This month’s Labor Market Insights are in!  Read the May edition of The Bayard Brief here.

I would like to explore...


We’re Doing Employee Value Proposition Wrong. Let’s Fix This!.

  • 01.29.2020

  • |

  • Matthew Gilbert

If EVP was being done right, we would be seeing sizable employee engagement increases, and we’re not. We’d also see less job-hopping and more satisfied, empowered, and productive people. We’d see data about how we’re less stressed, balancing work and life better, collaborating better, and welcoming new people in a more relaxed manner. We’d definitely see significant changes in diversity across the board, especially increases in women in Tech, where firms offer a lot of stuff. Sadly, this isn’t the case.

At its heart, EVP is what a company offers in return for employment. Companies have total control over this, but what creates value in an employee’s experience is not entirely in the company’s control. The low percentage of women in technology roles underscores this point, where companies offer impressive compensation, benefits, rewards, and perks. Making EVP compelling is a lot more involved than how this process is today. We’re stopping at the ¼ way mark, missing the critical parts. If one company offers 7 things and another 9, that’s not a differentiator by itself. It also won’t solve engagement challenges, or work-life, or integrity or diversity issues.

Adding to the mix is the fact that we all want very similar things, like higher compensation, excellent benefits, opportunities to grow. And in response, most companies offer these things that are mostly the same.


We’ve been framing EVP wrong and our assumptions with it.

Our basic needs are very straight forward. If companies want people to do various jobs, they have to offer things to entice people to invest their time, energy, and talent. No real surprise there. This works both ways, of course. If we want homes and food and clothes, we need to work. We’re incredibly similar in terms of what we need, and to a great extent, what we want. And what companies offer is comparable. Studying this as EVP is not helping anyone. No one says they don’t want better benefits or more perks. We all want opportunities to grow and be among people whose company we enjoy. Imagine if we could skip the basic wants and needs and move right to the big stuff, the transcendent things that drive self-actualization, belonging, and have a considerable impact on community and culture! I believe this is more than possible. I think it’s necessary now more than ever as we experience continuous change, which is not new, but the speed at which it happens is neck-wrenching. Hate is on the rise, breakdowns abound in civil discourse, technology changes faster than we can master it. We’re working more and more remotely, upending what culture and team and community mean. We’re checking email all night long. We have all kinds of inequality and so much more. Now is a perfect time to rethink the Employee Value Proposition.

I call this new model the Transcendent EVP because it focuses on the transformative power of a career, not the needs and wants of one. Below is a short overview.

Create Transcendent Strategies.

‘Transcendents’ are the things that genuinely empower us to self-actualize. Do you remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs from back in college days? Those principles still apply today.


Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" in Psychological Review. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans' innate curiosity.

The more we focus on creating strategies that encourage, and support growth at the top levels, then the more we move toward empowerment and unique value creation for employees. A company can’t force someone to self-actualize, but they can provide the right framework and exploration tools for inspiring people to reach.

Transcendent skills across a company, even if we only nudge it, has an ROI that is off the chart when compared to how EVP is done today. There’s no survey we can do that tells us X% of employees are looking for self-actualization. We aren’t trained to think that way. Some of us seem born this way, but that’s not accurate. A lot of Malcolm Gladwell’s research shows us this. Transcendent Value Proposition isn’t something we focus group. It’s an active process that includes employees—it’s a shared mutual investment. It might be the most innovative way we can create a value proposition today.


Become Unicorn Builders.

By focusing value proposition around Transcendent categories, we can aim our efforts better, even building our own Unicorns, not just hoping to hire them. We need actualization working groups that ask the right questions, then step back into a value proposition that is real and actionable. We need belonging models that tackle the tough challenges, so we’re making better investments. We need story development task forces so that the aim of EVP is not pillars or slogans, it’s dynamic candidate experience.


Studies around millennials as employees consistently report that they respond best to a coaching style of leadership, yet we do little to empower managers and team leaders how to be ‘career experience’ coaches. They need this coaching themselves too for their own careers. Can we imagine a professional sports team without coaches? Not really, right? But we have no coaching staff in our professional work teams. Imagine a new position called Chief Coaching Officer, and empower that role with teams of coaches that rove the organization acting as coaches. Now that would be a compelling EVP story!

I wrote this article to help us start having better conversations about what it means to attract and engage, and what value means in the first place. When we conduct EVP research, let’s rethink the questions we ask, not just gather more data listing things we already know we all want. I believe the future of best-in-class EVP development is not by offering more tangibles (benefits or perks) or adding more intangible content, but by the careful selection of the things that really matter. If the goal of talent attraction is to bring on great people and engage employees, then we need new thinking around EVP and EB altogether. And we definitely need to stop telling our TA and HR leads they have to think like marketers (some of the worst advice we can give ourselves). We need to act like Venture Capitalists for Employment, and not only try to hire Unicorns, but also learn how to build them. Inside all of us is a unicorn waiting for a transcendent employee value proposition, and like the saying goes, fortune favors the bold. With unemployment as low as it is, this is a perfect time to be bold.


Reach out