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Building employer brand to support your scaling strategy

Last month Manchester Digital welcomed our very own Laura and Lucy, alongside our client, Distology’s head of people success, Chloe, to a panel discussion centring on how employer brand should be an instrumental element of any scaling strategy. The event was the first in Manchester Digital’s Tech Bites series and covered recommendations for scaling tech companies competing in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

In recent years, Manchester has become a prosperous hub of flourishing tech companies. Several prominent names in the space have moved their UK/northern HQs to the city, while Manchester is also home to multiple unicorns and successful startups, many of whom are in the midst of scaling at quite a rapid pace. However, attracting and retaining talent in such a crowded market can be a challenge to say the least.

One of the companies currently thriving in Manchester’s tech space is Distology and the team here at Refresh has been supporting the the specialist IT cybersecurity distributor with its scaling strategy. Here are some key takeaways/advice from the panel discussion for other companies in a similar situation…

Ensure your timing is right

It’s important not rush into engaging a PR agency and that your timing is right. Post-series A funding is usually a good time to explore external public relations support - before this is typically a bit too early.

In the first instance, focus on establishing what your brand stands for and what your values are. A solid brand ultimately leads to a much easier process, as it makes the business more appealing to relevant stakeholders such as employees, clients/customers and potential future investors. Once this is established, PR activity can really centre around building your employer brand to attract and retain talent, as well as amplifying general brand awareness across target industries, plus lead generation for your sales team.

Make the time and strategise

Take a similar approach to your overall business strategy and put the time in to plan. We also recommend assigning a dedicated team to spearhead developing and shaping your employer brand strategy, plus apply it.

In addition, set SMART objectives that focus on what you want to accomplish, before developing your approach and overall strategy which irons out how you’re going to get there.

Like with any strategy, it’s vital you set KPIs to measure success. However, it’s important you also monitor these frequently, adapting as necessary. If something isn’t quite working as expected, you know you need to shift approach.

Ensure your marketing and HR teams are working collaboratively on your employer brand strategy

To ensure you’re setting yourself up for success, your marketing and HR teams should be working in collaboration to develop your employer brand strategy. Taking this approach will ensure it really emulates the business and both internal and external viewpoints complement eachother. In addition, it’s essential your messaging is cohesive across the board and your values are not only represented but championed throughout the business.

Start with your current people

According to research from Gallup, business units with engaged workers not only have 23% higher profits against businesses with miserable workers, but they also have higher rates of customer loyalty.

This affirms that it really does go without saying that instilling positive culture amongst your current workforce should be your starting point – as this ultimately effects the entire business. Living and breathing your values internally first is crucial before shouting about them externally. This way, when prospective new talent does come along, you’ve already done the work to back up your culture and employer brand.

Your biggest advocates are your existing employees, so it’s imperative to start with them as they’ll organically become your company champions. Treat them well, celebrate their successes/milestones, reward them for great work via things like surprise and delight packages, involve them in your mission, let them have a say in the direction of the business and inform them on how they can personally make an impact. 

Beyond this, shout about their success externally, for example across your social channels. Where appropriate and if you’re comfortable doing so, position them as figureheads to the business by encouraging them to comment across external channels on things like industry trends – this is also a great way to really empower them. There could be opportunity for them to deliver guest lectures to students too - or at relevant industry events, focusing on how to pursue a career in the industry. This also works two-pronged as, when those attending are ready to start their careers or possibly looking to switch careers/jobs, you’re already front of mind.

Practice what you preach when it comes to your employer brand

It’s common knowledge the industry is struggling to bridge the increasing skills gap, making attracting and retaining talent an essential element of any business strategy.

Focusing on your employer brand specifically is becoming increasingly important, as talent shortages threaten the sector. Showcasing the company as a great place to work and really shouting about your positive culture will help strengthen your talent pipeline. It is however essential you really do practice what you preach. Implementing perks/benefits that affirm your company’s spot as a great place to work will help ensure you stand out from the crowd. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask people for feedback on your business, both internally and externally - constructive criticism can be incredibly beneficial.

Finally, when hiring, ensure the values of your potential new employee(s) align with the company’s. You can teach the role and the skills required to do it, but you can’t always instil/change someone’s values.

Humanise your brand

Showcase the faces working behind the scenes throughout the business on your own channels (particularly your website and social media) – as it really helps humanise your brand.

Employer brand very much builds on your general brand building activity, still raising awareness of your mission, products/services and what your passionate, but taking it to the next level.

It centres on your values, how you’re helping your team and really tells your story as a business, including the faces behind the scenes. It’s this piece in particular that builds understanding and helps prospective new employees to determine if they want to work for you and if their values align with yours – these are the pieces that are most likely to resonate.

Industry awards

Awards can be incredibly effective and should be included in any employer brand strategy – Distology has had great success in this area, winning multiple coveted awards which have really helped build positive employer brand, as people want to work for award-winning companies. While in the past year alone, Refresh was named Prolific North’s tech PR agency of the year and PR Moment’s boutique PR agency of the year.

And, it’s not just winning that’s important – being shortlisted is also great from a brand awareness/employer brand standpoint.

Capitalise on your owned channels and lean into the resources available

Social media is essential here. Both Distology, Refresh and many of our clients are leaning into their social channels first and foremost to humanise their brands and showcase the people behind the scenes. Social media platforms are also recommended for rolling out messaging around really practicing what you preach from a workplace culture standpoint, which helps build a network of internal advocates, who organically share their positive personal workplace experiences across their own LinkedIn channels, helping to build positive employer brand further.

Lastly, lean into the resources available to you and collaborate with relavant associations/credible partners within the sector. Manchester Digital, the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter, Business Growth Hub and GrowthAccelerator are amazing resources for everything from hiring, to sharing best practice and helping shape your company culture.

If you’re interested in finding out how PR could help promote your employer brand, get in touch.

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Want to grow your business, change direction, shout louder, boost your sales leads, or keep your brand out of the news? Our door is always open. If you think we can help, get in touch.

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