The value of an employer value proposition (EVP) cannot be overstated for any organisation, big or small, but it becomes especially important in the case of startups. They must essentially ask candidates to take a chance on them, so while an employer value proposition is important for any organisation, it becomes critical for startups. And, as mentor capitalist Rishi Piparaiya points out, unlike large organisations that are equipped with superior human resources, the ability of a startup to succeed hinges on the talent it can attract quickly and then retain.
Case in point!
Brands that lead recognise the value of a well-articulated EVP. In July 2022, payment service provider PayU, for instance, reworked its Employee Value Proposition (EVP) to focus on entrepreneurship, collaboration, and innovation, areas which were arrived at after surveying over a thousand employees and after multiple focus group discussions. The new EVP is aimed at deepening the brand’s connection with existing and potential employees and building a more rewarding future for them.
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Meanwhile, at U2opia Mobile, a mobile technology company headquartered in Singapore, the work-life balance of employees has been made central to the company’s EVP. Sumesh Menon, the co-founder, U2opia, says, ‘Our fellow teammates are empowered to work from anywhere. Working from the office is optional, and not mandated. Our culture places a premium on responsiveness and transparency in every internal and external interaction. Besides, we have always indexed heavily on merit and performance-based rewards and recognition system.’ That the company’s employees value being treated with respect and fairness is evident in the fact that the company is rated 4.3 out of 5, by employees on AmbitionBox – and that it has been listed among India’s top 20 startups to work for. For startups, the benefits of such a reputation are numerous.
Our fellow teammates are empowered to work from anywhere. Working from the office is optional, and not mandated. Our culture places a premium on responsiveness and transparency in every internal and external interaction. Besides, we have always indexed heavily on merit and performance-based rewards and recognition system. -Sumesh Menon, co-founder and managing director, U2opia Mobile
As per a 2018 report from Gartner, companies who establish and deliver a strong EVP can decrease annual employee turnover by nearly 70 per cent and increase new hire commitment by almost 30 per cent. Moreover, the same report states that an organisation can reduce the compensation premium by 50% and reach 50% deeper into the labour market when candidates view an EVP as attractive. A strong EVP can also drive higher engagement and motivation in employees, in turn, improving productivity.
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So, how can startups create a strong EVP without shelling out big bucks?
- Communicate your core values: Understanding what you – as a company – stand for is very important so that you can communicate those values to potential hires, says Harshal Shah, co-founder and CEO of complete sales readiness platform, Awarathon, which offers video-based and roleplay-led sales coaching. “It’s important for the founding team to see eye-to-eye when it comes to determining these values and this process can be an exercise that’s periodically undertaken to keep evolving and fine-tuning your organisation’s core values,” he says.
- Time it right: Creating an EVP should begin at a startup when it reaches its growth phase. Before that, the founders should focus on other more significant challenges, including customer experiences, creating their MVP and maintaining reasonable cash burn, says Brajesh Bajpai, leadership coach and director of international business at Vodacom, who also works with Equanimity Investments.
- Put your people first: If the pandemic shone a light on anything, it was on the need for a work-life balance. Piparaiya, who is the CEO of Imaginara Legacies, points out that many large organisations have had trouble getting employees back into offices because talent is no longer willing to be pushed to the extreme and make do with what used to be the norm: working long hours, whatever the cost to one’s personal life and health. “Startups can customise aspects like this much better than multinationals can because there’s a lot less bureaucracy to cut through. So take advantage of that,” he says. It’s also vital to understand what your employees want, so effective communication is vital – exit interviews, for instance, can also be an excellent means of gathering data about what’s working for your startup and what isn’t.
- Create and study your employee persona: Rather than work around complicated formulae, Bajpai recommends a basic exercise. “Imagine a fictional employee in your organisation. What is his/her profile? Who is this employee? Now, envision a day in that employee’s life. This exercise will make you ask all the important questions related to crafting a strong EVP. A few months later, return to this document and compare it against an actual employee your startup has hired. Until your startup is large enough to have an HR professional on board, this exercise must be undertaken once every three or four months to ensure that your startup is developing the culture you’ve envisioned”.
- Reward talent with recognition: It is a huge reward to have your efforts recognised by your peers and bosses. It is a strong motivator for employees and, says Piparaiya, ‘It builds a sense of security to know that their contribution is valued at the workplace.’ Recognition, especially in the early days of a startup doesn’t have to involve a lot of money, says Piparaiya. He recommends using simple but powerful devices such as certificates and small tokens of appreciation – for example, more time with leaders and ‘Employee of the Month’ programmes.
- Learning and development:‘In India, we have observed that this is an especially strong motivator for employees, Piparaiya says, adding that this is a win-win for organisations, as investing in training your employees at various stages helps you to build a workforce that’s best equipped to tackle the demands of the industry. ‘Beyond their paycheck, what matters to employees are their learning, growth and development prospects within an organisation. Startups should make this a priority if they’re seeking quality talent. This can be in the form of mentorship programmes and online courses. Founders of startups are usually connected with VCs and business leaders, resources that they can tap into for such development sessions.”
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Until your startup is large enough to have an HR professional on board, studying the person of your employee must be undertaken once every three or four months to ensure that your startup is developing the culture you’ve envisioned
– Brajesh Bajpai, leadership coach and director of international business, Vodacom
Formulating an EVP, however, is only the beginning. Startups must periodically re-evaluate this proposition by spending time with employees and asking them for feedback regularly.