Ask Your Employees The Most Important Question

Understanding your Employee Value Proposition can tell you why your employees work for you (and why they might choose to leave).

Do you know why your employees work for you? Suppress the desire to roll your eyes and respond with the no-brainer statement/question, “Uh… because they get paid?!”

The question of why employees work for you, and why they choose to engage in their work, may very well be the key to winning the ongoing employee engagement battle. Yet, few organizations are able to answer it in any depth.

The Employee Value Proposition

As customers, we have a perception of a company’s brand. We reason that “ABC company is known for their high quality, but XYZ company’s products are more affordable.” Or, “I refuse to shop at the mall store because their customer service is horrible!”

The brand (or perception of that brand) dictates the clientele and, often, the experience. An important part of that brand is Customer Value Proposition or CVP. The CVP defines the value of a firm’s products or services to the consumer. It answers the question, “Why should I buy from you?”

Both customers and employees expect certain things from a company’s brand, or “employee brand.”

The Employee Value Proposition is the answer to the question, “Why should I work for you?”

Knowing why an employee chooses to work for you will tell you a great deal about your brand (and your employees’ perception of that brand). Yet, when asked about why employees make that choice, all but the most in-touch organizations come back with responses like, “We pay well,” “We have great products,” or simply, “Because we have job openings.” Few are able to describe their employer brand in any level of detail.

Playing to your EVP strengths

During the past several years, our firm, DecisionWise, has worked extensively with two restaurant companies. One of these companies is a 400-location fast food chain, specializing in Mexican food. The other is a 100-location upscale restaurant chain. Attrition and hiring challenged these companies. In order to understand the factors behind these issues, we conducted organization-wide surveys and focus groups.

Case Study 1

People know the fast food company has good Mexican food at a low price (their CVP). That’s important to know, but when we asked the question, “Why would someone choose to work for you?” we were met with blank stares.

Through organization surveys and focus groups, we found that workers remained for three reasons:

  1. Flexible work schedules
  2. The ability to work with family and friends who were also working at the same location
  3. The reduced-price lunches they received once per week (a valued perk that equated to about 78 cents per employee per week).

We learned that if those factors were present, the odds of the employee remaining with the company increased dramatically (220%, to be exact). If those factors were not present, adios.

Armed with these findings, the leaders at the fast food chain implemented a recruiting referral program. They paid employees $100 per referral hired by the same restaurant location. Rather than discouraging families from working together in their restaurant, they began to promote it, bringing networks of friends and family together in the same locations. Additionally, they expanded their discounted food program to include one meal per four-hour shift. This generated tremendous goodwill. They understood and built their EVP.

Case Study 2

The upscale restaurant chain had a very positive reputation in the communities in which they operated. They were known for their extensive menus and cuisine. They clearly understood their CVP, but not their EVP. After conducting an all-hands employee engagement survey, as well as a number of focus groups, we learned something interesting about their EVP that was only suspected by company leaders, but not yet confirmed.

This company’s associates were engaged by factors that were different from those indicated by the fast-food chain. First, they took pride in saying “I work at XYZ restaurant” because of the well-known cuisine and name. Additionally, they valued the opportunities for growth and development, flexible schedules and satisfied customers.

Because this restaurant chain had concerns about employee retention, the company focused on leveraging their EVP. They established online communities, both internally and externally, where employees could “celebrate the brand” and show their pride in working for the organization. Next, they asked employees to provide input into the company’s seasonal menus, encouraging them to sample each of the dishes.

Then, they implemented an online work scheduling system in which employees could create a schedule that met their individual needs and family circumstances. The company understood its EVP, and made it a priority to build it. Employee retention increased dramatically, as did employee engagement and guest satisfaction, as a result of these positive changes.

Know your EVP

Why do your employees choose to work for you? Most organizations don’t take the time to fully understand the answer. Consequently, they miss a key component in understanding their employee experience. Understanding your EVP and the details around why they work for you begins with the answers to five questions:

  1. What is our organization’s “employer brand” (what current and potential employees know you for)?
  2. How will our employees respond when their friends and families ask the question, “So, how do you like working for XYZ?”
  3. Why would someone choose to join our organization (what is the value you propose to future employees)? What would it take to attract that person?
  4. Why would an employee choose to stay and engage in our organization? What would it take to keep that person?
  5. Are there any gaps between what appeals to your employees and what they experience? What would it take to close those gaps?

Keep in mind, EVP doesn’t just apply to the organization as a whole. Each company, function, location, department, plant, and even manager has its own brand. Your value proposition answers the question, “Why do our employees choose to work for us?”

So, how would you answer the question? Do you know your EVP?

DecisionWise Employee Value Proposition

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