Illustration by Oliver Makonjio

How to hire top talent when you can’t compete on compensation

Create your EVP, empower your employees, and prioritize recruiting

Tim Kunihiro
Nov 20, 2017 · 4 min read

Even as entrepreneurs raise more and more funding, limited funds still remains a top challenge for hiring, meaning that no matter what, competing for top talent on compensation is a losing battle for social and emerging market entrepreneurs.

In RippleWorks’ global research study, we found that a limited budget was by far the number one reason why emerging market entrepreneurs can’t hire the talent they need.

So, how can you attract and hire top talent as you compete against top employers in competitive markets? Here are three strategies.

Create your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

Entrepreneurs tend to be good at building great team culture and working environments, but the key step for recruiting is being able to operationalize and articulate your work culture. That’s where creating an EVP comes in.

An EVP is what makes people want to work at your company, and why they love to keep working there. But an EVP is more than a set of ideas or values — it’s the actual programs and benefits that fall under those values, and more importantly, how your current employees feel and interact with those values every single day.

Creating an EVP can reshape a company’s recruiting strategy. RippleWorks partnered with to help the social impact design firm attract top design talent. RippleWorks Expert-In-Residence Beth Steinberg, who was Facebook’s first VP of HR, worked with on reimagining its recruiting strategy, starting with creating an EVP.

Working with Beth, created its EVP by defining the values and employer promises that capture why is a special place to work. then identified what current benefits and programs exist under each of those values, which has allowed to invest in and operationalize those programs, as well as ideate more programs for where there were opportunities to do more.

Empower your employees to become ambassadors

One of the key benefits of building your EVP is that you are now able to equip your employees to be your ambassadors and sell your company as a place to work to their networks and strategic audiences. For, that has meant that as employees speak at conferences, attend industry events, and visit college campuses, they are now armed with talking points and proof points for why is an amazing place to work for up-and-coming designers.

Additionally, mobilizing your employees to recruit their networks is a valuable potential hiring engine. After all, great talent tends to know other great talent. Implementing referral programs with formal incentives can activate and motivate your team to recruit their networks.

As CEO, prioritize recruiting

In our research, we found that companies who tend to successfully overcome talent acquisition challenges were the ones led by CEOs who strategically prioritized recruiting in how they allocated their time and energy.

While social entrepreneurs are at a disadvantage when it comes to competing on paychecks, successful entrepreneurs like Fred Swaniker understand that they are tough to beat when it comes to a company’s mission and vision.

Having founded five different organizations throughout Africa, Swaniker has had to overcome all the obstacles of competing for top talent in emerging markets. His latest venture, African Leadership University, has been named by Fast Company as one of the most innovative companies in the world.

Swaniker makes his mission and vision central to his recruiting pitch, and allocates 50 percent of his time and energy as CEO to being personally involved in recruiting key hires.

“A huge part of the recruiting for an organization like mine is the vision of what we are building,” Swaniker told us. “Whoever joins my team needs to be sold on the vision. Who better to hear that from than me?”

While competing for top talent on compensation is an uphill battle for social ventures, an inspiring mission and vision is where you can hold a valuable advantage. Leveraging the tools at your disposal — like a winning EVP, your team, your leadership’s involvement — can make the difference in being able to successfully market that mission and vision to your future employees.

For a deeper insight into how to build your EVP, download our framework here.

Past blogs in this series on talent:

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