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For growing startups, finding top talent is key to successful scalability. However, most companies at this level don't have dedicated HR, and talent acquisition can be time-consuming and costly.
The trick is to attract top talent to you and then engage and delight them. As it turns out, employer branding follows the same game plan as branding your product or service to your customers.
But can startups pull it off? Definitely.
At the enterprise level, the gold standard for employer branding in Southeast Asia is described in this case study of Ericsson, who in 2015 began a transformation that led to reducing cost per hire by 70%.
But reducing CPH wasn’t the only goal. At the time, Ericsson was in the middle of a decade-long upscaling mission, from handset manufacturer to a dynamic ICT company providing industry-leading solutions in areas such as mobility, TV and media, cloud, and IP.
They needed talented people to make this happen so they developed their employer branding by working on three things: employee advocacy, social media, career page.
But this was spearheaded by a dedicated specialist, Tristram Gray, VP and head of HR for Ericsson.
Most startups around here don’t have HR. They stick to what they know and who they know.
In most startups, HR is handled by whoever has time to do it, and when it comes to finding high-quality candidates, 53% of the startups we surveyed in Taiwan claim personal networking is best.
And for talent retention, a similar result: 60% of respondents think personal networking works well.
For hiring speed though, job boards have the edge:
These results are not surprising in the context of Taiwan's startup culture. Job boards like 104.com are always there if a position needs to be filled quickly. But for finding quality hires that stay long-term, company leaders often go to their personal network of trusted friends and former classmates/colleagues. Besides that, referrals from current employees may provide reliable leads.
Startups congregate in places like the Startup Stadium in Yuanshan, in shared office spaces, in tech districts like Neihu and Xizhi, and they attend startup industry gatherings.
Everyone is connected on Linkedin and Facebook. New relationships are budding all the time and personal networks do grow, but will they grow with your business?
Despite the potential for network growth, the demands of your business can quickly exceed your personal network’s ability to supply talent.
The next option is reaching out via social media, tech communities, or recruiting agencies. These channels have the potential for reaching more candidates, and you can even target the kinds of people you are looking for.
But what happens when the gifted candidate you sought out on GitHub looks at your website and only finds products and services?
That candidate journey may end there if there’s nothing special to attract them to your company. Especially if another company in your field takes the effort to promote their employer brand on their website.
In Taiwan, few startups focus on employer branding. Out of the 52 AI startups on the Startup Stadium website, only 17% have career pages; and only 13% have a combination of about/team/career pages that communicates employer branding.
Internationally, most startups consciously develop company culture and express it via employer branding.
The term has been trending upward for quite some time:
In April of last year, our company was featured on the Forbes list of Top 25 Machine Learning Startups To Watch in 2020. Of those startups, 75% have a career page supported by strong about/team pages (i.e. well-defined employer branding).
While quite honorable to make this list, it was also a wake-up call. Our company was the only one without about/team/careers pages — indeed, the only one without any employer branding.
Since then, we have developed an employer branding strategy and I have been tasked with preparing it for our website relaunch.
Our company culture is already excellent, the office is awesome and I work with amazing people. We just need to promote.
“Up to company culture, not channel,” remarked one of our hiring channel survey respondents, who checked “other” when asked which channel provides talent that stays long term.
I couldn't agree more!
1. Define your EVP and employer brand
Your employer value proposition (EVP) consists of three things:
With these terms defined, your employer brand simply becomes an offer for you to promote.
It’s your EVP in exchange for someone who exhibits the company's core values. In other words, we’re offering (this EVP) if you can excel with (these core values).
2. Enlist employees as advocates
You have to get your people on board. They are the social proof that your company is a great place to work.
But engineers and salespeople have enough to do. Even if you incentivize it, it’s asking a lot to enlist your startup colleagues on a program like Ericsson’s where toolkits were created to provide all Ericsson employees with a solid understanding of the employer brand and how to promote it. Source: Human Resources Online
For startups, it’s enough to get everyone connected on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook.
From there, it’s not too much to ask everyone to like, share, or comment on all product/employer branding efforts put forth on social media. It’s a good starting point, and more realistic than asking non-marketing people to post.
3. Post employer branding on social media
Promoting jobs directly via Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter is an effective way to find candidates, but promoting your employer branding via these channels is an effective way to get candidates to find you.
When it comes to what to post for employer branding, refer back to your EVP and core values:
Of course, any and all attention gained by your posts must be responded to. Engage all comments, likes, and shares.
4. Make a fantastic about/team/career page
A good career page works together with good about and team pages. A company’s EVP, core values, recognition, management, and team members should function together to make the job offers on your career page more attractive.
And Anodot’s career page begins with the kind of copy that EVP-savvy job seekers want to see: Find an opportunity that promises long-term career growth with a team that's innovative, collaborative, and engaged.
However, of all the startup sites surveyed for this story, my favorite about/team/career page combination is the homegrown Taiwan startup, 25Sprout. A couple of highlights:
Pretty clear, this is a great place to work. Free lunch?
Enough said; this is world-class employer branding.
While many Taiwanese companies don't take the time to do employer branding, when they do it, it can be great.
The reason? Intense sentimentality. Overall Taiwanese are a practical, unsentimental bunch, but of course, there are some tender-hearts out there that take it to the extreme when they're in the mood. They can really recognize the subtle moments that signify the good in life — and they love spreading the feeling on as thick as humanly possible.
And perhaps there is a final lesson about employer branding for startups in this.
To find top-quality talent, we certainly must empathize with the candidates we’re looking for and figure out just what they want, but we must also be in touch with ourselves and be fearless about letting it all hang out for the world to see.
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