A few weeks ago, we wrote a post about the differences in how companies want to be perceived as consumer brands, corporate brands and employer brands. It’s employer brands we look at today.
The concept of employer branding is getting increasingly popular and many businesses, big and small, attempt to hone their EVP (employer value proposition) in order to attract the right type of talent. EVP is a strategy on how to position the company as an employer and typically consists of tangible benefits such as basic salary, commission, additional perks, etc. and intangible ones, which include the company’s purpose and culture (which in itself is tricky to describe). Despite the fact that almost all well-known companies try hard to have an attractive EVP, one can have an impression that they all say similar things and as a result fail to be unique. Some simplify what the effective EVP should be and limit the concept to offering ping-pong tables and free beer on Fridays.
However, there are a few companies which get it right, and have not just a unique EVP, but a true one. They are also not afraid to discourage potentially good candidates, who wouldn’t thrive in this culture, because as with consumer brands, strong employer brands should be distinct: great for some and not afraid to be rejected by others.
Here are some of them:
Netflix has a unique and one of the most controversial EVPs in the world. Although many companies claim they focus on high performance, Netflix is truly serious about it and has a range of mechanisms to enforce this approach. It wants to have the best people in every position and at any single moment, treating talent retention as an overrated idea. This is carried out with the company aiming to hire high achievers and fire anyone who isn’t – today you can be the best but in 6 months you might be gone. As well as this, Netflix promotes effectiveness, initiative, accountability and has a highly rational approach to its employees, also encouraging them to have their own opinions and to argue them. The company claims: “We’re a team, not a family. Netflix leaders hire, develop and cut smartly, so we have stars in every position.”
Amazon’s EVP is very much in line with its main consumer brand strategy, which revolves around customer obsession. It bases its employer brand around 14 leadership principles, becoming well known over the years as a core of the company’s culture. These principles are mostly related to effectiveness and efficiency, for example, “Bias for Action”, “Deliver Results” and “Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit”. Unlike many other companies, which create corporate documents and then forget about them, Amazon uses the 14 rules on a regular basis: “Our Leadership Principles aren’t just a pretty inspirational wall hanging. These Principles work hard, just like we do. Amazonians use them, every day, whether they’re discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer’s problem, or interviewing candidates. It’s just one of the things that makes Amazon peculiar.”
Unlike Amazon, whose EVP is consistent with its brand strategy, Facebook’s employer brand is edgier than its openness and connectedness based positioning. Facebook as an employer focuses on effectiveness, speed and most importantly – hacker culture, which the company understands as an environment that “rewards creative problem solving and rapid decision making”. Facebook employees are encouraged to be “bold” and solve the problems “they care about most”. Facebook says: “We work in small teams and move fast to develop new products, constantly iterating and improving. The phrase “this journey is 1% finished” is posted on our walls, reminding us that we’ve only begun to fulfill our mission to make the world more open and connected.”
Although the other three employer brands are unique, they do have some similarities as they focus on effectiveness and performance. Our fourth brand is a completely different example. Ikea takes a more Scandinavian approach in its EVP, with a stronger emphasis on teamwork and empowerment of employees. At Ikea, it’s valued to be realistic, practical and humble, while ensuring there’s an enthusiastic approach to what the company is trying to achieve – a better everyday life.
It’s typically the technology companies that have the most talked about EVPs. Plenty of people discuss the benefits you’d get and the environment you’d work in if you got a job at Facebook or Google, but having a unique EVP isn’t limited to that type of business. And what’s more important, not everyone would like to work in such environment, so it’s surprising that EVPs still sound the same and few companies decide to emphasise different aspects of their culture (like Ikea, for example).
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