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5 Commonly Confused Terms That Great Companies Get Right


Mon Aug 30 2021

5 Commonly Confused Terms That Great Companies Get Right

It’s easy to get tangled up and turned around when you’re applying the buzzwords of the talent industry.

Do you ever wonder if an employer brand should be based on an employee value proposition (EVP) or the other way around? Or if they could actually be the same thing? Have you found yourself asking, “What’s the difference between our culture and our employee experience?” Maybe your employee engagement survey has left you questioning whether engagement is a means or an end.


The truth is that these related concepts get easily mixed, mingled, and intertwined, and every company talks about or approaches them just a bit differently. The sooner you clarify your company’s point of view of these terms and align your team, the faster you will be able to transform your workforce.

Employee Engagement

Let’s start with the big why: to be our best as a company, we want to fill our rosters with highly talented people then maximize their performance. Employee engagement has been a leading indicator of high performance because engaged employees lean in. They bring greater personal effort and strive for more alignment to company strategy. They’re happier in their roles and more fulfilled by their work. Engaged employees receive great value from their employment relationship with you, so they work at the relationship too. In this way, engagement is an upward spiral that continually builds on itself.

Employee engagement is the feeling that drives your employees’ relationship with your organization. We measure its levels by tracking things like enthusiasm, loyalty, admiration, trust, and promotion. It’s also smart to track the activities that have shown to lead to engagement, like rating their workload as appropriate, forming friendships, connecting to the company purpose, knowing that leaders care about their well-being, experiencing inclusion, diversity, equity and access, managing work-life harmony, and hearing appreciation.

Employer Brand

You can think of your employer brand as the world’s assessment of how your organization stands up within the context of that employment relationship. Prospective employees want to know if you succeed at engaging your employees, if you offer them value, and whether this a great place to work.

Your consumer brand is the world’s assessment of how your company stands up within the context of your customer relationships. Wise companies realize their employees are a customer base. The value exchange is different than your traditional customers, but they are “buying” from you, nonetheless. And you want them to because they pay you in engagement and performance. Your goal is to win their time, talent, and energy every day. They will happily spend that with you if they’re receiving the “membership benefits” they envisioned when they signed on. This is how you fan the flames of engagement. Beyond their compensation, they likely believed their employment would bring feelings of accomplishment, growth, pride, gratitude, and being appreciated.


Your employer brand is based on how much value you deliver within the (usually unspoken) terms of this relationship. It’s the summation of the way you are perceived as an employer or the reputation your company has garnered for affecting the lives of those in your workforce. Most importantly, it’s defined by how the world sees you.

An employer brand is something you influence but don’t control. There’s no magic wand to make the public think of you in a particular way. There’s only the hard work of managing the reality of who you are as an employer and ensuring the world sees it so your brand can follow, which means examining how you’re currently winning today and how you might be falling short so that you can address it. To measure that success, you need an EVP.

Employee Value Proposition

Your EVP describes the unique employer you are meant to be. It should include an honest description of employment at your company today, as well as your aspirations for tomorrow. It should highlight the distinct ways people benefit as a result of employment with you. Finally, it should be unapologetic about what you’re looking for from them.

Authenticity is key as you develop or reinvent your EVP. Like any relationship, if this employment is going to work, it has to be built on honesty and mutual respect. That means you shouldn’t be shy about the hard work that’s needed or the challenges ahead. You may have high expectations, but they are necessary and fair—and to the right person, they are part of the appeal.

Drafting an EVP is about stating what is usually unspoken between an employer and employee. It shines a light on each party’s aspirations for a win-win agreement. But don’t mistake it as transactional. Great EVPs work because they are highly relational.


Your EVP is best seen as an unending relationship alignment tool. It’s not just for recruiting; it’s for continual, organizational fine-tuning. It helps you ask, “Are we living up to our vision as an employer? Are our employees receiving all the benefits we hoped they would? Are they rising to the challenges of employment with us, and are we seeing their highest performance? Are we all in this together?”

As you begin to put words to your realities and aspirations, don’t be surprised if it seems that you’ve opened a door you can’t close. Being authentic and explicit means you’ll examine the dark corners and find opportunities where employee value can be enhanced. There’s nothing quite like opening the curtains and letting the sun in to make you want to clean up a bit or even fully renovate.

This isn’t a simple or easy task. But focusing on offering employees more value is the most effective approach you can take to increase your desirability as a place to work and thereby elevate the talent, loyalty, and productivity of your workforce.

Organizational Culture

So, let’s talk about what it means to authentically increase your EVP. You may go straight to the idea of culture change. After all, a company’s culture is your employees’ communal calibration to how things get done, comfortably, within your organization. It’s the organization’s collective definition of “what’s normal around here.” Improving these norms where needed is a great way to affect employee value.

But culture is a nebulous entity that’s tough to grasp and difficult to change. It’s a web of written and unwritten rules, forged through social influence and discovered through behavioral cues. These unspoken guidelines aren’t always perceived at a conscious level nor are the subtle social pressures that keep them in place, which makes it nearly impossible to directly influence culture.

Instead, true culture change relies on shifts happening at a more concrete level. When you change the tangible aspects of your employees’ realities, the culture will also change in relation. In fact, you can be intentional in designing concrete experiences to strategically shift your culture in the precise ways you desire.

Employee Experience

Employee experience happens to employees every day as a result of employment at your company. It’s the collection of their day-to-day interactions with each other, their leaders, and anything they see as coming from the organization (think tech platforms, processes, physical work environment, and the operational structures and systems at the core of your operations), all of which shape their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Employee experience is everything, but some aspects of it are more critical than others. Often called the “moments that matter” in an employee’s journey, these are the pivotal points that affect engagement and performance. When your company can identify these specific make-or-break times and show up well, it really counts.

You have a great deal of control of employee experience. This is where you can make tangible, intentional decisions that your employees will see and feel. Your actions can be thought out in advance and be based on facts and data offered by your employees. They can be carefully designed to affect your culture, employee engagement, employee performance, organizational performance, employee value proposition, and employer brand in one fell swoop.

Maximizing All Five Terms

Ready to make an impact that sets you up to attract and retain the best talent, winning the talent wars so that your company can be its best?

Want to learn more? Join me during the ATD 2021 International Conference & Exposition for the session Small Changes, Big Impact: Redesigning Moments for Authentic EVP.

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