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Employer Branding for SMEs: Nice to have or Essential?

Employer Branding for SMEs: Nice to have or Essential?

Attracting and retaining talent is more important than ever for SMEs. Here’s how employee branding can help.

Employer branding is taking on new importance in an employee-centric climate, where attracting and retaining talent is a growing challenge. But in the midst of the ‘great resignation’, how can SMEs successfully build their employer brand and differentiate themselves from their competitors? How can they create a happy and engaged workforce that will function as brand advocates? And how can they establish and nurture an employer brand that drives the organisation into the future? After all, employer branding isn’t just about attracting talent; it’s about building long-term relationships.

Let’s take a look at some ways that SMEs can create an employer brand that highlights their core values, offers a great EVP (Employee Value Proposition) and wins over the workforce.

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What is employer branding?

Simply put, employer branding is how an organisation represents itself to current and prospective employees. Good employer branding will position a business as a desirable place to work, helping SMEs attract new talent, retain workers and drive engagement. Meanwhile, SMEs that don’t focus on their employer brand may lose talent to businesses that do.

A significant part of employer branding will focus on the EVP (Employee Value Proposition) a business offers. But there are other concerns, as well. An organisation’s ethics are more important than ever. Today’s workers want to join a team that shares the same values that they do. They want to work for a business whose morals they respect. And they want a work-life balance that prioritises their wellbeing.

For SMEs, nurturing employee satisfaction is a crucial concern, as a disengaged workforce can result in lower productivity, more absenteeism and a high – and highly costly – churn rate. On the other hand, a workforce that feels valued will be more satisfied, more engaged and more productive. Just as importantly, they can become brand ambassadors.

This increased engagement helps SMEs drive revenue and build a reputation as a great place to work, which in turn will help them recruit more talent. In the end, SMEs can realise an impressive ROI through improved employee retention, lowered recruiting costs and the securing of exceptional talent. And when it comes to small business trends, securing and retaining talent is one of the most critical, especially for SMEs with limited resources.

This shift towards seeking more fulfilling work is something of a step-change from the past. Now, businesses can no longer afford to only concentrate solely on the bottom line; they need to focus on responsible leadership and building a meaningful brand. And they need to find a way to tell their story in an impactful way. But telling a compelling story is just one step towards successfully building an employer brand.

How do you build an employer brand?

  1. Lock in your core values: A brand’s ethics are more important than ever, both to customers and employees. When potential employees research your business, what do they find? How does your business represent itself? Some businesses put their charitable work front and centre, while others focus on how they’re building a sustainable, socially conscious model. Whatever your business’s core values are, lock them in and make sure that your messaging is inspiring and relevant.
  2. Evaluate your current brand reputation: It’s important to know how your business is perceived, so do some research and see what people are saying. Sites like Glassdoor will enable you to see how employees view your organisation. You can also use tools like Social Studio to analyse conversations on social media, get real-time feedback about your organisation and tune into brand sentiment.
  3. Encourage company reviews: Try to capture every good experience your company delivers, both in the workplace and to its customers. Reviews and review aggregators are a quick way for your audience to gain an overview of your brand. These reviews can be scanned in mere seconds but can have a massive impact on perception, so encourage satisfied employees to leave honest company reviews.
  4. Tell your story: What’s your business’s USP? Not just in regard to its products and services, but when looking at the brand itself. What is different about your company’s beliefs or culture? How was it started? Who started it? Where is it going? What do you stand for? Who are you helping? In other words – what’s your story?
  5. Team up with influencers: Influencers have a loyal built-in base that can be attractive to SMEs looking to reach a new audience. Not all influencers are built the same, of course, so make sure that the influencers you team up with have solid connections with the base you’re looking to engage. It’s also important to make sure that messaging and beliefs are aligned. Engaging with brand advocates can also be a good way to reach new audiences. Even micro-influencers can be helpful, as it only takes a few talented recruits to turbocharge a company’s reputation.

What can SMEs do to enhance their employer branding?

There are some simple ways that SMEs can improve their employer branding to attract more talent. For starters, they can offer on-demand training programmes to skill up the workforce and keep up with the pace of change. A 2020 study revealed that over 50% of Trailhead users acquired skills that resulted in a promotion or a raise.

Technology is also a great enabler when it comes to improving the employee experience. Digital tools can automate mundane, low-value tasks, and help free the workforce to focus on more creative work. This improvement can make a huge difference to the employee experience, as no one likes to be weighed down by routine, productivity-killing tasks, day after day.

It’s also important to consider the experiences of current and previous employees. Sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor now offer jobseekers a peek behind the curtain, and will often be the first port of call for prospective employees. SMEs should look at what former workers have to say. Are there any reoccurring problems that may need to be addressed? Is there anything that the business is doing poorly or particularly well when it comes to EVP? Can it be fixed? Can it be replicated? Honest feedback about EX can be extremely valuable for SMEs.

Additionally, businesses can highlight their employer branding through social media channels. Be empathetic. Be inspirational. Be funny, friendly or ambitious. Be an advocate and a champion of the employee experience. But most of all, be honest and transparent. These channels offer an opportunity for SMEs to showcase their personality, so employer branding should be aligned with a business’s core values and the type of talent they hope to attract.

What’s next for employer branding?

It’s a difficult time for many SMEs. The competition for talent is perhaps fiercer than it’s ever been. On top of that, traditional ways of working have changed. While the challenges are evident, so are the potential benefits. By focusing on creating a more employee-centric brand, SMEs can undergo a business transformation that’s also a people transformation.

By focusing on employer branding, SMEs can move from prioritising transactional relationships to creating more meaningful ones.

To find out more about how to drive employee engagement and increase worker satisfaction, check out our eBook here. And to see how CRM can lead to longer-lasting relationships, download The Entrepreneur’s Guide to CRM here.

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