Attracting Talent: How To Compete for the Best People when you’re an SME

How do you go about attracting talent when simply competing on salary and benefits isn’t something that’s an option for many small and medium businesses?

Published Categorised as HR Best Practice Tagged
2017-06-20 - Attracting-Talent-How-To-Compete-for-the-Best-People-when-you’re-an-SME - Lighter HR
2017-06-20 - Attracting-Talent-How-To-Compete-for-the-Best-People-when-you’re-an-SME - Lighter HR

Recent media reports are suggesting that there will be a real talent shortage following Brexit. So, how do you go about attracting talent when simply competing on salary and benefits isn’t something that’s an option for many SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises)?

1. Change in the Expectation of Workers

The changes in the expectations of workers could be really good news for SMEs.  SMEs already have to work differently when attracting talent and some of the techniques they use will probably put them in a great position in a more competitive market place.  Workers are no longer always chasing the largest salary and bonus package.  People now want work-life balance.  They want to feel motivated and valued and engaged.  They want to be doing a job that they feel passionately about.  

The concept of the traditional career path of joining a large company and working through the ranks until you reach the top is starting to feel very outdated.  The modern workforce (and I’m trying to avoid using the word Millennials but we know that’s what I’m driving at!) are no longer motivated purely by money and status roles.  Whilst some of these things may have been specific to Millennials, there’s now a realisation in the wider workforce that this group may have got some of their priorities right and changes are needed.

SMEs have always needed to find different ways to attract talent and now’s the time that these methods will really be put to the test.  SMEs have an advantage over some of the larger companies already in this area but it’s now time to get even more creative so as to remain ahead of the pack.

2. Outline the Pros of Working for an SME

As an SME, the first thing you need to make sure you’re clear on is the advantages of working for a smaller organisation.  If you’ve had personal experience in a large company then it’s likely that you know all of this already but if not, here are some highlights:

  • There’s usually a lot less red-tape to navigate.  Large organisations need more structure and rules simply otherwise chaos can ensue. SMEs can be far more agile and flexible.
  • Large organisations usually ask why they should do something (“why?”) and require a lot more convincing and you need to work to get a large number of people to buy-in and support your ideas.  Smaller organisations tend to what to explore why they shouldn’t do something (“why not?”). They are more open to trying different approaches, with the right controls in place obviously as it’s quicker for them to assess what’s working and what isn’t and take the necessary action if something turns out to be a bad idea.
  • You’re judged on your performance.  In many larger organisations it’s easy to hide if you’re not that good at what you do. That’s not the case in smaller organisations. This is obviously a plus for those who are talented but can leave you a bit exposed if you’re not so good!
  • What you do makes a difference. In a large organisation you can be one of thousands and it can be very difficult to really see whether you being there makes a difference or not. That’s not the same in smaller organisations. Everyone is required to add value and you can really make a difference very quickly.

These are just some generic differences and you can take your thinking to the next level and think about what’s different in your own organisation.

3. Develop the Right Leaders and Involve Them in Attracting Talent

According to a Deloitte study, modern leaders need to be:

  • Strategic thinkers;
  • Inspirational;
  • Personable; and
  • Relevant – people need to find at easy to relate to them.

You need to be making sure that your future leaders demonstrate these qualities and then you need them to be involved in your recruitment process.  Remember, your recruitment process is as much about selling your opportunity to the candidate as it is about testing to see if the candidate is right for the job.  Involve your very best people in the recruitment process so that candidates can see that the best choose to work for your organisation.  They’ll see the calibre of people that they’ll be surrounded by and it will make them want to join.

4. Think About Your Recruitment Process

The bog standard interview is unlikely to cut it any more.  You want to build enthusiasm and excitement in your candidates from as early on in your recruitment process as possible.  You want them to leave each stage of your process wanting the role with your company more and more.  You need to make them feel as though they have worked for the job when they get it and get them bought into your brand before they even arrive.

This doesn’t happen by luck.  You need to really think about your recruitment process.  Yes, you’re likely going to need to do some form of interview but what else can you do that helps the candidates to demonstrate their skills in a different way?  What if you see all of the candidates together and ask them to complete some form of group activity?  Can they shadow someone for a couple of hours to get a real feel for your company and the role?

5. Grow Your Own

Graduate training programmes have always been seen to be something that large organisations do but it doesn’t have to be that way.  With some thought and planning, SMEs can also create successful graduate programmes allowing them to grow their own talent.  It isn’t as daunting a task as it may seem and it could be a great way to make sure that you have the skills you need to grow your business.

Of course, once you’ve got them in the door you need to keep them but that’s a blog post for another day!

If you’d like any help at all with attracting or retaining talent then give us a call on 0203 319 1649 and one of our consultants will be happy to talk to you.

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