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Beyond the logo: Your employer brand and why you’re not attracting the best developers

Advice, Technology | Rick Deller | 10/11/15

employer brand attracting developers company branding

You’re a great company, really, you are. You should be attracting some excellent talent; sure, there’s a shortage of developers, particularly Perl, Ruby, Java etc., but that’s all the more reason why the talent that there is should be working for you.

So you’re not quite Google, or Facebook, or [insert one of any other well-known tech brand’s here], maybe you are: it’s still possible. Read any advice on attracting talent and, you’ll be told the first step is to look at your employer brand, and it is, as long as you understand that this is more than your logo, a foosball table in the office, or even free fruit on Fridays. Looking at your employer brand requires you to step back, think about what your company stands for, and what it really is like to work for you.

You’ll never improve if you haven’t worked out where you’re going wrong first. Below I’ll take a look at six key areas of your employer brand that you should assess to find out why you’re not attracting the best developers. Once you start considering and figure out one area, the others – like pieces of a puzzle – will start falling into place.

Step One: Step Back

Take stock of what you have and what you are.

What’s working at your company? What do your employees truly love about working for you? How does this reputation supersede the organisation and extend to wider communities?

Even in a world dominated by google and social media, if word passes amongst developers that there is a good thing going on at your company, it’ll have a positive effect on your hiring; word of mouth and reputation is still king, and has only been accentuated by these.

Try googling or searching twitter for your company. The internet knows how to tell it straight, you may not agree with it all, but that’s okay. If there is a pattern occurring it might be time to think about what’s going wrong.

Is your reputation fair? How has it been earned?

There are a couple of factors at play with your reputation. It can be earned through success, “game-changing” innovation, culture, rewards & incentives, PR, and crucially the people at the heart of your organisation, particularly the management.

Who leads your team? How respected are they? Have they come from a highly regarded tech and development background or maybe promoted within?

Your staff are your key sell: for your product, service, and hiring strategy. If you’ve promoted a superstar from within, they’ve obviously been given a culture in which they can grow and thrive; tell that story! If you’ve managed to poach a tech heavyweight, you must have something they believe in so others will too; to paraphrase Kevin Costner, “if you build it [a team of talented, supported, and happy developers], they [the rest of the best] will come.

 

The Ex

ex employees and your company brandWe’ve all been through a break up. When it comes to your employees however, it’s a separation you’d rather wasn’t fought out on an episode of Jeremy Kyle. Whilst your current staff can be a great selling point and are the centre point of your employer brand, they lay above the foundations of the staff of futures past.

Have you ever asked what your ex-staff have to say about working at your company? Do you know why they left? Is there anything that would have made them stay?

Of course, there’s the usual reasons. “I wanted to progress my career further” and “I was offered a package I couldn’t turn down”, which seem fair enough on the surface, but can, in certain circumstances, be looked at as areas to improve for the future (we’ll come to this).

The underlying truth for some, however, is simply that they thought their boss was incompetent, and probably a bit of an arse. How many times have you heard that people don’t leave a bad company, they leave bad management, and there are hundreds of studies out there backing it up.

What do your ex staff really think about you?

Back to the internet search again. Try Glassdoor, a review and information site on employers with submissions entirely anonymous detailing what the people that once worked for you really thought. Remember that whilst it might come across as a personal insult, all comments are points you can build on and develop your employer brand for the better.


The Foosball Table

increase your employer brand with foosball…and the free fruit, and the space invaders arcade machine, and thirsty Thursdays, and come to work with your next door neighbour’s parent’s pet day. Okay – joking aside (some of these can truly add a nice feel to your workplace), culture is a crucial component to your employer brand, especially so within the development community.

The Perl world, for example, is a small one where the majority of developers know each other well, and as such emphasises the importance of a culture built on a strong team ethic and close-knit working environment. With this in place, your culture should thrive, given you also taken in some of the above points throughout this article (you should start to see those puzzle pieces falling into place).

The easiest way to sell a company to a potential candidate is by demonstrating this core culture that has further been built on the foundations of nurture and development.

Are there opportunities to develop and grow within your organisation? Do you offer extra support? Do you promote from within? Are you allowing your employees to express themselves?

All of this will cultivate a creative environment where your staff have truly bought into the company culture and will thrive on this, pushing the company and employer brand further.

 

More than just a pay cheque

show me the employer brandContrary to Jerry Maguire’s favourite turn of phrase, it’s not all about showing the candidate the money. Offer more than just a pay cheque.

What do your employees see as added benefits of working at your company? What could really round out a package and make your workplace a more enjoyable, easier place to be? 

For some it’s offering the option of telecommuting, additional holiday, or flexible hours, for others it’s helping out with a season ticket loan for travel, or setting aside budgets for training, events, and more. Think about things that will really live and breathe your company culture, things that your developers will love and look forward too. Think annual hackathons or weekly lunch clubs. Go one further and reach out to your staff and see what they would like.

 

Community

Where most employers fall down when it comes to their employer brand is that they will talk the talk, but rarely walk the walk. Perhaps there are the best intentions but they’re truly not in touch with their workforce, perhaps they have just failed to ask themselves some of these questions.

Perl is alive at YAPC:EU EligoWhen it comes to developers and the development community, it’s hard to fake it. Having attended, sponsored, and spoken at various tech and language focused events across the UK and Europe, it’s hard not to be enamoured by the community spirit that lives amongst developers.

Does your company have support or have space to offer for tech meetups such as Perl Mongers? Do you allow time for developers to work on CPAN projects? Do you support your developers in attending events such as LPW or YAPC?

It’s where you’ll find the best and most passionate developers out there, and it’s where those such as your staff will continue to thrive and bring back new ideas for your organisation, they’ll appreciate it too!

 

So what shall I do?

The reality is that by reading this, taking stock, and questioning where your employer brand sits in each of these categories, you’ve already done more than most.

Remember that although each section of your employer brand is intertwined, your staff are at the heart of it all. So if there was anywhere to start it’s there. Ensure your current employees truly do buy into your employer brand, and that they, as well as you, share it as far and wide as you wish.

Like your company, your employer brand will never stand still and will evolve and develop with time, and unlike your logo, can’t be knocked up in a day by an intern on MS paint.

 

Good luck!

 

If you’d like to talk more about what developers are currently looking for in a company or what you can further do to attract the best developers and increase your employer brand, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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