The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 changed our working lives in an immediate, visceral way. Offices went vacant, plants slowly dying and forgotten lunches decaying in fridges. Employees adopted an entirely new style of work-appropriate clothing, largely featuring sweatpants. The phrase, “You’re on mute,” was suddenly used millions of times a day.
Now, nearly three years later, the long-term ramifications have crystallized. Many took this interruption to decades of professional momentum to reflect on what matters to them and came back with some strong opinions. In a Return to Work Survey that Gartner conducted in 2021, more than 50% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the pandemic changed their expectations of their jobs and employers. Several other studies showed workers reporting major percentages of dissatisfaction and a desire to change jobs in the coming months or years.
This major shift in thinking means, for companies, having a compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP) has gone from a nice-to-have bonus to an essential component.
Gen Z and millennial professionals in particular have indicated a desire for workplaces that don’t just tout, but actively engage in, social issues such as antiracism and inclusion. PR Daily reported in 2021 that more than half (55%) of currently employed Gen Zers were reconsidering their job because they felt their company hadn’t done enough to address social justice issues.
An EVP should be a natural extension of your brand, directed at internal stakeholders rather than external audiences. It should naturally align with your established purpose, values, and mission, validating your reputation among current and potential employees. While a thorough benefits package that includes professional development opportunities, flexible work arrangements, and paid time off are important, a strong EVP doesn’t stop there. Employees are seeking a shared purpose and sense of belonging during the 40 plus hours they spend at work. This all adds up to a total experience that plays a key role in employee satisfaction and engagement.
This will look different for each company. For example, the brand Patagonia—which positions itself as dedicated to generosity and compassion for others and the environment—embodies its values through one of the most robust parental leave policies in the U.S. On the other hand, Google promotes perks such as competitive salaries and remote work as a reflection of its values, which include “great just isn’t good enough” and “the need for information crosses all borders.”
Many companies, especially in the tech field, are also starting to be boldly transparent about their work style and company culture. Shopify, for example, states, “We’re Shopify. Our mission is to make commerce better for everyone—but we’re not the workplace for everyone. We thrive on change, operate on trust, and leverage the diverse perspectives of people on our team in everything we do. We solve problems at a rapid pace. In short, we get shit done.” A fast-paced work environment isn’t for every employee. But by owning their culture, Shopify makes it much more likely they will find those that will thrive there.
The elements of an EVP can vary widely, from formalized policies to casual deeds intended to show appreciation. Ultimately, they all strive to positively answer employees questioning: “Do I really matter to you? Do you care about me?”
One novel example of showing care comes from, of all places, a mining company in South Dakota. The firm Pete Lien & Sons has implemented a system that identifies the love language of each worker. Miners wear different colored stickers on their hard hats to indicate which “language” they prefer to receive for a job well done. Some of the options are words of affirmation, acts of service, and gifts. While many were skeptical at first, the workers found that the system led to fewer moments of tension and more meaningful recognition. Now, more than 90% of the staff has taken and implemented the love language assessment.
Learning your love language takes only a simple quiz. Creating a strong EVP can seem more daunting. But it comes down to a simple process:
1. Consider your shared values
2. Clarify your purpose, your mission, and vision
3. Articulate your intentions
4. Show up for your people
Your EVP is how you invest in your team, who in return will invest in you. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and motivated to perform at their best. Your EVP tells potential employees whether or not they want to join your team. It can enhance your reputation as a desirable workplace and attract the highest quality talent, driving your company to higher success.
So, what does your EVP say about you?