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The Innovator’s Hiring Dilemma: Building an Employer Brand for a Green Start Up

Stephen Redmond Renewable Energy, permanent-hires, Energy Storage & DSR...

The Innovator’s Hiring Dilemma: Building an Employer Brand for a Green Start Up

By Stephen Redmond, Director of Operations & Marketing

The following blog comes from our experience at the Green Recruitment Company of helping start ups to scale up their business. Start ups tend to have different needs to more established firms and we regularly receive requests to help design hiring solutions for firms in the green disruptive innovation space. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.

Hiring in an S-Curve

The inspiration for this blog comes from the very popular business book, the Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. Clayton has long been a mentor to start-ups, famously coining the term “disruptive technology”. An interesting observation that can be made about the book is that many of its ideas can be reapplied to hiring strategies for green start-ups.  Especially the concept that value to innovation is an s-curve, it is very much the same with an employer brand. In the first instance the dilemma for a start up is how to build their employer brand quickly enough to attract the right hires when they need them, the long term is to build a basic employer’s brand that can grow successfully with each development you action.

Having a “Employment Product”

A good entry point to making hires is to define what your “employment product” is before going to market. There will clearly be good crossover from your product development for the business e.g. your mission, your vision, and your values etc this needs to then be augmented by shaping the rest of what makes up your job offering. You will have a great deal of flexibility around areas such as job titles and the structure of a package (monetary vs non-monetary). The final part of the “employment product” is contextual, so make sure you take the time to tell prospective applicants how they fit in to the role.

Being “Future Fluid”

Not having a past can be a problem if you let it. For most start-ups, the issue is that nobody knows who you are, because you have a limited past and with limited previous staffing within the business to provide insight into what makes a successful hire within the business. Focusing on the past is generally a curse in any hiring process, a better focus is on the future. Christensen suggested that disruptive technologies have fluid futures, its often impossible to tell what they will disrupt once mature.

A future fluid attitude should be taken when thinking on the employer’s brand. The start-up is an evolving culture and opportunity for new hires – when promoting the business to them this should be made a virtue. Equally when assessing new hires, the real focus should be on their future impact for the business. In short it does not really matter that nobody knows who you are, your selling point is that you and your new hires are going to get people to know who you are.

Getting a return on investment from your personal brand

Whilst having a “future fluid” state of mind is important, a short term answer to obtaining buy in from new hires is to develop your personal brand. Start-ups can often hold a competitive advantage in non-monetary incentives for new hires, working with an entrepreneur up close can be a powerful source of candidate attraction.

A personal brand needs to be built, and you should take time to develop it appropriately. Social media and your website are crucial in this process; research by LinkedIn suggests that before applying, 53% of candidates check a business’ website and 38% check its LinkedIn. Making sure your company bio and LinkedIn profile are up to date is critical but also the minimum standard. You should also consider getting testimonials for both, and position yourself as a subject matter expert, a blog (or two) is a great way to start. Resharing good articles on social media and leaving positive comments on other people’s posts will also provide a well-rounded image for your personal brand.

In the longer run it is possible to build a partnership between your personal brand and your business brand. A good personal brand is often a powerful way to endorse your business brand at a later stage.

Closing Thoughts

If you take anything away from this blog, I hope it is the association between hiring and innovation. The s-curve concept is great for getting one important across, namely that your employment brand should always be improving. Just as with any disruptive product, standing still will only see you overtaken or marginalised. Secondly, I hope that I have conveyed the importance of imbuing your employment brand with your personal and company values, done right your employment brand should be instinctive through its close alignment with all your other business activities.