Startups Often Fail to Communicate the Full Job Offer to Candidates
Richard Branson the founder of Virgin Group famously said:
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
But before you can even be in a position to take care of your staff, you need to recruit them. How do you do that? With marketing of course! It’s important to remember that at a startup marketing isn’t just about getting customers to buy and come back for more. It’s also about attracting and keeping the best talent to help you not just survive but thrive.
Know your Values, Mission and Vision:
It’s critical that leadership teams think about employer branding before trying to find workers. Otherwise you risk hiring amazingly talented people that are actually all wrong for your business. To recruit the right kind of people for your startup, it starts with your core values, mission and vision. Maybe your startup is so young you haven’t had a chance to figure out what fits.
Think about this. If you’re building a very competitive team atmosphere but write your job descriptions like you’re a clone of Amnesty International, something is going to go wrong either during the interview process or even worse, once the person is onboard. The candidates you’ll attract will like what’s in your job description and on your website’s careers section so make it accurate and you’ll hire awesome people that fit.
It’s also possible that you did articulate these elements but have realized since launching that the values being demonstrated aren’t the ones you wrote in the early days. This happens. Update and then pivot to keep moving forward.
Brand messaging from your core values, mission and vision should be consistent for both your customers and employees. What differs is the value proposition. Before you’re in a position to hire you’re probably already using a customer value prop, or a simple statement that explains all of the benefits that will be delivered to customers. These benefits might be qualitative (customer experience) or quantitative (price).
Your employee value proposition is a different statement that expresses your core values, benefits, opportunities to be delivered to employees and potential recruits in terms of employee experience and career development. It continues to amaze me just how many startups haven’t given any thought to this. It’s so important to define all of this so that you can get candidates so excited about your vision that they line-up to be part of your success.
Avoid cringe-worthy hiring horror stories:
When you don’t work through your employee value proposition recruiting can go horribly wrong. Too often a startup will pay a slick PR agency to write copy that sounds great but then the agency doesn’t actually capture the company at all. This disconnect can lead to frustration and disappointment on behalf of the candidate pool. Thanks to platforms like Glassdoor this frustration and disappointment is also no longer private. Candidates can share their experience with the whole world.
As a startup you don’t want candidates naming and shaming you for not being organized enough to handle recruiting. You don’t want your brand to take a beating. If you get enough bad reviews this can then become a bit of a public relations worry for you. It will also concern investors. You shouldn’t deter top talent from applying. Remember, you want them lining-up to be a part of something special.
At this point it is also important to clarify that job perks alone don’t equal company culture. A system of values, beliefs, and shared assumptions that governs how people behave at a company is what determines culture. Candidates often get criticized for confusing the two but leadership teams at startups can also be guilty. Just because an employer offers free snacks along with the choice of phone model this doesn’t mean an awesome culture has been created. Of course these are nice but the free food is a benefit and the smartphone for many is a mission critical job tool that most jurisdictions provide regulation for it to also be a business tax deduction (for example in the UK an employer is eligible to write-off one mobile phone per employee).
Flaunt it if you’ve got it:
At the same time, startups often fail to capitalize on the full value of the package being offered to new employees. How many startup job descriptions have you read that include just a few points with no real explanation beyond:
* Pleasant work environment
* Culture driven organization
* We’ve got a lovely office stocked with healthy snacks
* Free laughs
Are you offering a fabulous holiday allowance? Do you pay towards any kind of pension or healthcare? Is there an employee equity scheme? Do you cover training fees or allow for days off? Is a relocation stipend possible? What’s the growth potential you’re offering to someone’s career? After you’ve measured performance are you rewarding it with a bonus?
State your vacation day allowance and let candidates know how much you’re paying for contributions if you’re offering more than the statutory minimum. Go ahead and explain that your role is an incredible growth opportunity if you’re looking to hire someone and support their professional expansion. Most candidates don’t view a professional position, even at a cool startup like yours, as just an exchange of their hours for your cash. Give them information so they can appreciate the whole package that your opportunity is providing.
Don’t be shy. If your budget allows for a competitive salary go ahead and let applicants know you’re paying market rates. Why not state a wage range? This avoids making talented candidates who are passionate about your position guess what you’ll pay. In fact if you post roles on AngelList they not only require a defined range but provide an additional line for you to let candidates know if you’re also offering stock options.
Compensation norms can be cultural:
It should be noted that when we get into a discussion about how to present compensation this does differ across countries. Remember when hiring international employees, they might be accustomed to job descriptions with a stated range instead of being asked to supply a figure before learning more about the available role beyond the few facts listed on the job description.
For example, in the UK a wage rage is often provided either in the job description or by a human resources representative. This is viewed as a measure to reduce pay gaps. And if there are gender pay gaps? All firms with 250 employees or more as of 5 April 2017 are now legally required to publish the details of any gender pay gaps on their company website.
Make the hiring process a win-win:
Too many times I’ve heard a founder ask “what can you do for me?” but then forget to tell the candidate what working for his or her company will do for them. Remember: your team is going to spend more time per week with you than they are going to spend with their families and friends. Candidates want to invest their experience and skills in companies they are passionate about. They don’t mind spending their time with smart and cool people. And it is a basic human trait to want to know you’re valued and appreciated.
Convert your happy hires to engaged employees:
Once you’ve hired the marketing continues. Now that you’ve got these energetic people onboard, you’ll want to keep them engaged. Internal marketing does this. It’s usually called internal communications or employee communications. For a very early stage startup this might be as simple as sending an email to the rest of the team with a brief bio and start date announcing a new colleague. As you grow, these engagements will also need to scale to keep up with your growth. Perhaps you expand to using tools like Slack and decide to send monthly email newsletters introducing all the recruits and sharing exciting developments like new big signed customers or partnership deals.
If your startup is seriously scaling fast then maybe you begin sending email newsletters weekly. Because you know — it’s Murphy’s Law that every time a person joins a company the first time they use the copier it isn’t going to work. And you really don’t want the newbie wrestling with the copier to be mistaken for the person who changes the toner once a month. So you use your internal comms to introduce them.
By focusing on clear messaging to your potential employees and existing staff you can attract and retain top talent. You’ll create an informed team, keep that awesome team motivated, live your culture and achieve success together. Because as Richard Branson said “if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”.
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Cambridge MBA | Marketing Consultant | Speaker | Author | Ghostwriter