How to Create an EVP and Roll It Out: The Semrush Experience

CultureYana Romanova

June 30, 2023

7 min read

Thousands of articles about the EVP creation process can be found on the Internet. Why have we decided to write another one? Because this is about our own journey: our goals, processes, implementation, and measurement of results.
Excited? Then keep on reading. Let’s start with the foundation: key definitions and goals.

Employer Value Proposition is a branding tool that helps a company to stand out in the labor market and attract potential employees who match the company’s specific values. Also, EVP is the simplest way to answer the question: Who are we as an employer?

Semrush’s EVP is made up of a slogan and three main pillars. It’s used in all external employer branding campaigns and communications, as well as in interviews with candidates and in onboarding. EVP also plays a crucial role in day-to-day work life in the company—helping our employees to manage different situations within their teams.

EVP creation process: Step by step

For this project, a scientific approach was used. All processes were divided into six phases.
Briefly, it looked like this:

Let’s take a closer look at each of these phases:

1. Market research (external loop+internal loop)

  • At the beginning, we determined the main target audience—those who represent our main hiring focuses: Marketing, Product and Development, Sales, and CS.
  • After that, we conducted surveys with an external target audience. It was an anonymous non-branded questionnaire about candidates’ career preferences: what is significant for them when they choose an employer, and what specific features (aka HR Brand Drivers) are attributed to some IT companies.
  • Of course, we didn’t forget about the internal target audience—Semrush employees. The same questions were addressed to them.

This is how we collected the opinions of 1613 people.

2. Focus groups and interviews with Semrush employees

We gathered plenty of data in the first step, but even more information was needed! In the next phase, we asked our employees what they consider unique about Semrush (because nobody knows the company better than our colleagues).

54 people took part in this phase of research.

3. Competitor EVP analysis

When you ask about people’s career preferences (see Step 1) you might be surprised that most replies are very similar. An opportunity to learn or grow, a clear development plan, interesting tasks, and a friendly atmosphere are evergreen attributes.

On the one hand, it can easily help you create an EVP that will meet the needs of the audience. On the other hand, there is a very high risk of creating a cliche EVP that hundreds of other companies already have, because (with almost a 100% probability) they conducted the same research.

To avoid adopting a cliched EVP, we at Semrush decided to analyze other companies in the US and Europe. The main focus of this study was getting an answer to the question: What factors are most commonly mentioned in our competitors' EVPs?

75 companies were analyzed, with research based on available information that could be found on the companies’ career websites.

Then, each of the characteristics got an index for EVP Uniqueness. We used the following formula to measure it:

The lower the index number—the lower the uniqueness of the given feature. For example, index “0” has features that 10 companies use in their communications (i.e., “good team relations” and “people-first approach”). The index “1” means that the characteristic is rather unique.

4. Highlighting the advantages of Semrush

At this point, we knew the target audience’s needs, how the company is perceived externally and internally, and what features we should avoid no matter what. It was time to determine the list of features that could be included in Semrush’s EVP.

We used a mathematical method again to be sure that there were no mistakes with the characteristics we chose. All data above was turned into parameters, and later each feature was given indexes.

Each employee attention factor received a total score that was calculated via the formula:

Finally, we compiled a list of 10 high-priority factors that could be used in the future EVP. Let’s move forward.

5. Interview with the C-level

Getting closer to the grand finale! The list created in the previous step was analyzed by each C-level representative of the company.

  • What factors described Semrush most accurately?
  • What factors will work for us in a 3- to 5-year time frame?

As you see, it’s not exactly easy to create an EVP; the project took us around a year. That’s why we needed to be sure that the EVP we chose would work for Semrush for an extended period of time. And certainly, no one knows the answers to these questions better than our executives.

6. EVP approval

We collected all the replies from the C-level, rated the factors, and prepared the final list of the top three EVP factors (or pillars) that formed Semrush’s official EVP.
Was it easy? Absolutely not.
Can we be proud of all the work that was done? Absolutely yes.

Rolling out the EVP: internal phase

Once your EVP is created, it's not time to celebrate (yet). You are halfway through. Now, it's time to roll it out!

It is typical for Semrush HR Brand to share everything internally and communicate the real picture of the company's life externally. We already knew that our colleagues agreed with the main EVP principles because we based them on the survey's results. However, we had to announce the results of the project officially and implement them into our daily routines.

The following events were organized for supporting the EVP rollout:

  • A short presentation of the EVP at the Company Demo + several announcements from the CEO about the Semrush values.
  • A series of EVP workshops for the HR Department where we discussed the main EVP principles and their implementation to the particular teams’ routines (Recruiters, HR BPs, C&B specialists, Culture specialists, etc.).
  • Workshops for hiring managers where we discussed how to check whether a candidate matches our values.
  • Workshops for newcomers with a presentation of the EVP pillars.
  • An interview about the EVP project was published in our internal channels. In the article, we described the EVP creation process in more detail and highlighted ways of using it inside the company.

All the materials were saved on the internal knowledge base, so each employee can get back to them at any time.

Our goal was to support the EVP on each step of the employee journey map, and it seems that we’ve done it right!

Rolling out the EVP: external phase

As mentioned at the very beginning, the EVP is a branding tool. It means that external usage is always a priority (without diminishing the importance of using these values ​​within the company).

Every external campaign not only needs to broadcast the pillars but it also should be built on them.

  • Post on social media? Be sure that it supports the values or at least doesn’t contradict them. You can also dedicate a separate post to your EVP.
  • Video interview or promotional video about the company? Don’t forget to spotlight the values in your script.
  • Meetup or a conference? Integrate activities that could show your company’s values. Also, guide your speakers to support the pillars via their presentations or in a Q&A.

Long story short, the EVP must be used in your work daily. Such an approach will help you to strengthen the company’s image and hire people that will match your culture.

How to measure the success of the EVP

Unfortunately, there is no single metric or index that can demonstrate the success of your EVP. You should measure it throughout the entire journey (first of the candidate, and then the employee) with different approaches.

At Semrush, we decided to use surveys at different stages of that path. In each of these surveys we ask the same question: “What association do you have with Semrush as a сompany?”

The main goal is to be sure that we communicate the EVP clearly so that people understand what working at Semrush really means.

1) Company awareness research
We launch these rather large external surveys every 1-2 years to estimate awareness about the company in different markets, to learn what candidates think about us, etc.

One of the goals of these surveys is to ask the external target audience about the associations they have with our employer brand.
This step helps us to determine whether we communicate our EVP clearly. The ideal scenario is to see Trust, Sense of Ownership, and Changes as top associations.
The last research was conducted in summer 2022. At that time the EVP project was in progress, and we used this data for the final EVP creation. The new survey is coming soon.

2) Survey for candidates
This is a survey that all candidates get after their job interview with us. We’ve integrated the question about associations into it. The results are measured on a monthly basis.
Currently, all three Semrush EVP pillars are in the TOP-6 of answers. Good result!

3) Survey for newbies
All newcomers get this survey during their first week at Semrush. The same question about associations was integrated into the questionnaire. The results are measured monthly here as well.
The Trust and Sense of Ownership ended up in 6th and 7th places, respectively. Constant changes were in 9th place. We evaluated it as a weak zone and an area for improvement.

4) Survey for Semrush employees
Another survey was created for those who work with us for 3, 6, and 12 months with the same question related to their associations. We also integrated this question into annual surveys for all Semrush employees.
It's a rather new step for us, and we are in the process of collecting results.

We believe this persistent approach and the measurement of associations at every step of a candidate’s/employee’s journey will help us see weaknesses at an early phase and change our communication strategy accordingly in order to achieve clear recognition of the company’s EVP.

As you can see, EVP creation and driving the process forward is complex and seemingly never-ending. But your HR Brand can’t exist without this tool. Once you create it, you will realize your work has become much easier. You always know what should be in the center of any idea or campaign.
So, don’t waste time—start now! And good luck.

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Yana Romanova

Head of HR Brand

Yana has been working in the HR Brand sphere since 2017. Her main belief is that the brand should be based on true values and company spirit because a candidate's expectations about the employer should match reality. Under Yana's management, Semrush was listed in the top 10 of the strongest HR Brands in IT (out of 700 companies) and was granted the Great Place to Work certification twice. In addition to leading the EVP project, Yana supervised and coordinated the launch of the current Career website of the company and a branded HR podcast.

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