Your employee value proposition – your “EVP” – is often represented as a brief statement that summarizes the relationship between the employer and employee. The statement can be short, sharp and “T-shirt worthy”. Or it might simply be clear and honest, guiding communications but not shared widely. Sometimes an EVP statement does double-duty as an external recruitment tagline as well, although that is not required.

There are several types of EVP statements. Some are descriptive, perfectly expressing the working experience. Others are more transformative or aspirational, helping a company pivot by educating employees and convincing candidates. But let’s not confuse the EVP statement with the thing it represents: the real value an employee gets in exchange for their commitment to your organization.

So what are you proposing?

It’s called an “employee value proposition” because it proposes something of value to your employees. If it doesn’t, it’s not an EVP, no matter how great it sounds. Think of the EVP as the employee version of marketing’s “consumer value proposition”. The CVP is the value consumers get in exchange for their money: “Buy this mouthwash and romance will bloom.” But there are key differences between a CVP and an EVP.

EVPs are rarely about money, since all EVPs would be the same, and every employee relationship would be reduced to a transaction. The value must be something bigger, and unique to your employment experience – what employees can expect in exchange for their commitment. An EVP must also reflect reality. If a consumer buys the mouthwash and romance somehow fails to bloom, they’ll switch brands, and little is lost. (They never really believed it, anyway.) But if a hired employee does not find the promised value, their disappointment can be costly.

A real EVP is discovered, not invented.

The best agencies working in this arena know that the value you offer employees isn’t the sharp sentence they write, but the reality behind it. And the agency’s first job is a strategic, methodical process of search and discovery to determine what that value is. The best clients, by the way, the ones who get the best work, are the clients who “throw the doors open” to their agency and actively support them in exploring every nook and cranny of their working experience.

Process is (almost) everything.

The process itself is as important as the end product. A thorough exploration should include large gatherings with leadership, one-on-one interviews at senior and mid-levels, and focus groups with staff from different professional areas and geographic locations. From these conversations – recorded, turned into transcripts, and studied – comes the story of what you expect of your people, and what they can expect in return. And the result is more than a catchy EVP statement. It’s a deep understanding of your company’s relationship with your employees and a vocabulary to express it.

So, your agency may devise a beautiful EVP phrase, but they can only articulate what they really find in partnership with a willing client. Because truth, clearly expressed, is the best way to begin an enduring professional relationship.

We’d love to show you how discovering your EVP can help advance your hiring process and strengthen your relationships with your employees. To learn more, e-mail us at conversations@jwt.com

Larry has worked at JWT INSIDE as a writer, creative director, and associate creative director since 1988. As the head writer in the Los Angeles office, Larry brings to JWT his life-long fascination with the power of words and their ability to influence ideas and actions.