New companies move a mile a minute.
You may have time to create company values early on, but they'll likely take a backseat to product-market fit. And that's OK--because without building early success, there won't be a need for anything else.
But as the company stabilizes and grows, it's important to create what's known as an employer value proposition (EVP).
You can think of the EVP as your internal brand and culture--a statement of who you are as a company, what values are important to you, and how you're going to embody those values.
For example, at ThirdLove, our EVP begins with a mission statement, "You can fit in and still stand out." This is actually a statement from our ThirdLove "To Each, Her Own" customer-facing mission. Underneath the mission, we list the tenets of the company--the values that make us who we are as an organization. Then, for each tenet, we have a page that explains the steps we're going to take to ensure the company is acting on them.
Going through this process helps you clarify your priorities, guide your culture, and make better decisions when there are a number of choices in front of you.
Here are a few other reasons why every company can benefit from creating an EVP:
How you present yourself makes you unique.
No company has the money, time, or energy to be all things to all people.
But that's fine. You don't need to offer your team every perk, benefit, or program you read about. It's much better to be unique and focus on your differentiators than it is to follow the lead of a few well-known companies.
For instance, our company is not a corporate behemoth. We're a startup, so we can't turn on a dime and roll out 50 new programs. But one of the tenets of our EVP is a commitment to open and transparent communication. So, about five months ago, we started holding a weekly all-hands meeting to discuss a different topic each week. Teammates share what they're working on, and we leave time at the end for a Q&A.
We've also begun doing Founder round tables once every quarter, where we meet with each team in smaller groups of about 10 people. At these meetings, we have open Q&A--whatever that team wants to discuss, we will. It's also a great way for us to get to know people in a personal way.
When you clearly state your internal values through an EVP, it's easier to align your internal initiatives with how to make an impact.
What you prioritize as a company shows who you are.
When you have an EVP, you can reference it and ask yourself whether an initiative actually relates back to any of your values.
For instance, many large startups in the Bay Area offer free lunch as a perk. It's certainly something our team has thought about before. But when we added up the cost of free food several times a week, we also had to consider where else that money could have been spent.
After referencing our EVP, we decided we weren't going to bring in free lunch.
However, because growth and development are part of our EVP, we did decide to implement new initiatives as it related to that tenet. One is a monthly educational session on a variety of different topics like project management, running efficient meetings, or public speaking. Another is a $1,000 stipend so our team can take a course or attend a conference and further develop themselves. We also have developed clearer career paths and better manager training internally. And we still do subsidize lunches for our team three days a week.
Ultimately, a clear EVP guides all internal decisions. It's a tool for helping you stay true to the values you've decided on as an organization. Once you have one in place, you'll know whether you're more of a free lunch or free personal development kind of company.
And, crucially, so will prospective employees. Your EVP will give them a better idea of what type of company they're joining and whether or not they'll be a good fit.
Developing your employer value proposition is all about clearly stating what you value and then acting on it. If you can do that, you'll find that your company culture, direction, and morale benefit tremendously.