February 9th 2023
By: Andréanne Thibault

The SME and its Employer Brand: A World of Possibilities! 

With SME month coming to a close, I would have regretted not speaking on the subject.

Those who know me know that I have a special love for SMEs.

They have a “li’l somethin” (as my colleague from NB would say).

Their flexibility, their ability to adapt, their dynamism, their human scale (proximity to employees) are considerable assets, desired by many and often difficult to find in large organizations.

However, I have noticed that many of them are unable to perceive their own strengths, let alone put them forward.

I also note a general lack of understanding of the concept of employer branding, which many of them confuse with a purely marketing approach (external visibility).

So I want to clarify this:

Every organization has the power to work on or improve its employer brand.

I could have highlighted it, capitalized it, surrounded it with bright arrows and stars.

Do you get my point?

Without repeating the content of a previous article where I distinguished HR marketing from employer branding, it is important to remember that employer branding is not only for candidates (external) but ALSO and ESPECIALLY for your employees.

They are at the heart of your employer brand. You may have the most beautiful website, huge posters on the side of the highway, your logo on the back of every bus in town, a sandwich board man on the side of the street, or even a jingle.

It’s a guaranteed flop…. and a lot of money and effort down the drain (no matter how big your organization is).

So, here’s a summary of my advice if you want to start an employer brand project quickly (because we all have a big day ahead of us and 50 emails to answer).

BEFORE: Questions to ask yourself

  • Issues: What are your organization’s current HR challenges?

Of course, the classic one is “finding people”- apparently there is a shortage (if you haven’t heard of it before).

But beyond finding candidates, consider the other issues your organization is facing:

  • Staff turnover?
  • Staff burnout?
  • Difficulty meeting your goals?
  • Inability to meet clients’ demands?
  • Lack of motivation?

Remember that many problems are regularly interrelated; that they are not in distinct silos, and that they therefore have a domino effect on each other.

  • Objectives: What are the goals of the process?
  • Resources: Who will be assigned to the project?

My recommendation is to ensure that HR and marketing work together on this project.

  • Budget: What is the amount available?

*Although HR is too often the poor relative of organizations, I recommend that you take the time to calculate your return on investment (ROI) for this project. It is insightful and allows you to better frame the approach financially… and most importantly, its impact on your business and, of course, on all the people who work there!

*Did you know that the majority of these steps can be subsidized?


  • Addressing the internal before the external is the foundation of a viable employer brand.
  • Listen to the people who matter most – your employees!
  • Get them to talk about their employee experience.
  • Surveys, one-on-one interviews, group workshops, several strategies are available.


  • Communicate, communicate, communicate!

The “why” of the project, the results obtained, the progress of the steps or the project. This shows a minimum of respect for them and demonstrates your genuine concern for improvement. 

  • Beware of expectation management. 

If your vision is to simply know what is going well and not to pay attention to the rest…this is a risk.

  • Humility and openness: This exercise may shake your ego a bit. Remember that you need the real pulse to move forward and improve.


The external component should be the last step.

It is the most visible one since it becomes concrete in various marketing contents (social media, career page, slogan, colors, etc.).

A few tips:

  • No need to shoot everywhere all at once: Go strategically according to your target audience and budget.
  • The ideation & content creation component is different from the deployment component: In other words, if you spend all your budget on the first part, you won’t have any left to roll out said content! So prepare a separate budget for each portion.
  • Involve internal employees if possible: Do you have employees with graphic design talents? Creative and computer savvy (e.g., for your website) or social media? Maybe they would like to contribute to the project?

In short, the concept of employer branding applies to all organizations – including SMEs! You have multiple assets that are easily and quickly recognizable to the outside world.

Involve and listen to your employees for the rest, target their concerns, understand their frustrations, and prioritize the actions that matter most to them.

Of course, I’m only saying that, but I’d be happy to guide you through this process 😉!

Andréanne Thibault, CRIA

Senior consultant, Talent Management