A guide to exploring your employee value propositions (EVPs)

The building blocks of your employer stories

January 14, 2016
This post is Part 1 of “Tell Candidates What They Really Want to Know: A step-by-step guide to storytelling for recruiting.” Introduction and other posts here.

he following topics are a starting point to help you identify what’s important about your company or team. They’ll provide you with the building blocks of your employer stories. In posts to follow, we’ll use this material to target specific candidate audiences and create compelling assets. Look through the examples below to see how leading companies convey different value propositions. Then check out the worksheet we’ve created to help you uncover your own employee value propositions.


Candidates want to know who they’ll work with, who will inspire and support them, and whose vision and leadership will shape the company’s future.When introducing candidates to your people — from potential deskmates to the executive team — be sure to go beyond name and position to highlight individuals’ interests, accomplishments, and ambitions.

Check out: “Who you can be at L’Oréal”
L’Oréal, one of the world’s leading beauty companies, is known for featuring a diverse range of people in its advertising campaigns. It’s no surprise they apply the same strategy to talent acquisition. In about 70 videos, L’Oréal’s “Who you can be at L’Oréal” campaign introduces candidates to a wide range of employees, from executives to associates. In their own words, employees describe their backgrounds, what inspires them, and their day-to-day experience of working at L’Oréal. In 2014, the company was ranked second in Universum’s student-focused survey, “Europe’s Most Attractive Employers.”

Wow Factor

Imagine one of your employees is at a high school reunion. “Wow factor” is the first thing they say about your company to make their old friends jealous.You could be in hyper-growth, a rocketship with open seats. Perhaps you’re a 200-year-old globally recognized brand that employees are proud to be associated with. Or maybe you have a huge user base and positively affect millions of lives. As Work It Daily founder J.T. O’Donnell explains, “Your wow factor needs to be amplified through your employer brand. Candidates want to identify and work with a company that really impresses them.”

Check out: Disney’s “Create what’s next” campaign
Disney ABC, which manages more than 25 businesses under one roof, set out to create a cohesive employer brand identity to better stand out to candidates. Identifying their “wow factor” as a global reputation for creativity and risk-taking, Disney ABC wove the tagline “Create what’s next” into every piece of recruiting collateral. To show that those words were also the reality, each division was asked to interpret “Create what’s next” as it related to their specific work. In 2015, Disney ABC was named one of the most sought-after employers in North America by LinkedIn.

Learning and Development

Good candidates got that way by always looking to improve and expand their skills. They seek opportunities for personal growth in the same way your leadership seeks company growth. Learning at your company might be well-defined, as with frequent internal training, or more ad hoc, supported by a culture of question-asking and risk-taking. Maybe you offer a mentorship program or stipends for continuing education. Any of these opportunities are potential differentiators to highlight in your employer stories.

Check out: Learning in Dell’s DNA
Through their career page and employee testimonials on social media, Dell has made sure to highlight the many ways it supports employees’ growth. Jennifer Newbill, Dell’s ‎senior manager global candidate attraction, engagement, and experience, explains, “Dell offers a variety of on-the-job and virtual learning opportunities, as well as networking and mentorship.” Recently, Dell launched Jump Start, a program that helps newer team members grow their personal brand and navigate the organization successfully. In 2015, Dell was awarded the EMEA Candidate Experience Award for providing job candidates with a positive, transparent, and rewarding recruiting experience.

Work Routines and Practices

The details of how work gets done at your company — communication, meetings, approvals — may seem too granular or quotidian to factor into your employer story, but those details have a huge effect on how work feels day-to-day. Plus, the rules of a system largely define who will succeed in that system. For instance, if you require several layers of approvals for decisions, someone who’s good at communicating with stakeholders and managing expectations is more likely to excel. If your organization expects individuals to make decisions autonomously and justify them later in a group meeting, you’ll attract employees who are flexible self-managers.

Check out: Eventbrite’s shame-free engineering team
In an effort to support learning and experimentation, Eventbrite’s software engineering team decided to change their QA process to eliminate a common negative motivator: shame. On many engineering teams, test failures (which can break parts of the product) are broadcast to the entire team and the breaker might have to keep a special item (like a rubber chicken) on his or her desk. At Eventbrite, when an engineer writes a test, it first goes into a separate system where any breaks will not affect the product, and engineers get a private alert if their code fails. By creating a less judgemental work environment, Eventbrite has been able to engage candidates who might not feel they “belong” on other engineering teams.


As Jeff Lawson, founder of Twilio, suggests, “Values are written words, and your culture is how you actually live those written words.” Does your team value efficiency? Candor? Diversity? Well-articulated and understood values create a framework that helps employees make decisions and set priorities.They also make it clear which candidates to look for: those who do — or can — align with your values.

Check out: Hootsuite’s Employee Value Playbook
Social relationship platform Hootsuite, which has 1,000+ employees in ten different countries, designed its Employee Value Playbook (EVP) to empower team members to communicate the company’s core values internally and externally. Since formally launching the program, Hootsuite has seen a 50 percent increase in applications per position. Ambrosia Vertesi, Hootsuite’s vice president of talent, says, “If we continue to foster these values in our existing employees and look for them in potential hires, we know Hootsuite’s culture will flourish.”

Social Vibe

A 2012 Penn State study found that, among collegiate job seekers, “workplace fun was a stronger predictor of applicant attraction than compensation and opportunities for advancement.” So, is your company a fun place to work? Or, more to the point, what does “fun” mean at your company? You’ll never be the perfect social environment for every candidate. Instead, focus on describing how the right candidates would fit into and have fun with your work community.

Check out: Employee storytellers at #ESPNBeHere
Browse the posts tagged with #ESPNBeHere and you’ll get a firsthand look into the social vibe at ESPN. By compiling photos that employees post on the road, in the control room, or at a company retreat, ESPN’s “Be Here” campaign turns its team members into storytellers. Chris Hong, Vice President of Talent Acquisition for ESPN, says, “Employer transparency is the new and expected norm. Who better to exemplify our employer brand than our employees themselves?”

Space and Location

Candidates are always eager to get a look at a company’s offices — and not just to see if the light is good. In addition to seeing the length of their commute and where they’d eat lunch, candidates can glean subtle cues about your company from your space. Desks huddled together suggest a collaborative environment. Wall displays reflect priorities: product mock-ups, posters with the company’s values, or photos from the last happy hour? Even just seeing that decorating decisions are intentional rather than haphazard gives candidates a sense that you care about employees and their experience.

Check out: Kohl’s location-specific recruiting
In September 2015, Kohl’s announced plans to hire more than 9,500 seasonal employees for their 13 distribution and fulfillment centers — and they needed them by mid-November. In order to hire quickly, while continuing to attract candidates who were diverse and engaged, Kohl’s showed candidates the exact environment they’d be working in. Their location-specific recruiting content shows candidates a high-tech facility, a safe environment, and a place imbued with the Kohl’s culture, setting the company apart from competitors and playing against candidates’ preconceptions of a fulfillment center environment.

*Perks and Compensation

We put an asterisk on this topic for a reason: it’s a relatively weak selling point, yet it’s the one companies lean on the hardest, often at the expense of more differentiated value propositions. You’ll want to highlight specific perks to specific candidates: student loan payback for recent grads or lengthy parental leave for soon-to-be parents. Otherwise, unless your perks are truly unique and reflect your values (think Google’s 10 percent time when that was new, or Airbnb giving their employees $2,000 for travel), they should be more of a footnote than a cornerstone of your employer story.

Check out: Spire Global’s crowdsourced perks
Spire Global, a satellite data company with offices across the globe, looks to employees to suggest and implement perks tied to the company’s core values. Team members have helped develop the “Ticket to the World” perk, which gives employees an opportunity to spend one week per year in any one of Spire’s global offices. Employees can also name one of the company’s satellites, a reward for the work they do in the world of satellite ship-tracking. Darin Matuzic, Spire’s head of technical recruiting, explains, “The best employees are those who actively exhibit the ideals that make a company special, and we believe perks should empower them to do so.” For Spire, perks are a compelling piece of their employer story both because they’re unique to the company’s product and because they reinforce core values.

Now that you’ve explored these inspiring examples, go uncover your own employee value propositions using this nifty worksheet. Then check out Part 2 of our storytelling guide.

BTW, we use storytelling to help high-growth startups scale their teams. If you’d like to hear more, we’d love to talk!

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