Sephora got its start in the 70’s when its founder, Dominique Mandonnaud, disrupted the beauty industry by bringing beauty products out from behind counters. People were encouraged to play with and experience Sephora’s products, an approach that was unexpected and unheard of at the time.
Today, Sephora is a leading Global Beauty Retailer with over 35,000 employees, a beauty community of more than 100 million customers, and presence in over 35 markets around the world. The early focus on experience, innovation, and creativity has continued since the 70’s and is why Sephora has earned a reputation as a beauty trailblazer with unrivalled expertise, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit.
However, despite the strength and fame of the Sephora Brand, studies conducted by Blu Ivy and Sephora HR teams showed that the attractiveness and external image of Sephora as an employer didn’t fully reflect the internal experience and strong commitment of employees to the company. Besides, the company’s rapid organic growth in a decade had led to a variety of approaches across the world, and the time had come to take a more coordinated, intentional approach at the global level to make sure that all talent had the same set of employee experience.
“We knew about all the great things we did for our employees, but we weren’t sure how to actually share them with the world in a clear, attractive way.”
That’s why, in 2019, Sephora embarked on a journey to uncover what their talent valued most about working at Sephora and build a clear, compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
Starting with Culture and Commonalities
Building an authentic, global EVP was important to Sephora. That’s why we started by reviewing employee feedback and candidate insights, partnering with stakeholders in every region, and looking for commonalities in Sephora’s global communications, programs, culture, and employee experience.
The Vision and DNA were the two global elements that were consistent and common around the world. Representing key strengths and a shared purpose, these became important elements of Sephora’s employer brand framework, which includes an Employer Brand Manifesto, EVP Pillars, and more.
Building an Employer Brand Manifesto
Through collaboration with stakeholders and partners in every region, Sephora uncovered 4 key strengths that resonated with current and prospective talent:
- Making an impact in beauty and beyond
- Embracing innovation, exploration, and creativity
- Championing learning and evolution
- Celebrating diversity, uniqueness, and inclusion
Based on these strengths, Sephora developed global EVP pillars and an Employer Brand Manifesto with the help of Blu Ivy. The Manifesto combines all the elements of Sephora’s EVP pillars, the emotion behind them, and shares that sentiment as one unique rallying cry that expresses who they are as an employer and what they stand for:
At Sephora, we stand together and we stand for something more. For empowerment, for exploration, for the opportunity to impact people’s lives through the unlimited power of beauty. We embrace uniqueness, unleash creativity, and pursue progress every day. Sparked by energy and excitement, our passion is contagious. We are united by a common goal – to reimagine the future of beauty. Reimagine your future, with Sephora.
“The EVP came as a great way to help our people celebrate our culture, share their stories and successes, and feel a sense of togetherness.”
Encountering and Overcoming Challenges
Although Sephora’s EVP and Manifesto have been successfully launched and embraced by talent around the world, the process was not without its challenges. We asked the Sephora team to share some of the challenges that they encountered along the way and how they overcame them.
Having Employer Branding Expertise
“We knew about all the great things we did for our employees, but we weren’t sure how to actually share them with the world in a clear, attractive way. We were lucky to find great partners along the way, working both with our internal Marketing teams, HR professionals, and the Blu Ivy agency to progress together.”
Getting Global Buy-In
“When you enter a Sephora store anywhere in the world, you know you’re shopping at Sephora. There is this playful, fun atmosphere, along with clear visual cues that help create an experience that is unique to Sephora. We wanted to have this same feeling of togetherness and coherence for our global EVP. To achieve this, we involved a lot of people along the way: HR partners, leaders from all our functions, people in stores and HQ. We tried to be as transparent as possible about the process and really developed our EVP as a collaborative effort. We also realized that we were encountering similar challenges in our efforts to attract and retain the best talent around the world and that having a common approach and messaging would only make us stronger.”
“After we got over the initial shock and ‘surprise effect’ of COVID coming into and changing our lives, it was actually an accelerator for this work. Our people were at home, living very challenging realities both professionally and personally, and needed a sense of purpose and excitement. The EVP came as a great way to help our people celebrate our culture, share their stories and successes, and feel a sense of togetherness. The COVID crisis also proved that what we had found and shared about our culture was even more true in challenging times: our authenticity, our passion for innovation, our commitment to Inclusion…all these things helped us navigate the past year.”
Balancing Global and Local
Although it was important to create a consistent global EVP, it was equally important to build a flexible framework that would allow each region to own the EVP, bring it to life in an authentic way, and highlight unique local strengths.
“We had to be very clear on what would stay global – our common messaging – and what could be customized to be relevant to local talent.”, we heard from the Sephora team. By doing this and, “by helping each region build their own content, using our global messaging as an overarching foundation,” the Sephora team was able to find the ideal balance and build a ‘Glocal’ EVP.
Seeing Tangible Results
In late 2020, Sephora began activating their global EVP – internally first and then externally – using targeted messaging, communication assets and toolkits, visual guidelines, storytelling contests, and more. Although each region is in a different stage of their activation and we expect to be measuring global impact in mid to late 2021, Sephora is already starting to see tangible results.
“The first thing we’ve noticed is our people everywhere in the organization just owning the EVP messaging and making it come alive. One day you’re sharing a basic communications toolkit, and the next day you’re seeing pictures from around the world showing posters, events, people embodying the work we have done together, both in stores and in our head offices! We’re also seeing a lot more communication between our HR communities, sharing best practices and questions they have on particular challenges.”, we heard from the Sephora team.
“Online, we’re seeing a sharp rise in talent engagement on our platforms: LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. We are also receiving early feedback from some of our HR leaders around the world saying the overall quality of candidates has improved since they’ve started using EVP-aligned recruitment materials.”, they continued. Although it’s still too soon to quantify this impact of the EVP, what we’ve heard from the Sephora team is, “our EVP has definitely brought us forward as an employer, not only a retailer.”.
Reflecting on the Journey
Building a global EVP is an undertaking that requires commitment and dedication from stakeholders throughout an organization. While it is rewarding, it is not a process without its challenges. With that in mind, we asked the Sephora team to reflect on the journey.
What are you most proud of achieving, as part of this work?
“Running a truly global project, that has been owned collectively by all regions, is a great source of pride. It’s one thing to give global guidelines on a key topic and monitor local actions. It’s another to really involve everyone from the start and have them choose collectively how to steer a project. This initiative is the living proof that collective intelligence can bring us so much further than working in silos, and it’s actually something we highlight in our EVP messaging!”
Do you have any advice for other global organizations looking to build or refine their EVP?
“Don’t try and sell what you are not. Look for things that are differentiating and truly unique to your organization. Leverage diversity of angles and insights; the more inclusive your approach is, the closer your EVP will be to your actual corporate culture.”
It’s clear that Sephora has built something really special. We look forward to seeing how Sephora and their employer brand will continue to evolve.
This Blog was co-authored by Director, Employer Brand and Culture, Nicole Fernandes.