Get Real with New Employees

Get Real with Employee
Value Propositions

Turns out pop culture icons are right: you gotta do YOU.

In a world of high-gloss marketing, HR departments are beginning to realize that rosy-picture recruiting materials may harm as much as they help. Because too often, our enthusiastic, talent-attraction “spin” sets people up for disappointment. Employment is messy, and organizations are imperfect. So once people sign on, it can be pretty tough to live up to our own hype.

Sure, we engage in this self-promotion to attract more applicants. But, don’t we more precisely want to find the right applicants?

We’re all looking for those rare people with aligned interests, strengths, and skills who are going to invest in our mission, engage in our organization, and contribute to our success for the long term. We want them to be uniquely suited to our dynamics and love our work, despite our crazy challenges or quirky environment. We’re hoping for performers who get so excited about our organization’s potential, they sign on despite our flaws, even embracing the idea of being part of the solution.

Those people aren’t easy to identify, much less onboard successfully, when we sweep our challenges under the rug. Instead, we need to get real. And the best way to start is with a true and transparent employee value proposition, or EVP.

While the idea may feel a bit uncomfortable—even scary—the results can be amazing. Here are four steps for activating an EVP that will identify and retain the right workforce for you.

1. Move beyond the numbers game.

First, you’ve got to get comfortable with the idea that attracting fewer people is OK—even desirable. That’s the cost of pursuing the right people. Because when it comes to employment, you’re seeking a good fit. That takes an acknowledgement that this place isn’t for everyone. So instead of selling your sizzle, you’ve got to own up to your reality. Not everyone will be drawn to it, but the right people will be.

2. Create an “opt-in” dynamic.

A great EVP details those generally unwritten rules between your organization and your employees; it makes explicit the balanced value-exchange you’re both entering into. It should be written as a give-get statement that lays out for people, “When you give us X, you’ll get Y.” Great EVPs describe the organization’s expectations for employees, while listing both the incredible aspects of the workplace well as its challenges.

Crafting an authentic EVP means giving your applicants the chance to opt in, eyes wide open, to your realities and your obstacles, so that when things get tough, they are invested, engaged, and committed. And whew! That takes honesty. Transparency. Clarity. (Nobody said this would be easy.) But striving for amazing, long-term employee relationships is worth it.

3. Use your EVP as an onboarding and coaching tool.

When an employee joins the organization, together you’re basically striking a bargain. And for the rest of their employment life cycle, that bargain gets subconsciously assessed by both sides. Is the employee still adding enough value? Is my organization still offering me meaningful work and fair pay? Is this role still a good outlet for my talents and passions? The problem is, without a frank and truthful EVP, our employees don’t always see the bargain the same way we do.

So, imagine if your managers used your honest, forthright EVP for coaching conversations that begin during onboarding and never stop. This tool would help them regularly give context to your culture and your expectations, allowing for healthy performance discussions outside of formal review cycles. It would set the stage for your new hires to quickly align to your reality and establish successful habits.

With this tool, managers can simply ask, “Where do you see yourself living up to this statement and where do you have room to grow? How about the organization—are we supporting you as described?” It’s an effective way to get ahead of problems, prevent resentment, and decrease unwanted turnover. On the other hand, it also hastens the right turnover by revealing early on when a new hire isn’t going to be a good fit. With continued use, your EVP can be the catalyst that builds highly engaged and powerfully productive teams.

4. Continually hold it up as an organizational mirror.

A well-crafted EVP makes a promise to employees, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Use it as a touchstone—a reference point for leadership to consider whenever setting organizational direction and making operational decisions. Be sure that your strategy never flies in the face of your EVP. The ability to continually live up to these words is the key to your effectiveness.

OK, ready to take this on? When you write your EVP with honesty and live it with intention, your performers will return your sincerity with their trust, engagement, retention, and passion. It just takes the courage to get real.

Keep reading