A Small Firm’s Guide to Building Employer Brand

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

When Aaron Kraljev left Wells Fargo in 2019, he left behind many of the comforts that come with working for a large organization: a familiar order of operations, significant resources, the security of knowing where to turn for answers, and the stability offered by a company that’s been around for over one hundred years. Fisher Investments, where he now serves as GVP Talent Acquisition and Employer Brand, was uncharted territory and a fraction of the size of Wells Fargo.

As Kraljev discovered, however, a smaller firm doesn’t always mean leaner resources. In fact, he found a wealth of possibilities and advantages at Fisher. The move has given him valuable insight into leading employer brand at a small firm and building employer brand strategy from the ground up.

Myths About Employer Brand at Young, Small Firms

The percentage of employees dedicated to employer brand management at a given organization isn’t universal. Relative to its size, Fisher Investments has a large employer brand management team. This gave Kraljev and his department significant resources and capacity to make a change, despite starting from scratch.

Being small also allows for greater agility and faster growth. “Huge companies, they grow, they change, they evolve, but they don’t grow as quickly,” says Kraljev. Working for a company of 3,700—as opposed to multinational Wells Fargo, which employs hundreds of thousands—means signs of change have been more immediate, more visible, and more exciting to be a part of.

In addition, younger doesn’t always mean inexperienced and untested when it comes to the age of an institution. Though not as old as many finance industry giants, Fisher has been around since the late 1970s and is no stranger to hardship. When Kraljev stepped in to lead employer brand, he learned Fisher’s brand values were not unlike those at Wells Fargo, despite the many differences in their size, age, and client demographics.

Employer Brand with a Human Touch

The size of Fisher’s employer brand team has helped bring a human touch to the applicant journey. Applicants experience more human contact than they might get from other companies—a meaningful competitive advantage for Fisher.

That level of care, Kraljev acknowledges, may not be sustainable forever. “At some point, applicant volume and applicant interest can become so cumbersome that it can be really hard for that white-glove service.” In the meantime, Fisher’s employer brand team continues to fine-tune its acquisition process, identify points of drop-off, and boost support for applicants at each step of their journey.

Employer Brand Strategy with a Long-Term View

Employer brand managers may be familiar with the “cost to acquire” metric for evaluating success. Rather than cling to this somewhat old-school strategy, Kraljev’s team takes a deeper, more relational approach.

There is value in investing in the jobseeker experience even if the candidate doesn’t take a job at your company. Years may pass before they make their next career change, but when they do, they’ll remember an employer that cultivated a real relationship the last time around.

Metrics like cost-per-engagement give employer brand teams valuable information, but they’re not the end of the story. As Kraljev puts it, “You’re buying into the cycle of the candidate journey. While a lot of people value immediacy, we really want to get in it for the long haul.”

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up business-as-usual at Fisher, Kraljev has been using this time to learn and plan for growth. Much has changed about his career over the past year, but the motivating force behind his dedication to employer brand remains the same: connecting job-seekers with meaningful work and providing people with the means to support themselves and their loved ones.

To learn more about Aaron’s work in employer brand, follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter, or listen to his previous episode on working with Wells Fargo. For help building an EVP and identifying the values you want to create at your company, reach out to us.


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