Employment Brand is your new killer app
Daneal Charney, Director of Talent Services at MaRSManda Cuthbertson, Manager of Talent Services at MaRS

Fast-growing employers are building great brands around their talent offering and MaRS Talent is helping them do it.

Competitive compensation may be the price of admission when it comes to building a supercharged team, but employer brand is the “killer app” companies are using to become a magnet for talent and drive measurable results.

“As a scaling company, we don’t have time to get it wrong. The scarcity of talent means you have to invest in your talent brand, because if you don’t have the best people, you don’t have the best company.”
– Axle Davids, VP Brand @ Swift Medical

Powerful employer brands are rooted in talent insight, so MaRS Talent set out to help its scaling ventures to better understand the experiences of tech sector workers and learn more about what they want from a career opportunity. Earlier this year we talked to talent currently working in start-ups and scaling companies, along with tech curious talent across early, mid and senior career segments.  Here are the top three findings ecosystem employers need to know about what matters most to tech sector talent.


What Talent Wants

Growth and Stretch opportunities rank high on the must-have list for top talent at all levels, and fast-growing companies are uniquely positioned to deliver these career experiences. The agile nature and fast pace of the tech sector makes it easy for employees with hustle to build capabilities in across the business, quickly amplifying skill development for those looking to grow. Kyle Tibbitts, an executive at Open Door, points to the 3-5X rate-of-learning at start-ups as arguably the most valuable part of your compensation, with a direct impact on your future opportunities and marketability.

Skilled talent expects autonomy and freedom – and they do their best work when it is afforded. Top contributors want to ask hard questions, try new things, and take risks in order to get to the best solutions quickly. Organizations and leaders who can deliver a career experience where ideas are valued and employees have opportunities to explore new ways of doing things will attract the best talent to their teams.

 “Do you want to be able to tell your boss you‘ve got a better way? In a corporate world, that’s career limiting. In a startup, it’s expected.”
– James Melvin, Head of Technology Innovation & Security @ Rattlehub Digital

Driven contributors thrive on impactful outcomes. Being part of bringing a big, exciting idea to market generates a unique dynamism and top talent love the adrenaline rush. What’s more, companies who can clearly articulate the social impact of their work have the upper hand in attracting these highly motivated personas.

 “At a start-up the end goal is always extraordinary. The marriage that we’ve formed between awesome tech and real impact is rare in this, or any industry.”  – Prashant Viswanathan, VP of Engineering @ Swift Medical


Best workplaces invest in an amazing brand experience for talent

The 2017 Great Place to Work Report shared 5 key trends of top employers: 1) less top-heavy management, 2) intrapreneurial spirt; 3) inclusion; 4) deep sense of purpose; 5) strong analytics. We have seen a steady increase of fast growing tech companies on these top employer lists because the first four trends are pretty much part of the DNA of these companies. In the 2018 Global Brand Health Report by Hired, three of the top 10 Toronto employer brands were scaling tech companies (Shopify, Freshbooks, Flipp).

At MaRS Talent Services, we are increasingly seeing early stage companies receive accolades and recognition for their employer brands and exceptional employee experiences, a trend we’re confident will continue to grow.  These companies have the advantage of moving with speed to ensure their employee experience aligns with their talent brand promise. Following the Netflix’s example, fast growing companies like Ratehub and Soapbox are transparent about every detail of their culture to help talent opt in (and even opt out) of joining them.

Ample Organics, a software company for the cannabis industry, was ranked as one of Canada’s top start-ups to work for in 2018. At only four years old, Ample is making a big impression on talent looking to build a career in this emerging industry. They are doing a great job of communicating their brand to talent and showcasing the incredible opportunities that exist for those prepared to innovate in the space.

Another scaling company to watch is Wattpad, a multi-platform entertainment company. They have put a serious stake in the ground around diversity and inclusion, publishing an annual survey in an effort to demonstrate transparency and share how they are working to build an inclusive workplace. This ongoing conversation is a great example of how leaders can get behind the issues that matter in their organizations while shaping employer brand perceptions in a genuine way.



Want to build a more robust employer brand identity for your organization? Start now with the following actionable recommendations.


1. Check Your Assumptions

Knowing how talent experiences your employer brand is a fundamental first step in this work, so take the time to ensure you have a good handle on what candidates, employees and top industry talent think about your organization as a place to work.

2. Flex Your Thinking

Expand your definition of total rewards. Compensation must be competitive, but we know that highly skilled talent looks for more. Start-ups and scale-ups can deliver the career experiences top talent want.

3. Make a Commitment

Decide where to focus and commit. Build employee experience and talent brand goals into your operational plan – this is continuous work requiring time and resources.

Top employer status increasingly belongs to those who pay attention to what talent wants and respond with a thoughtful and differentiated employer brand offering. Companies that can design an employee experience aligned to employer brand will win hearts and minds, and a deep bench of strong talent for future growth.