Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have what it takes to create a winning employer brand. They just need to channel it. We asked some of Randstad’s employer branding experts for their tips on how to get started.

Your employer's brand is why people want to work for you, along with what might put them off.

A great brand helps you to attract, engage, and retain the right people. A bad one can be a liability.

Your employer's brand isn’t just shaped by what you think and say about your business, but also by what others think and say about you.

That in itself is a good reason to actively develop and promote your employer brand, rather than leaving it to others to do all the talking on your behalf.

seeking fulfilment

So, what makes an organisation worth working for? Does a big salary trump everything else?

For more than 20 years, we’ve been polling people from around the world for the annual Randstad Employer Brand Research.

The findings reveal that while money is important, it’s only part of the story. Indeed, there are plenty of examples of companies that offer top-rate financial rewards but still have lousy employer brands. 

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People want to feel valued and have a chance to fulfil their potential. They want to work within a culture and environment that is friendly, and supportive and enables them to balance their professional and personal lives. In difficult times like these, job security becomes more important. Many people also want to make a difference in the world around them. All these multiple factors are wrapped up in the employer brand.

Jan Denys
Director of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, Randstad Belgium

This means that even if your financial resources are limited – and they may well be right now – you can still attract good people by providing enjoyable and fulfilling work.

treat your people well

As an SME, you might find it challenging to compete with the brand marketing budgets of giant corporations. Yet Jan Denys believes that “there’s too much emphasis on communication within employer branding. What really counts is how you treat your people.”

He believes that good marketing can help to convey this positive message, but only when the foundations of culture and support are in place.

For another employer brand expert, Francesca Campalani, Vice President of Global Talent Marketing for Randstad Enterprise Group, “the most engaging employer branding stories communicate the joy of belonging to an organisation you love”.

SMEs and startup companies tend to have the innate sense of identity, purpose and belonging that larger counterparts can find hard to sustain as they evolve and grow.

SMEs and startups can also offer the vibrancy and entrepreneurial environment that can give them the edge in attracting people who want to innovate and make their mark.

foundations for a great brand

What then are the key foundations for developing and communicating a winning employer brand:

1. listen to your people

Talk to your people about what attracted them to your business, and what makes them proud to be part of your ‘tribe’.  What appealed to them can attract others as the basis for a compelling employer brand. This dialogue can also help you to identify areas where the opportunities you offer, and the way you treat employees could be improved.

2. keep it real

The more people are bombarded with marketing, the less they trust it. They want authenticity. That’s why the best way to communicate your employer's brand externally is to encourage your employees to tell their own stories, in their own words. This is your employer brand articulated by the people who really know it, and live it every day.

With economies under pressure, many of you might be facing a fall in revenue, and possible layoffs. How you treat people during these difficult times is the truest test of the authenticity of your employer's brand. You can’t avoid difficult decisions. But you should live up to your promises by being candid, supporting affected employees and, as a leader, sharing in the sacrifices.

3. make social media your friend

Your ability to get your story across to the widest possible audience has been magnified by job comparison sites and social media. This includes connecting with potential recruits from outside your local market or industry orbit.

The flip side to the glare of social media is that everyone will soon know if the brand you seek to convey doesn’t reflect reality.

4. keep it relevant

COVID-19 has accelerated shifts in where and how people work, both through more remote working and the numbers choosing to work on a contingent or contract basis. The pandemic has also heightened people’s desire to work for organisations that reflect their values.

It’s important to ensure that your employer's brand, and the employee promise that underpins it, reflect these changing expectations.

5. be patient

People often want immediate results from their employer branding. If they don’t get them, they give up. But you can’t change the realities within your business, nor the perceptions of it, overnight.

Successful companies have been investing in their employer branding for many years and seeing the benefits gradually build up over time.


randstad employer brand research global report 2020.

download the report