June 30, 2021 • 6 min read
Global Co-Creation: The Process Behind Forming Vodafone’s New EVP
The COVID pandemic has completely reshaped people’s wants, needs and expectations in terms of their employers: a fact that Vodafone recognised early and addressed through proactive consultation with its people.
What the situation brought to light is that EVPs can’t be static. They should be designed to evolve. Understanding the seismic shift that had occurred, we set about creating a comprehensive, compelling and truly global EVP framework that could transform as needed into the future.
There were other reasons for this effort too: our transition into a tech comms company demands that we showcase ourselves more powerfully to tech talent. We also wanted to align our EVP to our new core brand – Together We Can – which celebrates how the human spirit harnesses technology to create a better future. We wanted the core brand and the employer brand to be two sides of the same coin, working in harmony to drive the business forward.
I led the co-creation of our new global EVP from scratch to activation in five months through a Global Working Group of market leads and SMEs. This is how we did it.
The challenges of developing and adopting a new EVP
Before we created our new EVP framework, we first worked to understand the obstacles we would face. As it turns out, there were quite a few:
- Super-tight timelines: The launch date for the new brand was fixed as 1 April 2021. I learned of this in September 2020 (having joined in August) and the first global working group workshop was November 2021. We had to work in incredibly agile ways!
- Market differences: Different regions demanded different messaging. Job stability and security were important in Spain, whereas winning in-market was important in the UK. Consistency and effectiveness are a difficult combination to hit and as several markets had already developed their own local EVP, success meant aligning on a global framework that provided flexibility for local tailoring.
- Brand infringement: In Africa ‘Together We Can’ was used by a major bank, so in some countries we’d need to use ‘Further Together’ – same sentiment, different words.
- Language: We needed to ensure our message translated clearly from English, and on a practical level, that ‘longer’ languages would fit within templates.
My most important EVP lesson EVER…
Before I arrived at the co-creation approach, I was working on the premise that I could best support the markets by saving them time and drawing up a model myself, based on the data and insights they’d provided.
I synthesised this data together with global reports commissioned from LinkedIn and Link Humans. These featured key candidate drivers and what our people most value about working at Vodafone. I then correlated these wants and needs with the core elements of our promise and did some modelling to pull it all together. Things seemed to be going well.
But I’d made an error of judgement.
By trying to produce the global model, I’d put myself in the position of having to ‘sell it’ to our local markets.
By trying to produce the global model, I’d put myself in the position of having to ‘sell it’ to our local markets. It seemed the most efficient and effective way forward, but the results suggested otherwise. I was the head office person who wanted to revolutionise our approach but I didn’t gain enough traction. I needed to change tack.
So, I switched to a co-creation approach and invited one person from each of our five key markets, plus representatives from our Youth and Culture Teams to form a collaborative group and get it done together.
How to co-create an EVP on a global scale
Co-creation changed everything. People felt a sense of shared ownership, their opinions were heard and respected, everyone had a democratic vote and the outcome benefitted from diverse perspectives and rich insights. This partnership approach made buy-in so much easier to secure!
Working in partnership with our agency, Blackbridge Communications, I brought military precision to the planning and delivery of our EVP workshops. We made our goals clear from the outset: we wanted global consistency, with local relevance. Everyone invited would be expected to contribute: pre-work was mandatory.
We asked all participants to submit their views on what the EVP pillars should be, and debated to settle on the best four.
The representatives presented examples of EVPs/EBs that inspired them and explained why. We discussed the elements that could work for Vodafone. Each session featured decisions that HAD to be made – through robust debate and democratic voting, everyone was heard, and the outcome was final.
We asked all participants to submit their views on what the EVP pillars should be, and debated to settle on the best four. The group also voted for a brand-led model and adopted the new brand tagline ‘Together We Can’ as our cornerstone. Within five weeks and three workshops we had produced a robust model. We then accelerated the creation of our employer brand playbook, toolkit and training for all our markets.
Some of my takeaways from this process included:
- Understand and acknowledge work that market leads have already done. The work offers valuable insights, and it’s important to show that you recognise their efforts.
- Implement a co-creation approach for the global framework, but keep it manageable. I invited 10 representatives, and gave them an equal stake in development.
- Set clear goals and work to a schedule.
- Have a democratic decision-making process that allows for robust debate and disagreement but ensures that everyone is committed to going with the majority vote. Every member of our group compromised in some way, but we were all proud of the finished product.
- It’s critical that your representatives consult with their local stakeholders during the process. This offers up a broader range of perspectives and prevents obstacles further down the track.
- Take healthy inspiration from other brands.
- Make it a rule that if you bring a challenge to the table, you must also propose a solution.
Achieving wider stakeholder buy-in
Forming the EVP is only half the battle. Deploying it is another challenge. But as I found out, there are ways and means of doing this effectively.
You should be prepared to make changes when and where needed, but only if they don’t compromise the integrity of the model or devalue the work you’ve done.
The representatives play a key role in presenting the new EVP to their market. I didn’t have to ‘sell’ the global EVP to HRDs because their market representative felt such a passionate sense of ownership, and was 100% confident it would work in their market. Keeping HRLT informed throughout the process is key to getting their sign-off.
You should be prepared to make changes when and where needed, but only if they don’t compromise the integrity of the model or devalue the work you’ve done. I received some quite demanding challenges from a couple of members of HRLT who wanted their views reflected more strongly in the model. I had to be willing to look at the co-created framework with fresh eyes: if an improvement could be made, I’d do it, but if there was no obvious improvement, I’d use data to state my case and hold my ground.
Remember that it’s impossible to please everyone, but if you’ve co-created your EVP based on data and democratic process, you should have enough traction to get sign-off.
Aligning your EVP with your core brand
I have always viewed employer brand and the core corporate/consumer brand as two sides of the same coin, so my goal was to align as much as possible, while still ensuring that each was effective in speaking to its unique audience.
When seeking agreement on a unique treatment for employer brand, demonstrate why the core guidelines aren’t suitable in that context by using a real-world example. Avoid hypotheticals, and back up your arguments with fact
We worked closely with the core brand team throughout the process. We agreed on alignment goals from the outset, and once again held robust debates when we needed to vary the core guidelines for talent purposes. There were compromises on both sides, but we were both working toward the same goal, and we got there together.
When seeking agreement on a unique treatment for employer brand, demonstrate why the core guidelines aren’t suitable in that context by using a real-world example. Avoid hypotheticals, and back up your arguments with facts.
Looking back at the entire EVP and employer brand development and rollout, which was completed within six months, I’m immensely proud of what we accomplished in such a short timeframe. I’m also proud of our new EVP, which conveys the Vodafone proposition in a very accessible way.
It was by no means easy, but it was incredibly rewarding, and enabled me to build deep relationships with inspiring colleagues around the world, who I’m very grateful to. We are still going strong as a Global Working Group and wider global community!
About the author: Dawn has worked with dynamic start-ups through to FTSE 100s and Big Four firms to define, articulate and activate their EVP, story and talent brand. She is looking forward to partnering with a great team globally and taking things to the next level as the Global Head of Employer Branding and Talent Attraction at Vodafone. She’s passionate about authentic communication, storytelling, holistic branding, and leveraging technology to enhance and empower engagement.