From startups to billion-dollar agencies, having a strong employer brand has become increasingly important. Just as consumers search for products and services from their favorite businesses, individuals often begin their search for the perfect job by evaluating how well a brand message resonates with them. Companies need a remarkable employer brand in order to stand out from the competition and attract top talent.
An employer brand is essentially the marketing that an organization does to attract and retain ideal candidates for hiring. It is the value proposition that is shared with candidates that makes them want to work for the company. This can take place across a variety of mediums, from the company website and social media networks, to job advertisements. Most often, the brand originates from within the organization’s culture and can, in part, be a naturally occurring result of being in business. But what about startups who don't have the same sort of time to cultivate a historic brand reputation? Does this mean startups can't, or shouldn't, have employer branding? Not at all. It just means that in the world of entrepreneurship, employer branding can be uncharted territory.
What are the challenges of creating an employer brand as a startup?
A CB Insights study indicated that nearly one-in-four startups fail because of an inadequate team. The challenge of creating an authentic employer brand as a startup is that the business is still evolving. As new people and processes are added, the culture of the startup changes. Not only that, but processes, work styles, and team dynamics are often in flux as they haven't had time yet to cement and become established in-house practices. Hiring a bad fit into such a changing environment can dramatically alter the future of your startup. But therein lies the catch 22. You need the right people at the right time to propel your startup forward but without an employer brand you're at a disadvantage. And without the right people already hired to create and communicate your message, how do you develop the employer brand you need? So if having a strong employer brand helps you hire better, something every startups needs to grow quickly, where do you start?
Small but mighty - Employer branding tips for startups
One could say that it’s critical to establish the values and ideals of the company from the start, which can guide the startup and create a foundation. From this, the employer brand springs forth. In the earliest phases of a startup, there may be no budget to pay for expensive marketing campaigns. But this is the most important time in a startup’s lifecycle -- hiring the best possible people who share the vision is critical to success. This is when the startup needs to think strategically to attract great people. Several tactics can be utilized when a startup is trying to develop an effective employer brand. Here’s a rundown of what you can communicate to incoming candidates and newly hired employees.
Highlight the unique nature of the startup: In the start-up phase, your employer brand is dictated by how unique your values and mission are. It is important to emphasize this through all of your communications that you have a major cause to tackle and it will change the world in some way for the better. Avoid the mistake of comparing yourself to other companies with recognizable brands. You need to stand out amongst the competition with a brand new idea. This can be very appealing to a certain type of candidate who is perfect for a startup. It also aligns very nicely with the growing trend of younger employees searching for meaningful work to devote themselves to.
Be transparent about the startup culture: Try to give job seekers an inside look at your culture as a start-up firm. This could be as simple as highlighting the work environment, the projects you will be working on, and some of the progress and awards that you've already earned. A start-up can usually offer a flexible salary and benefits, but the biggest advantages of a start-up is that it can offer unique perks. Think of all the things that make the workplace fun and create an employer brand around that.
Lay out the financial future: As part of your employer brand, candidates will also need to know if you have received any venture capital so that they understand that the startup has been validated and can support new hires. Let candidates know that while the organization is small, it is already having a big impact in the industry. The employer brand can be centered on the chance to be part of this rapid growth.
Understand what you expect from candidates: Recruitment marketing has a big role to play in developing an employer brand too. Before hiring anyone, make sure you know exactly what you need from each candidate. This can be a little bit difficult to determine, but you need to focus on things like skill sets that are missing within your organization, personality types that fit well together for this type of startup, and people that have the potential to be foundational leaders and innovators. Think about what candidates will bring to the table and how they impact the brand.
Share the career boosting opportunities: All startups have the advantage of being in the early phases of development, therefore they can offer some fairly good opportunities for people who want to help build a company from the ground up. These are typically people who are very smart and have management or special projects in their minds. As a startup, make sure you talk about the facts that you are offering the chance to build a very successful long-term career. This can be built into the brand as one of the values of your company -- a dedication to professional development and growth.
Everyone can have a strong employer brand
As you develop your employer be sure to evaluate it frequently as you add new people and skills to the table. Remember that each person you hire becomes another link in the DNA of your startup and your brand. As your team grows, word of mouth will become increasingly important, as will your presence on social channels like LinkedIn. The more your employees or potential employees want to talk about your company culture or the lifestyle at your company, the better chance you'll have of your next great hire hearing the message and coming to you themselves. And remember to keep an updated career page somewhere candidates will easily find it to make your application process as simple as possible. Startups might be small and they might not have the financial edge of an established company but when it comes to employer branding, they have a more even playing field. Settle on a clear message and shout it from the mountain tops. You never know who could be listening.