In business, selling a product or service involves the exchange of something that is valued by parties sitting at both ends of the exchange. Buyers want a product that can satisfy a need. Sellers usually want money.
Now exchanges happen in many shapes and forms. Companies sell products and services, and they also sell jobs! In the latter case, a company will offer salary and benefits to a candidate in exchange for his skills, experience, and performance. However, salary and benefits are no longer enough to attract and retain top talent.
This is why organizations are creating and communicating Employee Value Propositions (EVP), defined as “the experience offered by an employer in exchange for the productivity and performance of an employee.” An “employee experience” does not only include salary and benefits, it also involves the company’s culture, work environment, leadership styles, career development opportunities, and other important elements that employees might value. So the premise is that a company gives you the employment experience you want (hopefully!), and in return, you perform as expected or better.
Obviously, this link sounds a lot easier to establish here than it is in real life, but essentially, one could argue that there is an exchange of valuable “things” between the employer and potential and current employees. And if so, the various phases consumers go through to decide to buy a product could also apply.
Marketing experts break down the consumer buying process into 3 stages. First, the consumer recognizes a need or desire; then, he develops such need by comparing and understanding the products available in the market; and finally, he purchases the product and thus, fulfills such need. So let’s explore how this would apply to employers and their ability to attract and retain talent.
Every day, potential and current employees of any given company realize that they might need a new job. Some people will need to relocate, others want to make more money, some will want to leave their bosses, and a good number is unfortunately laid off. Then, these people will start looking for information, mostly online, to determine if a particular company might offer what they need. Eventually, they make a decision to apply or leave an organization. Since the process just described is mainly accomplished through the consumption and evaluation of information through a variety of media, it becomes imperative for employers to communicate their EVPs and employment brands effectively.
In Adriene Fox’s “Make a Deal,” Laura Sejen, a global practice leader at Tower Watsons argues that organizations need to have explicit EVPs in order to recruit and engage current employees. But the challenge is aligning the EVP that employees experience with the brand that is marketed to the public and that customers experience. As a matter of fact, Tower Watsons suggests that marketing and HR must work together to ensure this alignment. Tower Watsons also showed that organizations with better EVP-brand alignment usually enjoy better market values.
Before the internet, companies posted job openings mostly through want ads on their storefront windows, classified section of newspapers, and job boards in HR and unemployment offices. They relied on walk-in or call-in candidates, job fairs, referrals (still do!), and good ol’ (and still effective) cold calling. Internally, companies relied on newsletters, boards, HR employees, and leaders to communicate the various initiatives and benefits of working in the organization. Nowadays, the internet and e-marketing have allowed companies to reach a wider audience, target specific people and their needs, and at a much faster pace than seen before.
Employers now have the ability to use the internet and e-marketing tools to not only post jobs, but to communicate the company’s EVP and brand in a more compelling manner. Consider Google’s career site. It welcomes you with a splash of their culture with the slogan “Do cool things that matter.” Then, it has a link to a Hollywood comedy movie about being an intern at Google and right below, links to videos where real Google interns describe their own experiences. It also has a section which talks about what’s like to work for Google, where they describe their focus on diversity and culture, innovation, and the impact of their work.
Another interesting website is that of The Container Store, which dedicates a full website to let people know about their values. This website has links to pictures of employee celebrations and store openings, to blog posts that employees have written, and videos about the company’s principles. These corporate career sites can provide great information from the employer’s perspective, but third-party job boards such as Indeed and websites such as Glassdoor provide valuable information from the general public’s perspective. People share what they know about a company, its culture, the application process, and even the content of interviews.
Employers are also using direct sourcing methods such as those offered by LinkedIn where you can target passive candidates based on the industry they work in, years of experience, education, and other important characteristics. Another e-marketing tool used in recruiting is targeted ads, which allow you to target candidates based on geography, online behaviors, context, demographics, and other factors.
These uses of e-marketing tools and techniques allow potential candidates to find a great deal of information that will help them evaluate and determine which company’s EVP and brand will more likely satisfy their needs and therefore, will be worth applying to.
Internally, companies are using intranet platforms such as SharePoint to improve collaboration and performance. SharePoint, for example, allows employees in general to share ideas, documents, find subject matter experts within the organization, and organize work more effectively. With SharePoint’s social media product called Yammer, HR departments can share a variety of information such as job posts, corporate initiatives, videos, and get instant feedback from employees. Lexis Nexis believes that using this platform and its resulting increase in dialogue among employees have not only improved productivity, products, and customer satisfaction, but it has also improved engagement from employees. These are very important outcomes for any business.
An HR function with social media capabilities might be able to reach its workforce more effectively, get feedback on what’s important to them, and hopefully, create and communicate an EVP that is based on the needs of its employees. This is how and why an internal communication strategy that incorporates knowledge sharing platforms designed to increase communication among employees may prove essential in engaging a workforce.
Online tools and e-marketing techniques are proving to be invaluable for companies to attract and retain the right talent. Organizations can no longer rely on communication strategies and platforms that don’t allow people to obtain and share the information they want to make the decisions they need. Employers must be able to create a compelling EVP and communicate it effectively so that potential and current employees can develop their needs and provide companies with great commitment and performance in exchange for a great place to work.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences!
Aleister Avila, SPHR