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ATD Blog

Get Real With New Employees


Thu Jul 08 2021

Get Real With New Employees

Craft your employee value proposition with candor, transparency, and raw truth.

Filters can be tempting, but you gotta do you—especially when it comes to employee value propositions.


In a world of high-gloss marketing, HR departments are beginning to realize that rosy-picture recruiting materials may harm as much as they help. Because too often, our enthusiastic, talent-attraction spin sets up people for disappointment. Employment is messy, and organizations are imperfect, so once people sign on, it can be tough to live up to our own hype.

Sure, we engage in this self-promotion to attract more applicants. But don’t we want to want to find perfect applicants?

We’re all looking for those rare people with aligned interests, strengths, and skills who will invest in our mission, engage in our organization, and contribute to our success for the long-term. We want them to be uniquely suited to our dynamics and love our work despite our crazy challenges or quirky environment. We’re hoping for performers who get so excited about our organization’s potential that they sign on despite our flaws and embrace the idea of being part of the solution.

Those people aren’t easy to identify, much less onboard successfully, when we sweep our challenges under the rug. Instead, we need to get real. And the best way to start is with true and transparent employee value propositions (EVPs).

While the idea may feel a bit uncomfortable—and even scary—the results can be amazing. Here are four steps for activating employee value propositions that will identify and retain the right workforce for you.


1. Move beyond the numbers game.

First, you have to get comfortable with the idea that attracting fewer people is OK—even desirable. That’s the cost of pursuing the right people. Because when it comes to employment, you’re seeking a good fit, which takes an acknowledgment that this place isn’t for everyone. So instead of an EVP that sells your sizzle, you have to own up to your reality. Not everyone will be drawn to it, but the right people will be.

2. Create an opt-in dynamic.

A great EVP details those generally unwritten rules between your organization and your employees; it makes explicit the balanced value exchange you’re both entering. It should be written as a give-get statement that lays out for people, “When you give us X, you’ll get Y.” Great employee value propositions describe the organization’s expectations for employees and lists the incredible aspects of the workplace well as its challenges.

Crafting an authentic EVP means giving your applicants the chance to opt in, eyes wide open, to your realities and obstacles so that when things get tough, they are invested, engaged, and committed. And whew! That takes honesty, transparency, and clarity. Nobody said this would be easy, but striving for amazing, long-term employee relationships is worth it.

3. Use your EVP as an onboarding and coaching tool.

When an employee joins the organization, together, you’re basically striking a bargain. And for the rest of their employment life cycle, that bargain gets subconsciously assessed by both sides. Is the employee still adding enough value? Is my organization still offering me meaningful work and fair pay? Is this role still a good outlet for my talents and passions? The problem is that without frank and truthful employee value propositions, our employees don’t always see the bargain the same way we do.

Imagine if your managers used your honest, forthright EVP for coaching conversations that begin during onboarding and never stop. This tool would help them regularly give context to your culture and your expectations, allowing for healthy performance discussions outside of formal review cycles. It would set the stage for your new hires to quickly align to your reality and establish successful habits.


With this tool, managers can simply ask, “Where do you see yourself living up to this statement, and where do you have room to grow? How about the organization—are we supporting you as described?” It’s an effective way to get ahead of problems, prevent resentment, and decrease unwanted turnover. On the other hand, it also hastens the right turnover by revealing early on when a new hire isn’t going to be a good fit. With continued use, your employee value proposition can be the catalyst that builds highly engaged and powerfully productive teams.

4. Continually hold up your EVP as an organizational mirror.

A well-crafted EVP makes a promise to employees, and this promise shouldn’t be taken lightly. Use it as a touchstone—a reference point for leadership to consider whenever setting organizational direction and making operational decisions. Be sure that your strategy never flies in the face of your EVP. The ability to continually live up to these words is the key to your effectiveness.

OK, ready to take this on? When you write employee value propositions with honesty and live it with intention, your performers will return your sincerity with their trust, engagement, retention, and passion. It just takes the courage to get real.

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.

Editor’s note: This post is adapted from the TiER1 Performance website.

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