Perception is reality: Why you’re struggling to attract top talent and how to fix it with an EVP

by Sirius People

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Many hiring managers may be blissfully unaware that their weak Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is costing their organisation money. Add a negative employer brand into the mix, and you have a recipe for ongoing people issues that limit business success.

2016 study by Harvard Business Review and ICM Unlimited found that a company with a poor reputation as an employer would have to offer a desirable candidate at least 10% more to secure the hire. Even then, it appeared that the 10% raise would persuade only 28% of potential employees to join an organisation with a defective Employer Branding.

If you are having difficulties recruiting, engaging and retaining top talent, it could be that your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and Employer Branding need serious attention.


But wait – aren’t EVP and employer brand the same thing?

No, they’re not.


Employee Value Proposition

EVP is the combination of all the elements your employees value about their working experience. The top factors of a positive EVP are likely to be stability, career development opportunities, and the rewards of working with a great team. Conversely, a negative EVP may result from job security concerns, career stagnation, dysfunctional leadership and adverse teamwork experience.

Employer Brand

Your employer brand is the way you are perceived as an employer in the wider community. It’s what SEEK refers to as the ‘barbecue test’, the way in which people would talk about your company as an employer if they were discussing it at a barbecue. So employer brand is also about the way you market your company to the people you would like to hire.

Although EVP and employer brand are not one and the same thing, your EVP should underpin your employer brand. EVP is about more than just recruitment. It also impacts employee engagement, productivity, loyalty and workforce turnover.


Strong EVP and employer brand make the hiring manager’s life easier, and more cost-effective

Defining and building a strong EVP and marketing an inviting employer brand will help you attract and retain employees. The result will be more applicants for positions you need to fill, a higher overall standard of applicants, lower recruitment expenses, reduced staff turnover costs, and possibly lower salary and wage expenditure.


The starting point – how to identify how you are perceived as an employer

Before you can begin working on your employer brand and EVP, you need to work out what people really think about you now, as an employer. Your comfortable belief that you have a high reputation may be far from the truth – the truth that is spoken when they think you’re not listening.

Here’s what you need to do:

Cultivate corporate self-awareness

Just as personal self-awareness is an important leadership trait, corporate self-awareness is a vital part of discovering and improving your organisation’s culture. The same good habits apply: list both strengths and weaknesses, record key adjustment priorities, and seek feedback.

Read reviews about your company at SEEK and Glassdoor

Check the reviews made by past employees. This is what your former talent will actually say about you when they have nothing to lose. And don’t assume that word-of-mouth praise or disparagement are more important. Recent research has shown that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.


How to improve and market your Employer Branding

Now that you’ve identified where you sit in the perception of not only past employees but your potential future workforce, there are several steps you can take to upgrade the widely-held opinion – remembering that perception is your new reality:

Respond to negative reviews

Don’t just leave those negative reviews hanging in the air. They need a response from top management, ideally the CEO. This is a great way to get your CEO involved in employer brand and EVP, and it will demonstrate that your company is serious about the employee experience. If there are misconceptions or errors in the reviews, address them constructively and politely.

Become transparent in dealing with candidates

Engage on social media with the kind of professionals your business is hoping to attract, and find out what’s important to them. Like Siemens, you may discover that an incorrect perception about your company (in Siemens case, the wrong assumption that the company did not offer flexible working hours) is preventing them from applying for a position.

Stop being faceless – showcase your employees

Your current employees are your most effective employer brand ambassadors. Celebrate your team members – not just the top management – with profiles in the ‘About us’ section of your website.

Authentic and credible employers of choice are such because they have EVP defined and embedded within the organisation.


How to define your Employee Value Proposition

Since EVP is such an important part of your brand, it’s vital to take these steps in order to understand exactly what the current situation is, good or bad:

Make employee engagement surveys truly anonymous

You’re unlikely to get honest answers unless you can absolutely guarantee anonymity and zero reprisals. Use a suggestion-box format to protect identities, and make it clear that you are genuinely in search of honest answers. If you get useful suggestions, act on them and make it clear that you have done so.

Step beyond the annual survey of current employees

What current employees think of the company can only go a limited way towards defining your EVP. Any results you get won’t include data from either the capable individuals your company would like to employ in the future, or the talented people who used to work for you, but moved on, lured by higher wages or a better EVP elsewhere.

Take notice of the data gathered in exit interviews

You can be reasonably confident that departing employees will tell you the truth since it’s unlikely they plan to return.

Involve your employees

Without making it over-complicated, try to get everyone engaged in defining and improving EVP. Use internal and external channels as a platform to congratulate employees on their achievements outside work. If they think their contribution and voice count, they’re more likely to risk speaking up, even if it’s only to emphasise the positive points you can build on.


The next step – improving EVP and embedding it in corporate culture

Now that you understand what your EVP is, you need to enhance it and then use it to create a talent attraction and retention strategy. Here’s how:

Live and breathe EVP as an organisation

Don’t just tick the EVP boxes once, and then forget about them. Make EVP a vital part of your company values. For example, Here at Sirius People we see EVP as a promise to our team, a commitment to providing an engaging work environment and supporting the personal successes that lead to corporate success. We’re proud of our 87% retention rate last year.

Be authentic

Your career page should tell the story of what it’s like to work at your company in straightforward language, avoiding jargon. It should be transparent, rather than be filled with empty promises you can’t keep. Unfulfilled expectations will inevitably lower your retention rate. Check out the recruiting video used by Zendesk (more about them later) to see how engaging a simple and honest approach can be.

When you do make promises, deliver them

Broken promises breed cynicism, kept promises build trust. Optimistic and confident employees can be your most valuable advocates.

Don’t worry if you’re in an unsexy industry

Are you in an ostensibly boring corporate sector? Your EVP and employer brand are not a lost cause. Take Zendesk as an example. They’re a potentially humdrum helpdesk software provider, but at they rate in the top 15% of companies for employee happiness and retention, and in the top 20% for office culture.

Keep the talent attraction switch permanently ‘On’

Even when you’re not actively recruiting to fill a specific vacancy, make sure it’s easy for job seekers to get in touch with you. Put a ‘Contact us’ option in a prominent place on your careers page, and make it clear that you always welcome enquiries. Spruik the same message through Facebook and Twitter. Your next star recruit might be waiting for just this kind of nudge.

Is your hiring process putting people off?

When you’ve encouraged a good candidate across the line, don’t lose them at the interview stage. Are your interviews too lengthy? Do you overstate the role’s appeal, responsibilities and seniority, thus failing to manage expectations? Are candidates kept waiting too long before you make your decision?  

Integrate new team members painstakingly

Pay careful attention to your onboarding process. Research studies indicate that one-third of new hires quit the job within six months, with 23% complaining they didn’t receive clear responsibility guidelines, and 21% saying they wanted more effective training. The first week can be crucial since this is when many new arrivals will form first impressions that influence their decision to stay or go.

Make the Sirius Onboarding Guide your essential reference for designing your new employee integration process.


Where to from here?

EVP and employer branding stem from parallel attitudes and behaviour but have important differences.  Both need to be identified and described in their current condition before steps can be taken to improve them.

Knowledge is power, but it is through implementation that you will see the real benefits emerge. By following the steps outlined you’ll ensure that your EVP is cemented in the everyday experience your employees have at work and your employer branding will be authentic and appealing.  

Once corrected, they can be used as a positive way of enlarging and upgrading the talent pool available to your organisation, while reducing costs. Your people are the build blocks of success and investing the time and resources to attract great people pays dividends down the line. 


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