What Employer Brand Leadership Looks Like in Tech

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

Thanks to media and the headline-grabbing office quirks of industry giants like Google, tech culture’s reputation precedes it. Jobseekers perceive tech companies as fast-paced, innovative places to work, and many assume a “work hard, play hard” attitude is a necessity. These preconceptions have a major impact on employer brand, as Klook’s Marilyn Yee knows well.

Yee serves as Senior Manager of Global Employer Branding and People Communications at Klook, a travel tech company. With over 10 years of experience in the industry, she’s an expert on what tech demands from leadership. Employer branding, Yee reminds us, is a long game—even in a field that embraces rapid growth.

Tech Isn’t for Everyone

Tech culture isn’t a monolith, but there are a few characteristics that unite most tech workplaces. These characteristics inform employer brand, what being a “culture fit” means at a particular company, and who self-selects to apply.

Moving fast is one of those characteristics. “If you’re someone who gets bored easily, or you love a challenge, consider a career in tech,” Yee says. “Change is the only constant. It’s like an organized mess every day.”

Another is the tendency for teams to skew young. At many top tech companies, the median age of employees falls in the late 20s. While those in management positions tend to be slightly older, tech employees above the age of 50 are in the minority.

Tech also has a different relationship to diversity. According to Yee, a diverse team is a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have. “If you’re building global products,” she says, “you need diversity of perspective.”

Self-Starters Inspire Successful Employer Branding in Tech

A willingness to hustle is already in the DNA of tech workers. This is especially true of employer brand leaders at tech companies, says Yee, where securing the attention and resources you need requires a special kind of tenacity: “You can’t expect resources and trust to just fall in your lap.”

In the early days of Yee’s work at Klook, that meant building relationships. Many people didn’t understand what employer branding was or how it aligned with their department’s goals.

“I scheduled coffee meetings with anyone who was willing to talk with me,” Yee says. Those meetings were instrumental in forging bonds with internal stakeholders—a crucial part of employer brand success.

An Authentic Brand Narrative Is Essential

Honesty, of course, is essential to brand storytelling at every business. That’s just as true for tech companies, who promise opportunities to build the future and be part of the next great innovation.

A vital part of keeping that narrative authentic is distinguishing employer brand from recruitment marketing. Whereas recruitment marketing focuses on short-term, conversion-driven goals, employer brand plays a longer game.

Successful employer branding demands employers follow through on the expectations set in the recruitment process, rather than walking away once they successfully “sell” a candidate on the company with that compelling brand narrative. Yee reports, “Most of the time, for employees in their first year or probation period, the reason why they leave or start getting disengaged is because the expectations promised to them were not met.”

Employer brand and recruitment marketing do work hand-in-hand. “The more brand awareness we build, the more applicants we drive in,” Yee says. “But—and it’s a very big but—employer brand doesn’t end there. It’s a long-term strategic function. It’s not enough that you bring in candidates.”

Patience Is Primary

If employer brand is a long game, then patience is a must for employer brand leaders. Yee urges fellow managers to take a realistic view of where their company lies in terms of growth and readiness for a culture shift. After all, she says, “You can’t build culture by yourself.”

Rather than pushing for immediate and drastic change, employer brand leaders should focus on nurturing relationships with stakeholders and finding allies within the company. Contributing to short-term recruitment marketing goals, for example, are one way to score “quick wins” and earn trust.

Slowing down may seem antithetical for an industry that thrives on speed. As Yee’s years of experience have proven, however, the long view is vital to tech employer brand.

To follow Marilyn’s work in employer brand, follow her on LinkedIn, or check out her writing on who should work for a tech company. If you want to know how your employer brand measures up to others in your industry, talk to us about the Employer Brand Index.


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