BC Hydro is one of the largest energy suppliers in Canada. They generate and deliver electricity to 95% of the population of British Columbia and serve over five million people. It’s their employees who make it all happen.
“Keeping the power on depends on people across a variety of roles,” says Carolynn Ryan, senior vice-president, people and chief human resources officer. “Every employee is essential to BC Hydro’s success.”
Employees feel a sense of pride in serving their community, of being there for customers when it counts. The organization is known for being a great place to work. They’ve been named one of BC’s Top Employers and one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers for four years in a row.
But with long-tenured employees approaching retirement, a competitive job market, and a commitment to increasing hiring among under-represented groups, it was time to take a step back and get clear on their employee value proposition (EVP).
“We always want to be thoughtful and forward-thinking,” says BC Hydro Senior Manager, People Development, I&D, Iwona Szpak. “It’s important for us to consider what the workforce of the future may look like and explore ways we can continue to appeal to candidates as things change.”
An EVP clarifies the value an employee can expect from being at an organization. This includes obvious sources of value, like compensation and benefits as well as less tangible yet equally meaningful benefits, like culture, purpose and values — anything that fosters a sense of connection and belonging. An organization’s EVP is the starting point for designing their employer brand, candidate hiring and onboarding process, and it shows up in other aspects of the employee experience.
To articulate their EVP, BC Hydro partnered with Habanero to uncover what makes them a great place to start or grow a career. In the process, they surfaced the key areas and opportunities to strengthen their culture.
The research approach
Employee and external research can help uncover an EVP that’s authentic and true to the organization.
BC Hydro was particularly interested in understanding the experiences and values of four key audiences or under-represented demographics:
- Field employees
- People with disabilities
- Indigenous employees
- Younger generations
“We are conscious of what our workforce of the future is going to look like,” explains Iwona. “We want to make sure that we understand the perspectives not only of current employees but also the people that we'd like to attract long term.”
So Laura, Habanero Experience Designer Imaima Robert, and Habanero Senior Advisor, Workplace Experiences, Caterina Sanders structured the research to uncover overarching themes in the broader employee experience and zero in on the nuances of the four key audiences.
Voice of the employee
A compelling and authentic EVP starts with the voice of the employee. An EVP needs to describe the real lived experiences of employees. Otherwise, it just won’t feel true to people within the organization, or to those looking to join it.
To engage as many employees as possible in ways that felt accessible to them, the Habanero team designed surveys, interviews and workshops. They recruited people from the field and new hires to share their perspectives. People with disabilities and Indigenous employees both have active employee resource groups, and they were eager to contribute their perspectives to the research. A survey embedded in the company intranet ensured everyone had an opportunity to contribute.
From the findings, a picture of BC Hydro emerged as a reliable employer that offers great benefits, meaningful work and the potential for a unique, interesting career. The workplace culture was characterized as friendly, family-oriented and caring.
“We learned a lot about how people are feeling in their day-to-day that fed directly into the EVP,” says Iwona. “From the research, we also gained information about other programs, like recognition and career development, that we can use to make changes outside of this work. It was an extra bonus for us.”
An external lens
To gain an outsider’s view of BC Hydro as an employer, the Hab team surveyed people visiting the careers page and spoke to jobseekers from similar industries and backgrounds. This research phase explored people’s perceptions of BC Hydro, what they value most in an employer and what they consider red flags that would deter them from considering a job with an organization.
The findings were very consistent with the employee research. People perceived BC Hydro as a good employer, known for caring about their employees. But one gap emerged: not everyone saw the potential for a career at BC Hydro.
“People thought they needed to be an engineer to work at BC Hydro, but there are so many cool things you can do there,” Imaima explains. “It became clear, through the research, that BC Hydro has an opportunity to broaden people’s perception of the kinds of careers that are possible and tell that story to connect with new audiences.”
The Hab team also compared the BC Hydro experience and reputation against some of its competitors, which provided valuable information around employee sentiment.
“It’s easy for us to compare organizations’ salaries, job titles, vacation or other benefits,” says Iwona, “but this was a way for us to gain deeper insight into how employees feel about things like career development, leadership and other aspects of employment that can’t be quantified.”
Synthesizing the data
Imaima and Laura coded, synthesized and organized the findings from the research into patterns, which were then validated and refined with the help of research participants and a new employee sample group. These patterns became pillars to support the EVP.
The EVP pillars
- Belong to a culture that values you – Benefit from our commitment to doing our best to ensure all employees are cared for and supported.
- Contribute to a mission you can be proud of – Experience the excitement and connection to the meaningful work we're doing.
- Find career possibility and opportunity – Discover a career path amongst a wide variety of roles within the company and across the province.
- Discover a balance between work and life – Explore how you can bring your work and life into better alignment.
For Imaima, the process felt remarkably smooth: “There were nuances within the different key audiences, but overall it was clear what the organization offers to employees. People within and outside the organization trust that BC Hydro always has their back. It was a strong signal to them to lean into their strengths.”
Crafting the EVP
With the pillars defined and validated, the team moved into the next phase: formulating an EVP statement – one that was bold yet tangible and meaningful. It also needed to speak to the nuances of the key audience groups.
The process was both analytical and intuitive.
As Iwona recalls, “We started with about six statements and narrowed them down very quickly. It felt instinctual. After all the research that was shared, we knew what resonated. Our hearts were pulled to a certain statement, which was kind of cool because it's not like we were stuck on two totally different statements where the team couldn't agree. It was obvious to us where we were all leaning.”
A workplace powered by you
For Brandon, BC Hydro’s senior manager, digital and marketing, the power of the statement lies in the ability for employees to develop their own relationship with it.
“It isn’t one-size-fits-all,” he says. “There is some freedom to choose how you use it. It’s not pre-defined for you, so you have room to apply it based on the situation. A good example of this is how we’ve applied it to social media content with the hashtag #poweredbyyou.”
Putting the EVP into action
Developing an EVP statement is a strong step forward, but employees need to be able to connect the words with their everyday lived experience. To bridge this gap, the team developed an action plan that identifies areas where the organization could bring the employee experience more closely in line with their new EVP. Action items were prioritized based on the impact and effort required and included special considerations for their key audiences.
The Habanero team also produced a storytelling guide that highlights employees’ experiences that embody the EVP pillars. The stories can be shared internally and externally on BC Hydro’s website, social media and any other channels to reinforce the organization's EVP and help employees, external candidates and customers understand the values and culture of BC Hydro.
Brandon’s team has begun the high-impact task of revising all BC Hydro web content to align with the EVP. Concurrently, Sean Mullin, BC Hydro’s recruitment manager, and his team are exploring how to improve the recruitment system to improve the experience. One of the highest impact areas are job descriptions, which get millions of impressions across all their sites.
Brandon and Sean agree that job descriptions are by far the biggest reach of their employer brand. They’ve revised their job descriptions to make sure they reflect the EVP and created a tool guide to help managers write job descriptions that tell the story about what the job is, so they can attract applicants who feel closely aligned with the purpose and values of the organization.
Moving forward with confidence
The action plan also includes ways that BC Hydro can measure the performance of their EVP internally and externally over time. This is important to ensure they have a continuous pulse check on how well they’re living the ideas underpinning the EVP and how true it feels to employees.
In these early days, they’re appreciating the clarity and alignment that has come from the research, the EVP, and the supporting materials that will help them bring it to life.
“Everything we learned from the research was already there,” says Brandon. “It’s our current state. But the EVP has helped us look at it holistically and weave everything together, so we’re telling a cohesive, compelling story that serves a bigger purpose.”
“Some organizations take an aspirational approach to their EVP,” says Iwona. “I feel lucky that we don't have to aspire to live up to ours. It speaks to who we are now and where we’re headed. That makes me proud.”
This sense of employee pride is invaluable to an employer like BC Hydro. With an EVP to guide their recruitment and employee experience, they’re set up to attract and retain employees, especially among their key audiences, who will feel pride in the work they do serving the people of BC.