Why startups find it difficult to recruit talent without a strong employer brand
“For the foreseeable future, the biggest challenge for all stage companies will be recruiting talented employees,” writes Shoham Levy, CEO of Creativity Value
I recently completed a project to communicate a startup's funding round. The company has everything to succeed: Great founders, products that benefit society, and tier 1 investors and venture capitalists. This is the kind of startup that can overcome any obstacle.
At the end of this project, the founders asked: Do I need to invest in employer branding? Should I hire a PR agency? The startup got started just three years ago. I told myself, the company has a lot of budget needs, so why bother with employer branding so early?
If I were asked this kind of question in January 2020, my response would be, "it depends''. However, things have changed, the competition has become fiercer. When the situation changes, you must adjust your strategy. Actually, entrepreneurs don't have to manage constant PR campaigns, but must manage their employer branding strategy from the beginning. Previously, that wasn't the case. A company could be started by an entrepreneur and later decide about the employer branding. Employer branding strategy is now one of the early steps in the process. Will it be necessary in the future? I think so. The recruitment industry has changed, and it is just beginning.
However, trendologists predicted massive unemployment...
The story of job destruction made headlines across the media in 2019. It was possible to find rational explanations for future mass layoffs due to the technological revolution. When trendologists mentioned unemployment, businesses were confident that they would not have to worry about hiring talented employees. Marketing efforts at the end of the last decade focused primarily on selling the company's products.
The crisis that erupted over Covid-19 at the beginning of 2020 felt like a prophecy fulfilled, allegedly. Government struggled to pay employees, while employers lost money. Combined with the printing of money around the world, these budgets led to a large increase in investment. Technology companies skyrocketed and received investments they could never have imagined. They invested and hired talented employees. Meanwhile, the shortage of talented workers, especially in the tech field, has become an increasingly pressing issue. Talent prices have skyrocketed as have salaries and benefits.
Huge budgets have been invested in tech firms since the Covid-19 outbreak. Since budgets used to be allocated for hiring people during development, there is now a shortage of talent rather than a shortage of funding. This is the result of governments and central banks flooding the world with cheap money.
Therefore, when the rich become richer, they invest in the best to maintain their advantage. In the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, VC funds have seen great success. Startups who got their investments will face major challenges in execution of great ideas when they don't have the best team. For startups to hire the best employees, their brand and reputation must be established.
In order to get the attention of the target audience of potential employees, it is necessary to tell a unique and interesting story.
Startups will face a talent shortage without an employer branding strategy
For the foreseeable future, the biggest challenge for all stage companies will be recruiting talented employees. In product development, marketing, or sales, it's the 5% who make a difference. Is it that important? Absolutely. In the current situation, where money is not an advantage for startups, the success will likely come from a unique organizational core of teams founded on real values.
Branding is not just about attracting talent, but also about attracting employees that share the same values as the organization. We witnessed big companies who had the funding but did not implement a strategy in the recent past. When communicating huge parties for employees, expensive benefits, or when money becomes the first priority rather than the values of the organization, that is very bad. Businesses are now paying the price for their lack of strategy. Every management book says you must have a strategy in order to succeed. The same applies to employees.
Hence the importance of executing a very organized marketing strategy to share these values among potential candidates. Next, a brand will be built among employees. How does the HR team know that a brand has been built? They ask candidates, "What have you heard about us?" Documenting the answers and finding the most repeated answer, that is the most comprehensible brand.
Employer branding efforts and PR communication are not the only way to hire talent. They are, however, very important to attract new employees so as to keep the existing employees informed and committed to the company's goals.
The candidates dilema
If you have never seen or heard of an auto company would you buy a car from them for about $50K? The answer is probably not. If potential candidates have never heard of your company, they won't even speak with your HR team. When it comes to startups, communicating achievements is a must, not just a nice to have. Venture capitalists and angel investors ask that the company market their accomplishments, because building a brand from the beginning is crucial for all of their missions, especially if they want to attract talent.
Considering the new car decision, we all know that when it comes to jobs, this issue is always more important. Senior developers are more likely to distrust an unknown company. They would doubt joining a company that doesn't communicate its achievements not only to the media, but also to its LinkedIn page. As our world is becoming more and more communicative, messages are being conveyed constantly. Companies must keep up with the pace and create great content aimed at employees, clients and potential employees.
We are only able to make meaningful decisions in our lives when we are safe and confident. The company's success provides external evidence for candidates' safety when choosing from various offers.
As part of HR branding and marketing efforts, PR is one of the most influential tools when it comes to employer branding. In addition, when we compare the cost of PR with content creation and distribution, there is no doubt that PR is the most effective and powerful method.
When the competition is fierce, you must be a brand. When management is struggling to gain market share and clients, it takes time and resources to build a brand. The intuition that we can spend money to build employer branding outside of the organization is incorrect. The management can consult experts in their fields of expertise, but the core values and messages must come from management.
The author is the CEO of Creativity Value Ltd, a PR company specializing in employer branding