Most companies–startups or not–understand the importance of a branding strategy to promote their products and services.
Far fewer, however, understand the importance of their employer brand, which is exactly what it sounds like: the way the company brands itself as an employer. But as the U.S. economy picks up steam and the hiring market gets tighter, your employer brand is a crucial factor in your company’s ability to find and retain great talent. If your company’s reputation as a place to work isn’t particularly strong or well-publicized, it will be much harder to recruit the people you need so you can continue to grow and succeed. And much of employer branding today is done online.
For new ventures looking to recruit top talent however, there’s been some research done into what makes them appealing to potential hires. German researchers recently surveyed U.S. college graduates to learn what non-financial qualities matter most to them. They focused on office location, perceived level of innovation at the company, perceived degree to which employees can have an impact, the founders’ qualifications (where they got their MBA, for example, or any prior startups they may have successfully launched), whether the company has legitimacy-enhancing qualities (like big-name investors or partners) and lifestyle perks (like free food, yoga classes, day care, bring-your-dog-to-work policies, etc.). The results showed that although all those attributes positively affected perceptions of a new company, the most significant was lifestyle perks.
The study also shows that startups can have a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting talent, as long as they find ways to effectively communicate the unique benefits of working at the company, and if they take the time to showcase their culture to the prospective employee.
Here are several strategies to help you attract great candidates.
Get HR and marketing working together.
You’re a small company with limited resources, so it makes sense to marry marketing and human resources to align your branding and business strategies. Branding—especially employer branding—shouldn’t be driven solely by marketing. For your organization to live up to what it’s promising potential hires requires buy-in from the entire company, and because HR’s primary audience is the company’s employees, it can be instrumental in creating a brand-based culture, one where employees are evangelists for the company’s employer brand. HR can work with marketing to develop the kinds of communications—internal and external—that help with recruitment, especially through social media.
Define your company’s core values and differentiators.
One of the best ways to lead the employer branding effort is to be very clear about the fundamental values of the business. Those values should be the foundational pillars of your company’s culture and brand. Without a clear understanding of the organization’s values, it will be difficult to assess whether or not candidates are a good fit for the company.
Once you have defined your employment brand—the set of attributes and qualities that make your organization distinctive and appealing– it is critical to communicate that brand consistently across as many digital channels as possible. Those channels include your corporate website, social media channels, and the growing number of companies dedicated to providing employers a platform for showcasing their employment brand, like Glassdoor, Linkedin, and Ivy Exec.
Think mobile first.
The largest generation in the workforce—and the one that generally fills the offices of startups—is Millennials and they are searching for information about companies and jobs on their phones and tablets. To reach them your digital presence needs to be where they are, so be sure your company’s website and career portal are optimized for mobile use. When that software engineer you’ve been desperate to hire hears from a friend that a really cool startup is hiring—and that developer grabs his phone to look up your company—if it takes too long to load or is difficult to navigate, you’ve already lost them.