Nearly every business leader recognizes the importance of their organization’s value proposition. It’s the elevator pitch, the one thing that your business can deliver to its customers that separates it from every other business out there.

Your value proposition is so intrinsic to your business that, if I were to ask what it is, I bet you would be able to spout it off in a nanosecond.

But, what would your response be if I asked: “What’s your employee value proposition?” Unless you’re a chief human resource officer, your response may not quite be on the tip of your tongue. Perhaps, you should work on that? After all, your employee value proposition (EVP) is critical to attracting and retaining the candidates that you need to win!

By definition, your EVP is the value that your employees gain in return for working in your business. What does that mean? I like to think of it in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

You probably remember Maslow from your high school psychology class. His theory offered that a person was motivated by meeting a set of needs that went from basic to the truly sophisticated. He suggested that once simple requirements like food and shelter were met, a person would be further motivated by the need to feel love and belonging.

With social needs met, a person would be motivated to meet esteem needs which come with developing the skills that lead to honor and recognition. The last realm of motivation was referred to the pursuit of self-actualization – that is, living to one’s highest potential.

EVP can be framed by thinking in terms of a similar hierarchy of needs, as follows:

· Compensation: Your compensation model provides the basics. Employees need to earn enough income to be able to meet their essential needs. Salary, incentives and wealth sharing can all be components of your EVP-setting strategy.

· Benefits: You can consider your benefits package as being the part of your EVP that meet your staff’s “shelter needs.” Health, retirement, work arrangements and leave are part of this dimension of EVP.

· Career Path/Recognition Programs: An employee’s “belonging needs” is met through these kinds of programs. They play an essential role in retention of staff. Job titles, training, advancement paths and employee appreciation all play significantly in helping staff feel that they are part of the firm’s bigger picture.

· Work Substance: Esteem needs can be met with the “right” kinds of work structure, variety, feedback and autonomy weaved into the work setting. This is an often overlooked part of the EVP discussion.

· Pride in Affiliation: Certainly one’s work is an important part of an individual’s path to “Self-Actualization” as defined by Maslow. You can do yourself a favor by providing your staff with a business that they can be proud to be a part of. It includes such things as brand reputation, core values and membership in the greater communities in which the business operates.

To close, if you agree with the 5 elements that I’ve proposed as comprising your employee value proposition formula, and, you’re not sure if your firm’s offerings within each component is significant enough to attract and retain the best talent available in the marketplace, then it’s time to work on your company culture. After all, your EVP structure is built on the foundation provided by your culture. Your culture should be built by design.

For more on the topic of company culture, please check-out my 3-part series on Culture By Design which was published in this column earlier in the year. This article originally appeared on You can connect with Jim Kerr at [email protected]