A few days ago, an organization approached us asking as how they could articulate their Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Traditionally, organizations have applied deductive reasoning to define their EVP charters, a top-down approach which hinges on forming conclusions based on what leadership (or the top) assumes to be true. However self-fulfilling as it sounds, an organization often ends up building evidence around what its leaders think their organization stands for. Innovative, transparent, agile - these are a few of the terms that crop up frequently. But is the EVP articulated in a manner which is truly distinct and relevant to the organization as well as its people?
As a design thinking collective, we decided to approach this challenge leveraging on empathy-driven research methodologies. Our first insight was that leaders are often conflicted between realities and aspirations, often getting too broad or too narrow. Our second insight was that, to an employee, it is more about the experience and cultural values than it is about the vision or mission. And so, as we went about it, the design challenges emerged as under:
How might we craft an EVP that truly and aptly captures what is distinct for an organization?
In what ways might the EVP reflect the ethos and culture of the organization and at the same time reinforce the employee experience?
How might we institutionalize and sustain the EVP?
And very interestingly,
In what ways might we tailor the EVP to diverse groups/ segments in the organization?
For us, this last design challenge was an eye-opener - in that, an organization’s EVP could and should be customized for its distinct units. And while this stood out, it is not a common practice. In turn, to define such differentiated EVPs, we suggested the following approach:
Top Down: Alignment with strategic priorities
An organization must first define the different organizational buckets it has, which warrant differentiated EVPs. Ideally, these organizational buckets should have clearly distinct cultures and operating models. For example - consider client based, function-based or expertise based units. With the leadership team of each of these buckets, their strategic priorities and focus areas must be understood.
There are a set of researched and well-defined career anchors available which help articulate the key motivations of an employee (courtesy Edgar Schein and subsequent, follow-on studies). As a second step, separate workshops with the leadership teams of each of the identified organizational buckets is required to trim this laundry list of career anchors to first draft sets of those anchors which are applicable for each of these buckets.
Bottom Up: Combining qualitative and empathy-driven research
The organization must then define demographic segments using a blend of Career Levels (Entry, Middle, Senior etc.) and Generations (Millennials, GenXers, etc.). Analyses of employee data should suggest these segments, e.g. if Career Levels 1 through 4 are primarily made of Millennials (90%), followed by GenXers - then this clearly is a demographic segment.
For each organizational bucket, Structured employee 1:1s and FGDs on the first draft set of applicable career anchors need to be held with each of the demographic segments - to give some degree of shape to what the applicable career anchors mean for each segment and what they value about them. This is a validation step which will help define Employee Personas (as an intersection of demographic segment and applicable career anchors/ goals/ motivators). This step will also outline which career anchors are common across the organizational bucket - these become shared career anchors/ motivators for the organizational bucket. For example - Pure Challenge may be a shared career anchor/ shared motivator across the Sales organization.
For each organizational bucket, the identified Employee Personas need to be aggregated and prioritized, to arrive at no more than 3-4 Core Employee Personas which can be detailed/fleshed-out. For example, consider an Employee Persona which covers over 40% of the population in relation to one which covers only 3%.
Based on the strategic priorities and focus areas, employee conversations, research and the shared career anchors - a big idea EVP needs to be then articulated for each organizational bucket.
A big idea EVP can look like this: Each day, create a new opportunity for you to make an impact!
Co-creation: Creating user and stakeholder-driven employee journeys
Thereafter, what this big idea EVP means for each of the core employee personas, in terms of enablers across employee journeys/ employee lifecycle - i.e. org structure, policies, processes and work environment - needs to be distilled and defined. For e.g. - how can we make the Policies more flexible and responsive to drive speedy decision making?
It is ideal to host an ideation session to get all stakeholders to collectively brainstorm and define the key employee touchpoints for each Persona. Different stakeholders including employees, HR functional experts and other corporate functions can enable diverse ideas and inputs for the design.
Prototyping and testing: Piloting the employee journey maps and assessing feasibility and viability
At the end of the Ideation sessions, we should have the respective Employee Journey Maps and select Moments of Impact fleshed-out. These can then be discussed and assessed for viability and feasibility. It is recommended to Pilot the touchpoint enablers with a control group to solicit feedback and further reiterate.
So how and why does this approach help?
Through the above approach, we can arrive at (a) clearly differentiated EVPs for organizational buckets where they are warranted and logical; (b) how each bucket’s EVP can be translated to differentiated employee journeys for the core employee personas in it. This way, the organization will be able to drive a balance between shared cultures on one hand and the need to customize experiences for different employee segments, on the other. Care, of course, must be taken to not have too many organizational buckets - and to make sure that the org-wide non-negotiables are not compromised upon.