame.
Accountability and "locus of control" go together. Locus of control refers to how strongly people believe they have control over situations that affect their lives. When we say someone has an “internal” facing locus of control, what we’re really saying is that they are able to see their part – or their own actions – in an outcome. Having an “external” facing locus of control means a person believes external factors were mostly the reason for their success or failure. Candidates with a strong internal focus of control will take ownership of the outcome – even when the outcome is bad. No blaming or shaming others. We might call this being accountable.
If our imaginary data were actually real data, then it might make sense for us to look for people with a healthy dose of “internal locus of control”. Or at least look for proof that in their last job they actually took ownership of outcomes (accountability) and were able to connect the idea of performance to accountability and outcomes. With what you know about your data above, it would not be a stretch to conclude that your best people possess an internal locus of control. And this might be a signal that you should begin to look for proof of this relationship in prior roles – where responsibility and accountability went hand-in-hand. With this single statement you are able to expand your thinking around accountability into a tangible tool others can use during the interview and scoring processes.
You can expand your thinking around accountability a bit more and feed the insight to hiring managers as a screening in/out mechanism. Does the candidate talk about their relationship with past outcomes from a place of internal locus of control? Do they internalize their decisions and take full accountability over outcomes? Or do they pass blame to others and try to separate themselves (from their part) in outcomes? Based on what you know about your data it might be fair to say that how well the candidate internalizes locus of control will determine (to a high degree) how well they do in your company. It’s going to be very important to understand how well they deal with their failures and view making mistakes. If they shift blame onto others that would be a bad sign.” And so on…you get the idea.
Once you understand how to collect data and build up an insight around a value statement, you can use your insights to improve interviews and scoring and support the development of your hiring and fit profiles, candidate personas, interview questions, scorecards, and more.
This one word, accountability, now becomes a valuable attraction messaging tool, a reliable screening mechanism, and a tool candidates can use to self-select themselves out and away from your company.
The big idea here is to do the same exercise with each core value and as you build up insights, look for what binds them all together. If you are good, you might be able to express them as one – and that might become your single most effective employee value proposition of all.
To help your company navigate change and lead the shift to modern talent acquisition get in touch, or to join TalentSum as a colleague and do rewarding work that integrates with your life, visit careers to learn more about the profiles we seek.