By Susan Keyes
I often get asked this question. And usually before I get the opportunity to draw breath to answer, hot on the heels comes a further question: “And do we really need both?” The thing is, and I hope to illustrate this here, is that the answer to the first question generally eliminates the need for the second.
Let’s look at both the EVP and Values and the roles each of them play. There are unquestionably overlaps; both serve to help the organisation achieve its goals, and both serve to shape behaviour and culture. The key to understanding the need for both lies in looking at your Values through two very specific lenses and asking two very specific questions:
Firstly, from the perspective of a potential employee: “Why should I join your organisation?”
Most likely your Values provide part of the answer. They’ll tell interested people what’s important to you and what guides what you do and how you do it. For people who know little about your organisation or what it’s like to work there, they’ll probably be able to infer from your Values a sense of what it might be like to work there. For example if your Values relate to putting the customer first, or treating people with respect and acting with integrity, or being at the forefront of industry innovation, it will certainly give people something to go on. But it takes work and imagination for people to envisage what it might be like to work with you based mainly on Values, and of course, they may get it wrong.
So what may be missing? Well this group of people will want to know what your organisation has to offer from a personal and career development point of view; is development primarily ‘on the job’ or do you have comprehensive, structured and formal programmes? They’ll also want to know what the “vibe” of the organisation is, for example does it have a work hard/play culture, is it down-to-earth and informal or is it something different entirely? What will the work be like? Does your organisation have a “one team” ethos or do different parts of the business operate quite independently? Chances are your Values don’t answer these questions explicitly. And that is where your EVP comes in.
Of course your Values will shine through your EVP, and as well as enabling you to articulate clearly and consistently what employees can to expect to get from working in your organisation, your EVP allows enables you to articulate what you expect from employees in return. This further helps potential role applicants assess whether your organisation is the right fit for them.
Secondly, from the perspective of an existing employee: “Why should I stay in this organisation, and why should I give of my very best to it?”
Again, your Values, which your employees will experience and live in their own day-to-day work, will provide some of the answer. But probably not all of it. Your employees too, will benefit from being reminded of what your organisation offers from an employment experience point of view, and what makes it great and different to any others. Being reminded in a positive (not condescending) and credible way through internal communications will help people recognise and appreciate what they get (in return for what they give), and also what they stand to gain in the future.
In order to appreciate the full range of benefits that having an EVP brings, there is a third lens through which it’s helpful to view, and that is through the lens of the HR function asking the question:
How can we attract and keep the best people, and how can we maximise their engagement with the organisation?
An EVP is an incredibly powerful tool for giving focus to HR (and Comms) activities. As an articulation of what the organisation aspires to, both in terms of employer brand reputation and employer brand experience, it serves simultaneously as driver, anchor and differentiator for shaping HR strategy, processes and communications. While the EVP need not necessarily replace anything the HR function is doing already, it will help bring the parts together to greater effect. And this is not a role your Values can fulfil on their own.