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The top 10 mistakes employers make when defining their people brand values

John Tarrant, Managing Partner, DNA

With retention and attraction becoming increasingly critical, now more than ever organisations need to be clear as to what they stand for as an employer and how they want to be known by the audiences that matter to them. They seek authenticity, they seek differentiation, they seek clarity and above all they seek relevance in a changing world. Find out the 10 most common mistakes organisations make when it comes to developing and implementing their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and Employer Brand – and read DNA's checklist to help you get it right.

However simple the process may look on the outside, it can be fraught with danger. We’ve been in the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and employer branding business longer than most and are often called upon to save an EVP programme or even re-start it.

With something so critical to both your people agenda and business performance, getting it right is key, particularly when talent acquisition and retention are such major issues.

In our experience, organisations often make the same mistakes when it comes to developing and implementing their EVP and employer brand. Here are the 10 most common as we experience them.

The 10 most common EVP and employer branding mistakes to avoid 

1. An end in itself, not a means to an end…. no KPIs,  no ROI measures in place
It was on someone’s to do list but no objectives were set. So there was no consideration of how the EVP should serve the people plan and, in doing so, the wider business plan. A well thought through and implemented EVP will make you money and save you money but you can’t improve what you don’t accurately measure, and you can’t achieve what you don’t set. No focus means no direction in EVP land.

2. They think they have no budget 
You don’t need a budget to develop a compelling EVP and employer brand. Why? Because you are spending/wasting money every day in the way you currently work – poor attraction, poor candidate experience, expensive cost per hire, early attrition and more besides. Change the pot the money comes out of and change your world for the better.

3. No consideration of how the employer brand has to align with the customer brand
You can’t be something on the outside (for instance: customer centric, agile, commercial) that you aren’t or will never be on the inside. It’s your people that deliver your products and services and those valuable customer experiences day in, day out. If the new EVP and employer brand exist in isolation from the customer brand, it’s going to be a bumpy road.

4. Lack of senior level buy-in
HR can own and drive the EVP formulation and implementation but the process needs senior level investment – both financially and in terms of broader support – from day one. If the senior leadership team is not bought in to the process and the business returns, then it can be like herding cats.

5. Lack of buy-in from other stakeholders
Further down the track, functional heads and line managers will need to understand and support the EVP. More than that, they’ll need to show that commitment through their actions in recruitment, induction, communications, performance management, engagement and more. The EVP is the overarching statement of intent of what you stand for as an employer. That means every aspect of the employee lifecycle, and in every part of the business. Every business will have those little silos and fiefdoms but an element of company consistency is key.

6. ‘Homemade’ i.e. imprecise, jargon, inwardly focused, bland, lack of objectivity
It’s an interesting project and the temptation to form a working party of well-meaning amateurs to work together and ‘come up with something’ is too great to resist. Effective employer branding is the work of professionals. You wouldn’t let a well-meaning amateur with a bit of spare time, install the firewall or the fire alarm for that matter, so why take liberties with something as important as the EVP and employer brand? Of course, the internal team will have input and lots of it, but the analysis of the brand assets, the objectivity in setting the hierarchy of messaging, ensuring authenticity and the creative flair to bring the EVP to life are specialist skills. 
7. Insufficient research
All decisions in designing the EVP and Employer Brand need to be securely knowledge based – and that means effective research. Every organisation is different but as a minimum it will mean quantitative and reliable employee survey information, one to ones with key stakeholders and focus groups of representative key staff. To this we may even add competitor research, ex-employees, mystery shopping and more. Your EVP has to be authentic, distinct and compelling. Without sufficient research you simply won’t know if it’s any of those three.

8. It’s ‘done to’ employees not ‘done with’ or ‘done for’
Someone sat in a room on their own with unlimited access to Google and ‘did it’- they may be someone from HR or even Marketing. It ticks the box but languishes in a nether world of irrelevance. Absolutely one to avoid.

9. Employer branding implementation misaligned (packaging doesn’t reflect the contents)
The EVP might be well supported and researched but the implementation goes awry. Everyone gets caught up in the exciting bit of the creative process and what appears on the page, online, offline, at events. Inside the company and out. However, the EVP doesn’t reflect the true reality of working there. And, rather than kerb their enthusiasm and momentum by stopping, pausing and checking, they carry on regardless. It might be too aspirational, culturally misaligned, too ‘salesy’. It might be that the new emerging brand wasn’t checked with the key audiences and without careful attention to the findings of the research, diving into implementation without taking time to step back and review.

10. ‘It could be anyone’
There’s sometimes a temptation to use corporate speak or be too jargonistic. Or the final EVP and brand are signed off by a committee causing dilution and lack of focus. Our advice is that if you are unique then your EVP should be too. Be you. Be unique. And reap the benefits.

So, how do you avoid the pitfalls? This EVP checklist should help:

  • Do we have a purpose and have we set objectives?
  • Does it align with the business plan and customer brand?
  • Does it align with the people plan?
  • Have we consulted with all of the key stakeholders?
  • Have we covered off the ‘right’ type and level of discovery?
  • Is it uniquely us?
  • Have we made the most of our brand assets and unique selling points (USPs)?
  • More importantly, is it real?
  • Is it inspirational?
  • Is it aspirational?
  • Does it work as a platform for our employer brand messaging?
  • Have we got the right specialist partner in the driving seat with us? (Yes, snuck that one in!)

About the author

John Tarrant is the Managing Partner of DNA – a specialist EVP and Employer Brand agency.

Contact John and his team on to talk about your EVP project and they will be happy to have an initial conversation and advise you on your best next steps.