Why Small Businesses Need a Strong Employer Brand

Author: Andrew McKernan Date: May 29, 2014

To compete for talent, engage employees and retain them.

In any job market, small business owners need top talent.

“Little guys are competing for talent against the big guys,” says Jim Ice, founder and managing director of Jim Ice & Associates in Pittsburgh.

What can help small business owners attract those skilled workers is a rock-solid employer brand, the way you present your company externally to potential hires and internally to employees. According to a November 2013 report from CareerBuilder, 68 percent of candidates would accept a lower salary if the employer created a great impression through the hiring process.

Here are three benefits of a strong employer brand.

1. A Strong Brand Attracts the Right Candidates

An employer brand helps a small business define the kinds of employees he or she wants.

Julia Gometz, author of The Brandful Workforce and founder of a consultancy of the same name in New York, says she has often heard hiring managers fear that listing a specific type of employee they want on a job posting will lower the number of applicants. Such companies want to attract everyone with a particular skill set and then weed through the results later—an ineffectual and outdated strategy for hiring talent, Gometz says.

Rather than simply posting a list of desired skills, explain your brand’s mission in the job posting. An employer brand does attract a smaller pool of candidates—but it’s filled with applicants who have not only the skills you need, but who also possess similar values to your small business.

For HEROfarm, a marketing, public relations and design agency in New Orleans, Louisiana, a strong brand showcasing philanthropy and social justice, two of the owners’ passions, has helped their recruiting. “We get solicited all the time by people who love our mission and want to work for us,” says Shaun Walker, the company’s creative director and founding partner.

2. Values and Vision Keep Employees Engaged

Being upfront with new hires about the values and vision behind your brand leads to happy and engaged employees. “When you hire people who really believe in what you’re doing, you see people who make a daily difference at work,” Gometz says.

Improved employee engagement can boost your bottom line. According to a 2013 Gallup State of the American Workplace Report, companies with the highest level of engagement reported 37 percent less absenteeism and 22 percent higher profitability than those with the lowest engagement.

3. Fulfilling Your Brand Promise Minimizes Turnover

If the employer brand you advertise doesn’t match what your business is truly about, you risk losing the talent you fought so hard to gain—often at a cost. A bad hire can cost your small business more than $25,000, according to the National Business Research Institute.

Ensure the day-to-day operation of your business follows through on the promises your brand offers employees and customers. If you position your brand as one that offers excellent customer service, for example, Gometz recommends integrating at least one company value into daily briefings by asking your employees for feedback on the following questions: How well are we taking care of our customers today? Why are we able to or not? How can we continue to fulfill our brand promise today and every day?

When employees see that you’re following through on your promises, they’re more likely to stay because it’s what they signed up for. 

READ NEXT: The Best Employee Perk Small Businesses Can Offer

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