The employee value proposition is more than a buzzword. It’s the unique set of benefits that an employee receives in exchange for their skills, capabilities and experience. It has the ability to attract and retain top talent, and develop an organisational culture to be proud of. It’s made up of the somewhat ‘traditional’ benefits, such as your paycheque and healthcare. However in recent years – particularly since the pandemic – the EVP has expanded; and now the ‘intangibles’ are becoming all the more important. And those intangible benefits (unsurprisingly) include learning & development opportunities.
In February we hosted an incredible live recording of the Marketing for Learning Podcast, discussing L&D and the EVP. We were joined by two incredible guests; Edmund Monk (CEO of The LPI) and Serena Gonsalves-Fersch (Head of Global Talent & Academy, SoftwareONE), and in this blog we’re going to give you a summary of all the words of wisdom shared throughout the discussion with our top 5 takeaways, but if you want to watch the whole thing back, then go on - click away:
Throughout the podcast recording we polled our listeners on who they thought was responsible for the employee value proposition. And although our pesky poll only allowed respondents to check one option, their chat comments made it clear: a combination of HR, People, Talent, L&D and Marketing is the gold-star solution to EVP ownership.
Ultimately, the real EVP comes from an employees' lived experience. And why would you move on to somewhere else if you've got everything that you need here? And that’s where L&D comes in with career development, progression, evolution of skills, up-skilling, re-skilling, all of that lovely stuff, which helps someone's career continue to ascend or go in the direction that they want it to.
In our live podcast, Ed Monk had a really interesting perspective on the EVP, he said “the perception of your employee value proposition is almost more important than what it is”. Which unsurprisingly pricked my ears up – because that sounds a lot like branding to me. But that’s exactly what an EVP is: a branding exercise to attract and retain talent.
You can spend a lot of time (and money!) carefully crafting your EVP. But unless it’s truly reflective of lived experiences at your organisation, it isn’t going to work. When considering the EVP as a branding tool, it may start to seem as though it’s a bit ineffable. You might struggle to identify how your employees really feel. But that is true for brand marketing too. Brands exist in the hearts and minds of people, it isn't a logo, it isn't a colour palette, it's actually what people think and feel about you, and you can't easily or quickly affect that. Instead, it takes time and effort.
Tools such as Glassdoor have a major impact on the EVP. And of course you don’t have any control over what people write about your company anonymously on a review site – so you need to start your brand building much earlier, in the attraction stages, to actually prove value. Then, if your employees do move on – at least they’re leaving with a good taste in their mouths.
When thinking about the EVP, many people will cast their minds back to the 90s when Google started the concept of a ‘campus’ workplace. Work became the home of your friends, the gym, the pool table – it was a place that people actually wanted to spend time at. And all those pieces put together makes employees ‘sticky’ to the organisation. They want to stay – and it’ll be hard for another company to pull them away.
But now, in a post-pandemic world, we have to decipher how to create this ‘stickiness’ in a hybrid, global manner. And although many organisations' first instinct is for higher salaries and longer, more flexible annual leave – the truth is, many employees aren’t choosing roles on just salaries any more. In fact, the latest Workplace Learning report said that ‘opportunities to learn and develop new skills’ is in the top 5 reasons people consider taking a new job. They want to know the career growth prospects at your organisation, they want to feel a sense of purpose, they want to learn – and it’s for this reason that L&D need to start providing real value to the EVP.
And Serena made it very clear in the live podcast: when we say real value, we mean real value. It’s no longer enough to say “we develop our people”, instead you need to show how. You need to go beyond learning libraries and licences, your people want to see how you can offer them a bespoke, personalised learning journey to help them meet their goals.
How many blogs or articles have you read about L&D ‘getting a seat at the table’? Probably more than you can count, right? Well Ed has one thing to say to you: build your own table. It’s time to stop trying to justify our existence, instead let's prove our worth. We need to partner with other areas of the business, to build strong working relationships, to connect what we’re doing to the overall business strategy. Because let’s be frank, if what you’re contributing doesn’t impact the bottom line or the future growth of the business – then why are you even doing it?
Your L&D offering should be aligned to two things: the organisation and your target audience (your learners). And to do that, you have to know what the rest of the organisation is doing. Let’s look at talent acquisition for example. If you don’t know what they’re saying to recruit people, or the mix of people coming into your organisation at any one time, you’ll be starting off on the back foot; with no clear indication of expectations or needs of your new employees – and you play a critical role in their development! This is a clear demonstration of why L&D needs to make it their responsibility to network with the other organisational divisions, find out what they’re doing – and make sure your offering is aligned to it!
Serena left us with a compelling parting thought about L&D and the EVP that was too good to miss from this list:
“We always have the same offering and we expect to catch different fish. If you want to change how you are perceived, change what you do. And for the fundamental part, L&D hasn’t really changed anything.
Learning always feels like it's done to people, something that involves an opportunity cost, which takes you away from what you're doing. And no matter how many times we talk about the flow of work, it doesn’t really translate. So L&D spends their time trying to fit in and get attention, when we have bigger challenges on our hands.
The world of work and jobs are changing. We now have to make people fungible for the future – enabling them to be malleable. We all have to be able to shift and to adapt. And it’s been done numerous times in human history – nobody uses an abacus anymore! But bringing that knowledge into work and translating it into how people learn is where our challenge is. And if we keep trying to overcome this challenge with our same old solutions, with learning that is done to people, we’ll always be put in this box of people who deliver courses and maintain a platform.”
How’s that for inspiration?!
We create value proposition canvases a lot in marketing – and we use them in Marketing for Learning campaigns too. We use the value proposition canvas to identify your value as an L&D function and how you can translate that to something meaningful for your employee base. So as marketers, the conversation around the EVP got our minds whirring.
The truth is, as an L&Der, your contribution to the EVP needs to demonstrate:
Action these three points. Provide real value to the organisation. Make sure your learning benefits the organisation and its people. And you'll be well on your way to making a real contribution to the employee value proposition once and for all.