Because they should be.

If someone asked you why you work where you work, you’d probably have a story or two to tell them. Most of us would… not because we have a lot of reasons. We don’t keep those most fundamental WHY answers in the logical/verbal parts of our brains.

Here’s some good news. If you’re finding your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) hard to write, then you’re on the right track. It’s supposed to be hard. In his book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek writes that the answer to WHY can be very hard to verbalize because its roots live deep in the limbic brain, where we hold our emotions, behaviors, motivations, and long-term memory.

While getting to the factors that influence our limbic brain can be elusive, the power it holds over our choices can be very strong. This is the part of the brain that drives our “gut feelings.” Its conclusions feel right, instinctive, and irresistible.

So what does all that have to do with your EVP?

We’re not selling toothpaste here. Whether or not four out of five dentists agree, choices about career touch our life goals, our dreams, and our prosperity. Quite often, we use our careers to define who we are to others. This is important stuff!

For our clients at Johnson & Johnson, it meant they needed people to know they would “be seen for the value they bring; have the opportunity to drive a dynamic career; and be part of something bigger than themselves.” In shorthand, they would “BE VITAL.”

It sounds vague, but it’s what people told us in focus groups and one-on-one interviews. And once a creative expression was developed, validation testing proved that new candidates loved it, but employees loved it even more.

Now… how did we help them get there?

Interviews can be amazing for gathering the rich qualitative information that EVPs are made of, but they can be expensive. Surveys don’t deliver the substance you need, but can help you see the flaws in your expression of an EVP.
The key to moving through the process with confidence is recognizing that it’s iterative and that each step has a different kind of work to do.

Here’s our five-step process:


DISCOVERY – Gather rich, qualitative information from high-performing high-potentials and other important owners of your corporate landscape. Interviews work best because they give smart people a chance to tell compelling stories.

CREATIVITY – This is where the right agency partner wins your allegiance. They’ll spot recurring themes and turn them into words that convey a sense of truth and alignment.

VALIDATION – Test the creative solution on the broadest audience you can find. Now the numbers matter in a quantitative sense. You’ll need a methodology that measures the difference between pre- and post-exposure to see if you touched aspirations of your target audience.

REFINEMENT – It’s rare for an emotional message to hit the bull’s eye on the first pass. Now your agency team has data to tune the message for a predictable impact… and for the ROI you need.

LAUNCH – So often the forgotten step, your launch will deliver a new EVP with surprise and delight to employees and candidates. They’ll want to share the story. The launch should model spoken messages in memorable phrasing that makes them easy to pass forward.

The takeaway…
For J&J, the BE VITAL employer brand—and the EVP it’s built on—enable a near instantaneous discovery that “I could love working here.” And that becomes a powerful driver for exploration among the talented people J&J is looking for.

Watch for the second post in this series that will explore development of an interview guide to uncover rich stories of employee value to support your EVP.

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