This week I sat down with Mike Beeley to discuss how an EVP can be broken down into brand pillars to be used as a resource by Talent Acquisition. By developing an effective EVP, the acquisition strategy and media assets required have a clearer direction when advertising for open positions. Mike Beeley is the CEO of Lightbox Communications and has spent the last 30 years helping global and local organisations understand their EVP and how to market their employment proposition to their target audiences through traditional and emerging media. Here are our insights.
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How an EVP Helps Talent Acquisition Advertise for Roles
Let’s say we went through the process and developed an EVP for a thousand-person company. What does it mean for talent acquisition (TA)? How do those employees take full advantage of the EVP – to use it throughout their communications across the different channels to attract the right people for those roles they’re trying to fill?
There are two or three levels to that question. The first is how we attract the right people and, as important, is how we assess these people. The first step before we start communications is to establish the connection between employees and the values of the organisation.
Often organisations have a set of values, and in my experience, they’re one of about a dozen different sets of values that exist in the world. There are only about a dozen sets of values in the world. Your organisation will be a variant of that dozen. We all generally talk about integrity, community, honestly and all these lovely things. We should shy away from the word ‘values’ because most of those values need parking. Very often, companies forget what those values mean. They’ve been out there so long people don’t even know what they mean. We did an exercise once where we asked the leadership team of a large organisation (after taking down all their ‘values’ posters across in the building) to name five values of their organisation. They couldn’t do it.
Values Lose Their Meaning Over Time
The ‘values’ have been up there for so long that they’ve entered people’s blindspots. When you ask them what those values mean, or when the last time they displayed one of those values, they go completely silent. Therefore, in most organisations, sets of values are merely a laminated piece of paper on the wall. When you take them down, there is faded wallpaper behind it – because they’ve been up for so long. So what should we do? Talk to your employees and see what they think the values of the organisation are – it would be interesting to ask them the question.
Use the term ‘brand pillars’, instead of values. People get offended if you attack their ‘values‘. We use brand pillars – there are usually five or six brand pillars that are key to an organisation. You’ll generally find that when people in an organisation talk about what they do, it’s a lot clearer than when people write it on paper as an intangible ‘value’. What does integrity mean – really? Who knows.
It’s Good to Say Nice Things But How About the Bottom Line?
The reality is that most people in an organisation can’t connect with that. Most people have so many steps removed from them – they’re not all in a customer service position where we can see and measure the effectiveness of their performance and their day’s work. Typically, organisations will cascade down the brand pillars so that everyone in the organisation treats someone else as a customer, even if they’re not in touch with the ultimate customer. If you sit in a stock room and you have no connection to the output of your endeavours, it’s impossible to feel valued. So, these brand pillars and what they mean are fundamental to an organisation. Values in an organisation need to be reviewed and changed because they’re not relevant anymore – people either don’t understand or never understood what they mean.
Even worse, they completely disagree with them and feel cornered or somewhat lied to. If you ask them to explain these values, ‘well, I never believed in that value to start with.’ Brand pillars are therefore essential – they are the cornerstones to an organisation’s behaviour – if we can capture those, that becomes very powerful.
How Do You Capture The Brand Pillars? Who Decides – The Employees? The Clients? The Board? The Shareholders?
If you ask stakeholders the right questions, they’ll tell you. If you have one thousand people in an organisation who don’t know what they do, they need to leave! Ask them what they do. There are probably only five people who care about shareholder returns or the bottom line. The shareholders themselves, the CFO, CEO and the COO, are the people who are judged by shareholder values – most other people aren’t.
Unless you happen to be an investor, if you run a publicly listed company, the banks, for instance, all have considerable challenges in that a candidate could also be an investor in the business.
Which Stakeholders Should You Talk to When Building Brand Pillars?
When we start the EVP project, the first question we ask is:
‘Who should we be talking to?‘
The answer to that is, invariably, the people you trust and the people you are fearful of being disengaged. You want to talk to both ends. You want to speak to the people who have a rusted-on badge with the organisation, as well as the people who are perhaps slightly mysterious and disengaged. These employees are flight risks, so we want to find out how to engage them. When you start talking to people, they will tell you precisely what you need to know if you ask open questions and assure them of anonymity, so there’ll be no impact on their employment.
What Are Some Common Examples of Brand Pillars that You’ve Come Across?
It varies depending on what industry you’re in. If you’re in heavy industry, then safety could be an essential brand pillar.
‘I don’t care, just send me home with all my fingers and toes intact.‘
Remove the sense of danger in the organisation and these employees and candidates will love you for it. It becomes a brand and part of what you do. Health and Safety can be the core element of an EVP in heavy industries. If you have a better Health and Safety policy than your competitors – you keep people safer, and you reassure them and their family that they’re going to come home at the end of the day – you’ll probably attract more candidates.
It may not be the single thing that makes someone join your organisation, but it may be an extremely reassuring notion that you have their welfare at heart. It makes them feel better about your intentions towards them, and that’s what building a brand is all about.
‘Do I feel good about feeling associated with this product/service of my employer?’
How Do We Best Utilise These Brand Pillars?
The brand pillars that we eventually capture give us some clues to the information and communications that we need to make to the employment market. A brand pillar of safety, for example, will mean something very different to a CFO working in an office environment to someone operating heavy equipment. The messaging around that particular brand pillar may have ten various applications depending on the position within the organisation. Safety, for instance, is probably the hardest to communicate to contingent workforces, because it hasn’t become part of their everyday routine. However, it could also be a very strong EVP for contingent workers, if you make sure that from Day One, they are safe on-site and secure. That alone could make the difference between which contract they accept from you or your competitor.
How Does a Talent Acquisition Team Develop the Assets They Need Out of the EVP?
Here’s some methodology, the brand pillars and communications against that will give us what we call a ‘message matrix‘. A message matrix looks like a big spreadsheet. It will be 5 or 6 brand pillars cross-sectioned with roughly ten different cohorts of people who engage with each of those pillars. Each one will be slightly different – you’ll end up with 60 different boxes that are unique and sell a different concept.
For example, if you want to answer the question, ‘How do we sell safety to a CFO vs how do we sell safety to a site operator?‘, to start populating recruitment ads, you can explain it differently depending on the role. TA can write these recruitment ads without even having a position description in front of them because it applies to the organisation, not the role they’re hiring for. All this work can be done before you even go about recruitment. This preparedness is akin to polishing your guns, getting your bullets and equipment ready before the war starts.
Get all this work done so that you don’t have to sit down and rush a recruitment ad in twenty minutes because someone’s about to leave. This work can go into an employer brand guideline book that governs how your job board ads should look. Perhaps, how your internal communications look, how your social media content works, how your Facebook page appears, or how your Linkedin strategy works. It informs every piece of the plan.
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