How one startup successfully managed their employment brand
I am fortunate to work with some of the smartest and most innovative startups in Colorado. One of the hardest things for a startup is getting noticed. Justifiably, entrepreneurs will spend a whole bunch of time building their company and product brand – after all – revenue is what makes the difference between a hobby and a business. Last week was Denver Startup week – and one of the resounding challenges cited by founders was a “shortage of talent” in Denver – especially in tech startups. While I agree that we need to continue courting talent and educating STEM students, I will assert that there is talent out there – it’s just harder for startups to get noticed.
One of my clients is an accomplished entrepreneur (he’s done this a number of times over 3 decades). He has been working for the past year to incubate his new concept and is approaching commercialization. I received a call a few weeks ago to meet with him. To my surprise, the topic of our discussion was about the company’s employment brand. “We’ve experienced a bit of turnover lately and I want to make sure that you understand why so that as we move from the incubator to commercial product release we are able to hire the talent we need to be wildly successful.” He went on to explain, “I’ve been in this town for a long time and it’s a small community, so we can’t afford to be sloppy about our reputation.”
Let me go into some detail about what this little startup did right:
- They took a proactive approach to reputation management– I’ve written about this before – you do have a reputation as an employer – whether you manage it or it takes on its own life form. As an employer in Denver, you’d do well to manage it proactively.
- They understand evolution – This particular entrepreneur has been around the block a few times. He understands that the team it takes to incubate a concept and prove it out is different than the team that will scale it and commercialize it.
- They know that they need help getting noticed – Big companies have budgets for recruitment advertising. They also have a lot of positions open. This is not the case in a stealth mode start up. They have zero budget for recruitment advertising and only a few positions. It’s hard to get attention from busy, working professionals – so they know they need help.
- Their social media activities support the reputation they are working toward – The company’s social media activity talks about the product, the innovation, the excitement, the people, the office. Their posts, profiles and announcements are mindful of what a customer would want to read AND what a candidate would be interested in.
- They welcome referrals – One of the first changes we made was to put a formal referral bonus program in place for current employees who want to work with smart folks they know from their past. Additionally, the organization’s leadership makes it really easy to access them – welcoming phone calls, emails, Linked In connections. They are serious about being available to professionals who want to learn more about them.
The results?? These guys are hiring some of the most highly sought after skills in the
local market right now – and they are getting a solid flow of candidates who want to be a part of what’s going on. We have people who are holding out on other offers to see if they are picked for this team. That’s a nice place to be if you are a startup – trying to hire in this highly competitive market.
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