Small businesses often struggle with knowing how to grow their team; especially without compromising what they deliver, or what they stand for. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve probably poured yourself into your business, and you probably take an immense amount of pride in your company. As you should. It’s that fact that makes hiring people who reflect your brand so important.
When it comes to finding talent, hiring, and growing companies, Lauren Hodgson is in her element. Lauren is a good friend of mine, and I asked her to share some of the wisdom she’s collected throughout her career, which included helping Infusionsoft grow from 200 to 600 employees, in the hopes that it’ll help your team grow.
3 Keys to Designing a Employment Branding Foundation
If you’ve ever been fishing you probably had to select what bait you wanted to use. And depending on how much you know about fishing, you may know that you should select your bait carefully, as it can attract different fish. If you’re fishing for salmon in lake Michigan you’re going to use a very different bait than if you’re fishing for yellow fin tuna off the coast of San Diego.
Let’s take it one step further: If you were a fisherman, wouldn’t you prefer that fish swam right up to your boat? Life would be a little easier if they were just jumping onto the deck instead of you having to seek them out. Of course. By attracting fish to your boat, you’re able to get a larger selection in less time. This saves you time and gets you more of what you want.
You likely already apply this principle to your business with your marketing & lead generation. It’s called inbound marketing. Good news! You can apply it to your hiring, too. In fact, when you do, you’ll find more of the right people for your business. More of the right people is a brilliant thing.
When you apply this principle to hiring, it’s called employment branding. It’s one of my favorite things in the world. It does the hiring for you. When you build an attraction machine, it brings in the right people who want to be a part of what you are creating. Plus, the better you are at proactively attracting people, the easier it is to find (& captivate them) when you need to hire. Employment branding is the magnetic force that helps you constantly fill the pipeline with people who are champions of you and your business. And those are the types of people you want on your team.
Here’s the kicker. It’s a proactive strategy, not a quick fix. Once you do it, though, you’ve got a machine humming in the background, doing the work for you.
By creating this attraction machine, you spend less time sifting bad resumes, asking unnatural interview questions, and crossing your fingers that interviewees are going to work out. This work goes side by side with your current marketing – it’s actually extension of it. In fact, the 3 biggest things you can do for your employment brand are things that should already be doing for your business. This work will attract customers, partners, and employees alike.
Quick recap: You invest the time upfront, it’s work you should already be doing, and it gets you more of the right people for your business.
Here are the top 3 things that create a strong foundation for your employment brand, getting the right people knocking down your door:
#1 Get super clear on who you are and what you stand for
But, seriously. SUPER CLEAR. When people interact with you (in person, on your website, etc.), you want them, in less than 30 seconds, to know what you stand for- your purpose. Not what you do, but why you do it. Tap into why you started. What problem are you trying to solve? What dent do you want to make? What do you want to be known for? The answer to these questions should be jumping off your website.
If you haven’t spent the time on deliberately articulating this or if you need a refresher, you may like the HBR article with the great Jim Collins on Building Your Company’s Vision. Clarity on your vision and purpose is the #1 thing in attracting the right people to you. Great people connect to purpose – they want to be working for something larger and they want that something larger to align with what they care about.
#2 Align every inch of the business to your purpose
Once you are crystal clear on why your company exists, you want every piece of your business to be a mirrored reflection of that existence. It should be evident in how your business behaves – your business model, client interactions, partnership pay structure, how you choose Partnership A over Partnership B, community involvement, website messaging, etc. Align everything to it because these decisions, these consistent behaviors over time, become your culture. Your culture is what attracts certain people and detracts others. Your company culture already exists (even if it’s just you!) – the goal is to intentionally design it in such a way that it is effective in driving what you want. One of the truest principles of culture, represented in a model by Ann Rhoades, former Chief People Officer of Southwest Airlines, is this:
“Leaders drive the values, values then drive the behaviors, the behaviors drive the culture, and the culture ultimately defines the performance.”
Your leadership dictates the culture. Be intentional about how you operate the business. When it aligns – living, breathing, and sleeping it’s most integral form of its existence – the right people can’t help but notice.
#3 Your people are your brand ambassadors
Your employees, including you, are your brand ambassadors. If you don’t have employees yet, think of your vendors, customers, investors, and partners as your ambassadors. Set and share the vision with them. When you’ve got the right people on your team, give them ownership, let them co-create the plan, and they will multiply your efforts way past what you alone can do. When your people have purpose, autonomy, & mastery in their work with you, it creates a multiplying affect that ripples throughout their life and in networks, communities, and people far past your own. This is the employment brand spreading organically. It’s also where you’ll generate employee referrals, hire recommendations, and make coffee connections, matching up you with amazing people to join your team. These “leads” are coming from your network of champions for your business, so they’ll likely be more qualified. More of the right people; it’s the beauty of word of mouth in action.
You are able to create a company that is simply irresistible to work for by focusing intently on the core of who you want your business to be in the world. This work generates the most authentically fitting people that want to be a part of what you are creating. Nothing overcomes a poor fit. Be clear on what you stand for, align your business to it, engage and empower your people to be your champions. This is the foundation of having an employment brand that is constantly filling the pipeline of people who want to partner up and do the amazing work you set out to do.
About the Author: Lauren Hodgson
I am a big believer that when we get clear on what we stand for and partner with others that stand for the same, we can create some pretty rad shit. As an Employment Brand Strategist, I help teams share the mission that they’re on and help them create a machine that magnetically attracts the right people to join their mission. I believe in fit because we are a better world when people can contribute their full selves. Plus, status quo is for the birds. In the past I led the hiring for a fast-growing tech company, Infusionsoft, growing it from 220-650 employees in 3 years. I’ve also led in the space of people development and culture at lululemon athletica and Apple. I am all about exceptional leadership, strategically designed company culture, and living into dreams. In late 2015, I start a new journey, traveling parts of the world for about a year with Peter, my husband and partner-in-adventure.