Network BrandingMost employers are beginning to understand the power of employer branding in attracting and retaining talent – in fact, strong employer branding is proving itself to be one of the most powerful talent acquisition tools going in this talent scarce environment, where top talent can often call the shots. There are also some juicy statistics flying around, which show just how influential employer branding is on talent acquisition. Take this LinkedIn study of over 2,000 corporate recruiters, as an example. It shows that cost per hire is more than two times lower in companies with strong employer brands and turnover rates are 28 percent lower.

But, many smaller employers look at these glossy employer branding initiatives and wonder if this is really just for the big boys and that smaller employers can’t compete on the employer branding and should focus on good, old fashioned nuts and bolts personnel.

It isn’t, as there are many aspects of big employer branding that can and should be applied on the small stage in small business environments. Employer branding should be firmly on the strategic agenda of small firms, and in fact, many small business are much better placed to deliver more positive brand experiences as a large business in specific areas

For example, the big companies love to emphasize how their brand focuses on work-life balance and well being. Yet small businesses can do the same. I mean, why can’t small businesses develop a work -life balance policy enabling employees to work at home, work part-time, job share or split, or flexible shifts to enable them to more effectively balance their work with their lives. (I know small businesses that do this successfully.) Small businesses only need to bring in a few of these policies to say that they are focused on work-life balance, a key modern employer brand message.

Small firms may not be able to offer the long-term career opportunities that you will see in big corporate hierarchies, but with average tenures averaging of 4-5 years, long-term career development opportunities within one employer are not the fixture they once were. It seems that many employees value getting experience in a range of sectors and locations. So small firms can offer adequate career opportunities and they also are usually flexible enough to enable employees to perform a more diverse set of tasks, giving them broader exposure to a business than they might get in a compartmentalized, larger organization. Smaller firms can easily brand themselves as a great talent incubator, which workers can use as a stepping stone to the next stage of their career.

Small firms manage to almost effortlessly create that sense of cohesion, rapport and familiarity and a sense of teamwork and camaraderie (and even tribalism), which large disconnected organizations spends millions a year trying, and often failing, to replicate.

Another potential brand message, which is unique to small businesses and start-ups, is that sense of wonder and potential at what is to come (which many large businesses have lost due to past success and achievement) which can engage and excite workers and candidates if presented in a branding message.

So, it’s clear to me that small firms can and should engage in employer branding initiatives as they have their own unique message and environment that differentiates them from larger employers—and which the talent market will find very attractive if only it were presented to them.

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