Try to be Flexible: Hows SMEs Can Attract Staff


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It may once have been true that the most talented individuals would look for employment at large, well-known companies. Substantial budgets allow big organisations to offer higher salaries and broad ranging benefits. However, it is becoming increasingly the case that talented people seek the informal environment and varied workload offered by SMEs. Big salaries have become less important than overall job satisfaction, which is dependent on a myriad factors.

There are countless advantages of working for an SME. Firstly, there are fewer employees and so staff members are able to build rewarding relationships, thus forming solid, more productive teams. A Great Place to Work, a global human resources firm, studied successful workplaces for 30 years and reported that “investing in a high-trust workplace culture yields distinct, tangible business benefits” including attracting “better quality job applicants”.[1] Furthermore, most employees will have the opportunity to work closely with senior management, so work is more likely to get noticed and ideas are more likely to be heard. The environment of an SME is generally less formal and bureaucratic and the work more varied; this keeps employees engaged and drives productivity.

The best employees are most likely to be career-focused people. As such, you will need to show them that you can offer promotion possibilities that come with additional perks along with additional responsibilities. SMEs typically have fewer employees than larger companies and so there is more opportunity to demonstrate creativity and skill. Let potential recruits know that there is room within your SME to develop and flourish and that their efforts will be rewarded with appropriate promotion.

SMEs that are recruiting must focus on projecting the message that their work environment is more progressive and desirable than that of a larger company. A company website is an excellent shop window: photographs and website content (blog posts, for example) should reflect the flexible, exciting environment you can offer as an SME. Optimise your use of social media to connect with younger talent and extol the benefits of working for an SME.

Attaining a better work/life balance has become a high priority for most employees and SMEs are best placed to offer desirable flexible working hours. According to recruitment agency Robert Half, 29% of HR executives found that work flexibility was the main motivator for staff members.[2] The offer of split-shifts, customised hours or telecommuting will appeal to potential workers, particularly those with young families.

An excellent benefit scheme is a way for SMEs to attract high-calibre employees. In their most recent annual trends survey, MetLife reported that in 2014, employees who claimed to be very satisfied with their workplace benefits were almost four times more likely to be very satisfied with their jobs.[3] Similarly, a study by Bupa last year found that 42% of SME workers felt that workplace benefits were the most important consideration when choosing a job.[4] This is good news for SMEs who may often find it easier to make changes to their benefit schemes compared with larger organisations and so are able to integrate features that will appeal to new recruits.

Flexible benefit plans allow employees to select the additional benefits that best suit their lives, such as increased pension contributions, childcare vouchers, subsidised training, and access to mentoring, company cars and entertainment incentives. Healthcare is one workplace benefit that is increasingly in demand as it offers real value to employees.

Attracting the best recruits may seem like a daunting task for some SMEs. But, in actuality, SMEs are more than able to attract staff by capitalising on those aspects of their work environment that separate them from large organisations. Flexibility is of primary importance in the battle for human capital so don’t underestimate the power of a flexible benefit package, not only to motivate existing employees but also to attract new recruits.


Mark Howlett

Chief Executive