By Kyle Schwarm

When it comes to attracting good employees, salary and benefits are at the top of the list. Knowing external equity, internal equity and individual equity is important, but it takes more than good pay to attract talent. Contractors that invest in developing and delivering strong “employee value propositions” or EVPs, have a significant advantage over those who don’t, not only for attracting employees, but also for retaining employees.

The EVP has been around since the late 1990s, according to Forbes, but is now being used prominently as a weapon in the “war for talent.” An EVP is essentially everything an employer does to attract and retain employees, including pay and benefits, but also rewards and perks that come with employment. An EVP essentially answers the question, “Why should I work for you?” said Deborah Marshall, senior manager with ABC member WIPFLi CPAs and Consultants, who presented at the ABC of Wisconsin HR Conference last month, which attracted nearly 200 participants.

Marshall (pictured) said it is important to ask, “What trips their triggers?” It’s not just money. Marshall said money is your ticket into the ball game (attract) but it doesn’t win the game for you.

Marshall recommends contractors conduct simple focus groups or engagement surveys to determine what current employees like about their jobs. Are factors such as career growth, technology, ownership or training important? You may discover some real interesting reasons that are appealing to several employees. The value of benefits like grandparent vacations or flexibility to deal with what’s going on in their lives is often important, as is career growth or being creative on the job. These employee retention factors should be emphasized, promoted and reinforced internally and externally.

“Marketing to employees and prospective employees are equally important,” Marshall said. “Take a look at your website. What do you see? How you present yourself in the world makes a difference.” Marshall added, “Stories make a huge difference. What’s your story?” They should be promoted on the website and social media.

EVP is the unique value the company brings to employees. Company stories can help promote these valuable attributes. While your EVP is not your company brand, it can work in tandem with your brand to attract and retain employees.

Obviously, retention is important to keep your current workforce in place, but the longevity of current employees can also strengthen a contractor’s EVP.

Marshall recommends what is called “stay interviews” for retaining employees. Stay interviews are discussions that organization leaders have with individual employees to learn how to strengthen an employee’s engagement in the organization so they can retain them. Good notes should be taken and leaders should focus on what they can control. She said you should ask employees why they stay, what could make their experience better and if they were to leave, why would that be. You should ask probing questions to show that you care.

“Every single leader with direct reports is responsible and should be accountable for turnover and retention,” Marshall said. Companies should make sure leaders know that some turnover is uncontrollable but high patterns of turnover are not acceptable. Marshall said companies must remove leaders who drive good workers away. Conversely, employee retention needs to be a requirement for leader promotion.

“I’m amazed at how many leaders there are out there that continue to have people report to them who they beat up,” Marshall said.

Marshall also recommends companies conduct postmortems when employees leave to talk about why he or she left and what could have been done to make the employee experience better.

Developing or enhancing your EVP is mostly about asking good questions and showing you care. This will produce valuable information you can use to attract and retain good employees.