Fearless startups build trusted employer brands to attract talent


Startups need to craft, inform and shape clear employer brands and value propositions, writes Celeste Sirin.

It is that time of the year where we are presented with plenty of trends, insights, predictions and speculation of how this forthcoming year is going to unravel itself. As with the pandemic, no one has the answers. Our world is fluid with change and uncertainty is the only constant.

Since my last article three months ago, we have witnessed massive tech companies laying off thousands of employees. Faced with a global recession and ongoing inflationary headwinds, investor confidence and venture funding for startups suffered a 50 percent year-over-year-drop in the third quarter of 2022.

While Africa is by no means free from the global economic slump, it remains one the fastest-growing startup ecosystems globally, with the fintech industry reported to be Africa’s most progressive sectors. Startups play a dominant role in Africa’s economic growth, led by aspiring and innovative entrepreneurs, exploiting new opportunities, promoting productivity and creating employment.

With 50 percent of today’s workforce consisting of Gen Z and millennials, they are a good match for startups. However, unknown startups need to be quite clear in how they craft, inform and shape their employer brands and value propositions to engage, retain and attract this new generation as they are clear on what they want.

As the “new kid on the block”, unrecognisable alongside other established employer brands and startup talent competitors, it is important that your offering is clearly defined in order to build trust from the get-go.

Content: Transparency builds credibility

This is not easy, especially when you are recruiting for IT and engineering talent where the level of brand awareness is low and candidates are comparing one startup against another. As difficult as it might be, develop dependable content that leans into the brutal facts. This can be written into your culture code, values, (EVP) employer value proposition, job descriptions or interwoven through your hiring process.

Comparable information and/or differentiators could be as follows:

  • How does your startup level up against the industry standards?
  • What’s the financial health of your company and your runway?
  • What’s your long-term plan?
  • Why is your startup less risky and more rewarding than an established brand? (pros and cons)?
  • Why is your engineering lead the right person to be leading this team?
  • What is your recruiting process?
  • What do the first 30 days and/or onboarding process entail?
  • What would cause the business to fail?
  • What are your employee benefits/EVP?

Channel: Marketing and communications

There are multiple channels to communicate these frequently asked questions that often sit top-of-mind for candidates, but which are often not forthcoming.

Why wait to recruit, get your employer brand and value proposition in front of your talent market and start shaping and informing your presence through your career site, social media, outbound sourcing and/or introductory mailers, podcasts, webinars, etc.? The groundwork to position your employer brand in order to compete for the best talent is as important as taking your product/service to market.

Let’s face it – without your exceptional core staff complement you cannot confidently get your startup off the ground.

Launch your own brand: It does not cost you

With startups watching every penny, here are some smart tips to get you started:

Find the stories

All it takes is a short conversation with a longstanding leader/colleague/employee to find out about their toughest challenge or memorable day that underpins a unique characteristic of your employer brand. Write it down and package it in a great social media post, or audio recording and share it across channels.

Recruiter videos

Whether you are scaling up or not, instead of running a static, non-engaging recruitment banner, rather use your written job advert as your script to record a great recruitment video. This form of engaging content immediately humanises your employer brand and increases job application hit rates by 34 percent versus others.

Revamp hiring headlines

Shift away from the standard overused recruiting headlines of “Join ss”, “Work for us”, “Hiring now”, etc. and get creative with striking headlines that align with your employer branding messaging. Share them with your talent acquisition specialists and recruiters to excite and inspire.

Build evidence of success stories

Make a start. Consistency will build momentum and soon you will become a recognisable employer brand. Develop an employer branding and recruitment marketing communications roll-out plan which outlines your activity, success stories and collect data insights that will matter to secure future budget.

Metrics matter

Identify what measurables matter to your leaders, TA specialists and recruiters. Track and report on these metrics, making them easily relatable for when you present your monthly progress report to earn management credibility and motivate for additional resources to help you scale.

We can acknowledge that many companies are frantically trying to close on 2022 projects. However, building an employer branding and marketing rollout plan to position your startup on the 2023 runway ahead of your talent competitors, is certainly a clever move.

Related articles

CHRO Lee Watts on navigating the future of work in HR

Lee Watts, chief human resources officer at Kurtosys, delves into his journey into the field of HR, the evolving role of CHROs in response to automation, remote work, and the gig economy, and the leading trends shaping HR in 2024.