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Employer value proposition definition

Updated: Apr 11

What is an employer value proposition?

The problem with defining meaning

I’ve said before that I’m not the world’s biggest proponent of hard definitions.

Many people use employer value proposition (EVP) and employer brand interchangeably – and very often, that’s just fine.

There are long debates on whether it should be employer or employee value proposition i.e. for which audience is this most focussed. I feel whatever makes most sense to you is the way to go.

There’s a risk that the narrowness of labels you apply, means people don’t understand or don’t see the value of what you’re trying to do


A broad, always-applicable definition

But there is a point – most likely at the outset of your journey – where definitions are helpful. If you start off broad, dependent on your specific objectives, you can make it more relevant to you and your organisation as you proceed.

So, when I talk about employer brand proposition, this is what I mean:

I see your employee value proposition as a narrative. A narrative that spells out the perception of your organisation, as an employer, that you want to influence people towards.

(And by extension, your employer brand, is that perception. And your employer branding is the efforts you make to move that perception. Those efforts can be either what you tell people about – marketing – or how you create something better – experience.)


So, it’s just spin?

Immediately we see the issue that marketeers have faced down the ages.

I’ve said you’re trying to influence someone’s perception. It’s not too big a leap to imagine that I’m suggesting you spin or otherwise obfuscate the reality of working for you. Far from it.

Your employee value proposition should be Distinctive and Attractive, but also Realistic and Consistent. It should be the truth of your current state and aspirations, and that truth should be varnished as little as possible.


Creating perception

So, if we’re not trying to hoodwink people, why do we need to “influence their perception”?

Because they may not have a perception of you as an employer.

There’s a decent chance they’ve never heard of you. Don’t believe me? Look at the FTSE 100, the biggest commercial companies operating in the UK. Have you heard of Ashtead Group, Croda International, Antofagasta PLC? Me neither, so I have no perception of what working there might be like.

Another example. The Ministry of Justice is one of the largest public sector employers in the UK But put yourself on the spot, and ask yourself what do all those people do? Clue – they’re not all Prison Officers. So, if I don’t really know what functions and roles are being performed, I can’t really know what it’s like to work there.

Employers need to influence perceptions, and that often starts by telling people what you do, and why.

Your purpose needs to be at the heart of your EVP, and that means your EVP needs to align, and overlap, with your public face.


Adjusting existing perception

In the instance that your audience has heard of you, what are they basing the perceptions on?

Much of it will be on their interactions (actual or potential) with you as a consumer or service user.

That’s quite probably not going reflect your reality. Say you’re a stack-‘em-high-sell-‘em-cheap retailer. You might expect that’s going to be reflected in the employee experience, whoever that retailer is. It’s likely the “cheapness” of the brand has a part in how you think of them as an employer.

But if we take a step back, then I don’t think it’s too hard to see that your experience of working at Aldi is probably ging to be different to working at Home Bargains. I f you were one of those employers, that’s pretty simple to show and explain, and people are likely to accept your truth. You’ve got every opportunity to influence that perception.

While your purpose needs to be at the heart of your EVP, part of the job of your employer value proposition is to contextualise your roles.

In this example it might be: It’s not easy being cheap. It’s takes skill and innovation, so we reward those that can help us deliver high-quality affordable products.


Challenging misperceptions

What else is going to create or taint their perception of you right now? All manner of things, and mostly out of your control:

  • They didn’t like your last outdoor product campaign. They just didn’t get the idea, so now they’re a bit confused about what you’re all about

  • Lots of people in your industry are requiring people to work in the office more often. So, they’re going to assume that you will follow suit. And that doesn’t suit them.

  • You used to do x and y, but now it appears you do a lot more a and b. Do you still do x and y?

  • Their mate, Daz – you know Daz, right? - he worked there 10 years ago. Anyway, he said it sucked.

And that’s just the beginning. As humans we think we’re rational, and that we make head-based decisions on where we want to work. But there’s still a whole load of gut involved.

There are two take-aways from this.

Takeaway 1: They might simply not understand what you are all about, they might have the wrong end of a different stick. Or all sorts of things that you’ve done as an organisation in the past might stick to you. Frustratingly, things you never did, and would never do, also possibly stick to you.

As part of your employer brand proposition, you need to find out where people are now, so that you can address their existing perceptions.


Takeaway 2: People have shown they’re ready to be influenced. They’re swayed by previous advertising, industry trends, even Daz.

Your employer brand proposition has just as much of an opportunity to sway people’s perception, especially if there is an emotional element to it.


You will need to cover the fundamentals

You can’t go straight to emotional. It’s like a conversation, there’s small talk to do before you open up.

The fundamentals are the table stakes. The rational must-haves. If people can’t see these in your employer value proposition, then they won’t – they can’t – engage in the rest.

When people are thinking about their next employer, each job needs to satisfy three criteria: does it pay enough, can I physically get there, can I do / am I interested in doing the role?

We’re not here taking about that level of individual role granularity. We’re talking an employer value proposition that has something to say for everyone that works for you.

But there are fundamentals that must be built into that proposition.

·         Pay: If we stick with pay - say you have more less-skilled roles, and you pay at or above the living wage, then you want to shout about it. Or if there’s chance for quick progression for people at entry-level, and a step up the pay scale. Again, that’s a big part of your proposition.

·         Hybridity: Undoubtedly, if you largely employ people that can work in an office or can work elsewhere, then your stance on that will be vital. There aren’t right or wrong answers, there are plenty of good reasons to work together every day, there are plenty of good reasons to allow people infinite flexibility. Your task is to ensure that you bring people’s perception closer to your reality.

·         Development: There’s also the question of ability to develop, or to keep learning, or to do new things. Most people want to know there’s either some progression or variety in their role. So, you ought to give an indication of what’s next. (It should be noted: Some people want absolute consistency and stability, and the security of that is tremendously valuable to them. You should never assume everyone wants to move on or up.)

·         Inclusion: Increasingly, inclusion feels like something every employer value proposition needs to say something about. There’s the diversity and equity aspect, and every organisation will have their successes and challenges. But there’s also the need – the right? – to be understood as an individual. This now feels fundamental, and a lack of appreciation or comment around this will leave a gap in your proposition.


Now you can bring in the entire experience, and make it emotional

These maybe the less-tangible elements of your proposition, but these help build the emotional connection. These are the elements that escribe how people feel. These are the parts where you move perception. This is where your employer value proposition is most sticky.

And this might include:

·         Heritage and Status How long you’ve been around and what you have achieved in that time.What pride or other associations can someone get from joining you? How does that make your people feel? When (if!) they talk about their work in professional or social circles, what do they like to bring up?

·         Future plans Where you’re going next and what that means for your organisation and the people within it. What problems will you solve, and what does that mean for the people you serve? What challenges will you face and what does that mean for chances to innovate and learn?

·         Leadership Are their inspirational figures at the head of your organisation? Are they role models for your people, or others? Do they make people think differently? Do they attract money, customers, media, praise – or whatever metric matters to your organisation? Do they make your people feel better about themselves and their work?

·         Wellbeing How do you support your colleagues to live full lives alongside their work? Do you let them prioritise their own concerns before their duties to you? Do you provide active support to their mental and physical health? Does working for you give them more than it “costs”?

·         Security

How stable and secure is your organisation? Does it have money in the bank and a pipeline of funding for the future? Can it show long tenure of staff? Can it promise a full career under one roof? Can people feel assured they’ll have a job in 12 months’ time?

·         Autonomy

What level of control over their work will people have? Is there a framework of processes for consistency and assurance, or is there more of an outline that can be personalised and enhanced? Will people feel they have authority in their work? Will they feel empowered in  your organisation?

·         Environment At home, in an office or wherever they work, will they be comfortable? Will they be well-equipped with what they need and does that enable  them to work better? Will they be made to jump through procedural hoops or has their experience been considered and refined?

·         Support What’s the level of support like? Are people equipped to manage by themselves or is there more of a team collective? In particular, are line managers well prepared and given time and training to be troubleshooters and coaches to their teams? Do your people always feel that they have someone to turn to?

·         Employee Voice and Innovation Is it natural to share new ideas, and what sort of reception do they get? Is there a socialisation of issues so that the collective can help to provide solutions? Is there a recognition of things that have come from the shop floor and made a tangible difference to your organisation? Do your people feel they have a voice?

·         Culture and Values How do people interact with one another? What do they expect from one another? Are there codified ways of working that mean decisions are made on understood terms? Does communication feel natural between people, across and between teams? Do your people know what to expect from each other? Do your customers know what to expect from you?

·         Recognition Is good work appreciated? How is that appreciation shown? Do you have formal processes for identifying who is making the biggest contributions to success? Do you have informal celebration of the people that commit to doing the right thing? Do your people know that they matter?

·         Collaboration and Sociability

Is there a sense of connection between people? Do they feel they work for a common cause in a common way? Do they know one another as people, and not just colleagues? Do they socialise in or outside work? Is the workplace an important place to your people?



Your employee value proposition is a narrative that you want to influence people towards.

To do that it must be Distinctive, Attractive, Realistic and Consistent.

Because then it can create, adjust and challenge perceptions.

If you then include the fundamentals of an employee value proposition, that earns you the right to exercise the emotional.

And that is how you will truly influence people, so they see your organisation as it is.

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