Mixed emotions are clearly evident within the South African employment market as, on the one hand, the media publishes disheartening news confirming the mass exodus of our young graduate talent and professionals exiting South Africa due to economic, political uncertainty and lack of job opportunities. Contrary to this we have loyal South Africans joining the likes of the #ImStaying Facebook group, which is dedicated to those SA people of all races and religions honouring those who believe that SA as a nation can turn things around.
Simultaneously, there is a positive emergence of incredibly innovative young SA entrepreneurs and fledgling start-ups who have creatively recognized untapped opportunities and built businesses of their own. A case in point is Riaz Moola, dubbed the ‘Steve Jobs of South Africa’ by the Sunday Times in 2017, who started up HyperionDev, one of the largest tech education company’s in Southern Africa.
Universum confirms in its recent Employer Branding Now Survey 2019 SA country report that whilst 43% of companies found that the hiring environment is getting tougher, there is a growing concern over companies now having to compete with start-ups to secure quality talent. This is extremely positive as it can only stimulate economic growth. Young talent is very clear on what they want from their future employer of choice. Start-ups might not be positioned to provide our new generation with the necessary security they are seeking, however they can certainly address some of the graduates’ main career aspirations, some of which are to become entrepreneurial, creative/ innovative, seeking work/life balance and serving a greater good or being dedicated to a cause. Globally, the war for talent continues with the latest Universum Branding Now 2019 Report confirming that 61% of small companies are now also viewing employer branding as a priority. Why should start-ups and small companies consider employer branding as a business imperative when building and positioning their business?
Invest in your Employer Brand as you would in your Consumer Brand
There is no secret that at inception companies invest large amounts of money to develop and promote their product/service brand to their consumers. Start-ups often underestimate and disregard that the foundation and success of their business is built on the people they employ. For this reason, marketing their employer brand and value proposition is essential to putting them on the map to attracting and retaining the right talent. If done correctly, start-ups will be better positioned to compete with larger organizations as new kids on the block. It is imperative to start early in positioning an employer brand; to gear up for growth. Remember – Your brand is only as strong as your people driving your business objectives.
Money is not always the Differentiator
Research confirms that employer brands are not always measured in terms of money, but more often on the intangible attributes that companies can provide such as continuous learning, career development and personal advancement, flexible work environment. Start-ups provide employees with autonomy and the opportunity to more readily gain diverse experience across all departments, having access to decision-makers/owners and receiving direct accountability.
Pros: Talent is looking for more than just monetary incentives, which means that start-ups don’t necessarily have to compete with large conventional organizations on remuneration, but can upsell their unique intangible differentiators (agility, flat decision-making structures, direct purpose-driven environment) and appealing future projected company growth objective/s.
Cons: With start-ups being unknown brands, they are compelled to work that much harder in establishing their employer brand presence/positioning to stand out from the rest. A strategic approach to employer branding can counteract this predicament.
“Whatever the size of your organisation, the fundamentals remain the same. Employers need to stay in tune with the talent they need to succeed, define and communicate a clear and distinctive employer proposition, and deliver an employment experience that consistently matches their brand promise.” (Richard Mosley, Global Head of Strategy and Advisory at Universum)
Contract, freelance and gig employment stablish a strong recruitment function and experience
As start-ups grow it is essential to invest in the right people, processes and procedures to support both existing employees and newcomers, providing them with an excellent candidate/employee experience from the outset.
Pros: Developing a recruitment function from scratch is ideal as start-ups don’t carry the legacy of archaic IT systems and possible unworkable HR processes that conventional companies might be sitting with. Agility, efficient systems and a positive “customer experience” can win the best talent for start-ups over lengthy hiring processes which often prevail in your large companies.
Cons: Lack of a dedicated recruitment capability can create a bad reputation for start-ups, especially through the “growth spurts” which can be damaging to the brand. In recruiting for a start-up, building and maintaining a relevant and authentic employer brand for a business that is still evolving is challenging. As new people and processes are added the culture can very well change team dynamics. Finding the right people at the right time is the secret to propelling a start-up forward.
Utilize your foundation leaders to leverage your Employer Brand
Start-ups have the advantage of being in early stages of development, therefore utilizing employee-generated content to describe their involvement in building the company from the ground up creates a compelling picture to prospective candidates. Remaining authentic is imperative when engaging newcomers as one outlines the start-ups’ trajectory as it relates to special projects and possible challenges that one would need to navigate.
The lack of employment opportunities within SA gives rise to an emergence of Gen X and Gen Z start-ups that are providing a different dynamic within the SA talent market place, coupled with an offering of unique drivers that large traditional organizations might not necessarily be geared up to compete with. We are in interesting times.
‘Start-ups are the engines of exponential growth, manifesting the power of innovation. Several big companies today are startups of yesterday. They were born with a spirit of enterprise and adventure kept alive due to hard work and perseverance and today have become shining beacons of innovation ‘(quote by Narednra Damodardas Modi is an Indian politician serving as the 14th and current Prime Minister of India since 2014.)
(Written by Celeste Sirin – first published by Universum Global on 17 October 2019)