Allison Grant an employment lawyer who has advised SMEs for over 20 years highlights some key points on how to attract talent in an SME...
"As an employment lawyer who has advised SMEs for over 20 years I have become familiar with the reasons why talented employees remain with a business, and the triggers that cause them to leave.
SMEs rely heavily on talented employees to help them grow.
Great employees create great businesses - for SMEs to attract, and retain, talent, there are a few points to bear in mind:
Focus on work culture
Ensure the work culture is positive and nurturing of a healthy relationship between senior management and the people who work within the business. An all embracing culture is far better than an exclusive culture where office politics is rife.
Increasingly, I have found that office politics can be particularly damaging. Yes, have a hierarchy to structure the business but don’t allow that same hierarchy to generate an unhealthy pecking order as this will cause resentment and ultimately, staff will leave. Form a culture committee, made up of all levels of your workforce. Find out what is right and not so right about the internal running of your business and do something about it.
Focus on company values
Ensure you have a visible and active culture in place, supported by company statements and values that promote and require all employees to behave with respect towards each other. Increasingly bullying and inappropriate behaviour, again often taking the form of office politics, causes poor morale, heightened sickness absence and triggers grievances.
Invariably once an employee has felt sufficiently aggrieved to raise a grievance, the relationship for the employee has already reached the irretrievable breakdown stage, and it is difficult if in this situation to salvage a relationship to foster long term commitment to the business.
A healthy culture will promote team spirit and unity. An SME has an advantage over a large organisation - the number of employees is smaller so it is easier to construct a friendlier and close-knit environment within the business and amongst the people.
Make work/life balance a priority
SMEs cannot always compete with larger businesses on pay, however these large salaries come at a cost for employees - they end up working long hours. An SME can turn the screw on larger businesses by offering a superior work/life balance; a concept which has become more important to people who are fed up of slaving away whilst losing out on valuable time with friends and family.
Giving employees an attractive work/life balance and making it a central part of your package might well be a hugely significant factor in retaining your best talent, as it boldly challenges them to weigh up whether they consider money or their lives to be more important.
A flexible working policy is usually housed in the staff handbook. That said you do need to practice what your policy says, and not rely on the staff to go to senior management to request a better work/life balance. It is far better that you are pro-active to promote this.
Create an open door policy
A further link to culture is to have an open door policy. All the way open, all the time.
Some companies have senior executives sit alongside employees, promoting day-to-day interaction. Connected to this is to listen. Provide access to forums and channels for employees to express their ideas, opinions, and concerns with leadership, and then respond to every enquiry or comment. Keeping an open line of communication with your employees and setting aside the time to listen to them is an understated but effective and common sense way of creating a sense of loyalty on their part and making them stay with the organisation.
Offer competitive pay and perks
Do some market research, pay salaries that are competitive and offer fair and incentivised wage rises wherever possible. Also provide the benefits that matter.
An onsite fitness centre may not be in the budget, but a subsidy for a local gym membership may have a greater impact - supporting wellness. Also recommend the carryover of leftover annual leave from the previous holiday year, have dress down days, provide some free confectionary/fruit, and organise social time out for work colleagues to bond and feel more so a sense of belonging with the business. Employees are more likely to become attached to an organisation business where the work they do is valued and recognised, conducive of a healthy work environment.
Pay attention to career development
The fewer amount of employees in an SME makes it easier to keep a closer eye on individual development, and as much as you are able and the business permits, to match expectation with personal career progression.
It is true that not all employees value the appraisal process; however this is invariably because the employer does not carry out an effective appraisal process, and ends up being largely meaningless. Review your appraisal process; think about how the business can convey messages through appraisals to engender loyalty to the business. If done properly this is an important way of boosting morale and ensuring you retain staff and