Sara Donnelly Landscape
Sara Donnelly is director at Social Tech Communications

COMMENT | Attracting tech talent starts with employer brand

Estimates suggest that the digital skills gap is currently costing the UK economy around £63bn per year in potential GDP, writes Sara Donnelly of Social Tech Communications.

London tech Week kicked off on 13 June, and on the opening day, tech minister Chris Philp unveiled the new UK digital strategy, with the latest data revealing the UK has overtaken China for investment in tech startups.

Combine this with a booming proptech industry, and recent figures which show that over 80% of all jobs advertised in the UK now require digital skills, and it really is an employees’ market.

This is a very real problem for many tech businesses that rely on knowledgeable talent to deliver their growth and innovation ambitions. From conversations I’ve had with founders and leaders, it’s clear that recruitment is one of the main issues keeping them up at night.

So what can proptech businesses do in order to attract and retain good tech people at a time when they are in record-high demand?

Establishing and communicating a strong employer brand is key.

What is an ‘employer brand’?

This is your reputation as an employer and as a place to work. It’s the culture you create for your people and it’s your values as both a leader and a leadership team.

Why is an employer brand important?

It’s never been easier to find reviews of companies from current and former employees – and many job seekers already know this. As part of their job search, many will seek out those reviews. Consequently, if your reputation as an employer is not where it should be, then the chances of top talent being attracted to your company is at risk.

How can you establish a strong employer brand?

1. Know who you are and what you stand for

Spend some time delving deep inside your business to explore:

  • What’s your unique proposition?
  • What makes you different?
  • What are your values?
  • What does your culture look like?

By defining all of this, you’ll understand the types of people you want to attract and who would be attracted to you.

It’s also worthwhile speaking with current employees, and reviewing exit interviews from those that have left, to get a feel for what it’s like to work for your business. It can sometimes make for difficult reading, but it is only when you’re armed with grassroots intelligence and opinion that you’ll truly be able to make an impact on your people and establish a competitive and attractive employer brand

2. Develop an authentic employer brand proposition

Now you have a deeper understanding of who you are, what you stand for and what your current and former teams think, you should develop a formal employer brand proposition in conjunction with your HR team. This is the promise you are making to current and potential employees about the type of business you are and the impact you want to make on the world, together.

Think about:

  • Your and your team’s passions: what do they want from an employer and how are you providing that?
  • What clients will they get the opportunity to work with and what does that say about you?
  • What investments do you make in learning and development?
  • Where do you stand on equality, diversity and inclusion?
  • What commitments do you make to the environment?
  • How do you ensure your staff are happy?
  • What does your leadership look like?

3. Deliver regular internal communications

Often your strongest ambassadors are your employees. As such, it’s important to invest in a strong internal communications programme that will keep them engaged and empower them to feel their views and contributions are valued. Tactics could include:

  • Conducting regular staff satisfaction surveys and acting on them
  • Employee newsletters
  • Celebrating successes and achievements
  • Team away days/socials
  • Regular open forums with CEO and senior leaders

4. Invest in external PR and communications campaigns

Investing in a consistent external PR campaign is critical, not just for attracting customers, but also top talent. It’s a business’s opportunity to tell its story, to announce its key milestones and to reveal its top successes. It’s also a chance for its key spokespeople to build a profile for themselves, which in turn will enable potential candidates to see the type of person they could be working for.

5. Be aligned in all communications and be true to who you are

While your employer brand is the face of the business aimed at your people, it should always be completely aligned with your overall business narrative. If your employer brand focuses on being an ‘ethical place to work’, but then your client base includes the oil and tobacco industries for example, then you’re not aligned.

Consistency is key and your current and potential staff need to believe wholeheartedly that what you promise in your employer brand proposition is reflected in the reality of working with you. Being authentic and credible is vital if you want to win the race for securing top tech talent.

Sara Donnelly is director at Social Tech Communications

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