Employer branding has been a much-neglected aspect within social enterprises, but on the contrary, it is the most important one. Unlike, MNCs and Government organizations, social enterprises neither have the money or the fringe benefits to entice prospective employees to join their organization.
A social enterprise operates solely on the strength of their cause and depends on their friends and inner circles to join their pursuit. But, there is a downside to this. People who are willing to join the organization may not necessarily be qualified to shoulder the responsibilities with required finesse and which later results in substandard outputs. So how can social enterprises promote themselves as a fulfilling employer to acquire the right talent?
To share more insights on this, we have with us Victoria Lynden, social entrepreneur and founder of Kohana Coffee.
Why is Employer Branding important for Social Enterprises?
Victoria: So many reasons! The first is that you want employees who’ll bring a high level of energy and heart to your company who will overcome challenges presented by tight budgets and scarce resources. You want to position yourself as a unique and, most importantly, fulfilling employment destination in order to attract that kind of talent—especially since you can’t usually afford to pay top dollar. You have to compete on other things. Whatever you can offer in the way of extras or attitude. You also want to attract like-minded souls, kindred spirits who share your values and lessen the internal frictions that come when employees don’t get what you’re about. Employer branding is crucial to building that kind of simpatico staffing.
What are the activities Social Entrepreneurs can carry out under Employer Branding?
Victoria: Imagination is the only limit. If it’s something you can afford, are comfortable doing, and won’t disrupt the work that needs to get done, why not? I think it’s important to lead on values. So establishing company-wide initiatives that manifest those values externally is a good idea. People like to know they’re working for something bigger than a bottom line. Anything that carries that ideal into the larger community is great. Another big one is to establish a management culture of kindness and empathy, one that respects a healthy work-life balance. That’s a huge differentiation. Then there are the little things like free snacks or a ping-pong table, company events, staff massages, guest speakers… you name it. Offer enough of these and you’ll create something substantial.
As a social entrepreneur, what do you do to promote Kohana Coffee as a credible employer?
Victoria: We just try to walk our talk at every opportunity and let our actions speak for themselves. We put in a lot into our organic growing efforts and creating true sustainability on all levels. We have a blog that doesn’t really talk much about coffee but instead offers a conversation about all the other things that interest us. So when prospective employees look at us, they see these many other sides of who we are, that we’re more than just a coffee company but at the same time are dedicated to being the best coffee company we can be, and I think that’s an appealing combination.
Tell me more about Kohana Coffee. What has been your experience in working with the artisans at Kohana?
Victoria: Its just an amazing experience to be around so many people who care so much about what they’re doing and are so focused on the artistry of it. From our growers to our roasters to our brewers, everyone is utterly devoted to giving this and creating the perfect coffee it’s possible to drink. It’s incredibly gratifying to be surrounded by that level of commitment. For me, that’s what makes this so much more than a job. It feels much more like a calling because everyone here is so completely dedicated to the cause. We’re all on the same page and having a fantastic time working and playing together. It’s fun. And that’s life’s ultimate point, isn’t it?
That was very useful Victoria, Thank you!
About Victoria Lynden
Social entrepreneur Victoria Lynden has turned her passion for exploring different cultures and a commitment to making the world a brighter place into several lifetimes’ worth of unique business ventures.
In 1992, she founded Alliances Abroad, a program to boost cultural awareness and provide young people with international experiential learning opportunities. The organization’s success encouraged her to establish the Association of International Development and Exchange, a non-profit dedicated to creating socially responsible citizens and boosting the fortunes of communities around the world.
Several years later, Victoria opened Cissi’s Market, an urban food oasis in Austin Texas inspired by her late mother’s dream of owning her own neighborhood store.
Her latest endeavor came during a sudden rainstorm on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Caught on her bike by the unexpected squall, she took shelter in the only place available: a roadside coffee shack serving the most extraordinary cup she’d ever tasted. One sip led to another and in 2007 Kohana Coffee was born, a company with a mission to bring island-style slow roasting to mainland coffee drinkers and build a healthier, more sustainable world in the process.
Victoria and her family live in Austin,Texas.