How to attract and retain talent in a small business


Running a small business is all about the people. But when the talent pool we have to recruit from is shrinking, this can become increasingly challenging. 

That’s why it’s crucial for today’s small businesses to adapt. And the quicker they do it, the more resilient they’ll be in the future by having the best people for the jobs.

The workforce problem and why it’s more difficult to get the right people

More people are leaving the country and fewer are coming in1. There’s also a decline in younger workers - by 2020 there will be 130,000 fewer under 25s2, meaning a shortage of graduates and apprentices.

What’s more, we have an ageing workforce - the number of over 50s has increased by 230,000 in the last year, while the number of under 50s3 has barely changed. With such changes in demographics, some industries are likely to be affected more than others.

Planning for recruitment with workforce shortage.

The good news is that byknowing this right now means employers have a chance to put a plan in place.

And it all starts by understanding your staff’s needs. What’s important to them? It could be everything from defined career path, flexible working and appropriate employee benefits that make a difference to their lives.

But you might think these are things for big businesses. In fact, defining a career progression is just as important for smaller companies too, as they can benefit from people that can take their business to the next level. And that’s not all, letting potential recruits know that you welcome and support ambition can also help you be more attractive, as well as ensure people stay with you for longer.

At first glance it may seem difficult to put all of this in place, especially for smaller companies. But you may be doing a lot of it already. After all, you’re in business, so you must be doing a lot of things right. Sometimes, it can be as easy as documenting such opportunities, and communicating them.

Retain great people by making them feel more engaged with meaningful work, giving back opportunities and employee benefits.

If you want to make employees feel engaged, it’s important they understand the role their job plays in the overall company’s objectives. If they don’t, staff can feel isolated and disenfranchised. So regardless of their level, it’s important that everyone understands the company’s objectives, and how their role contributes. Along with career progression plans, this can motivate people for a long time.

Give back to the community.

As well as improving the workplace environment, it’s also worth looking outside your business too. By becoming an integral part of the community, and showing that you believe in wider issues than the company’s bottom line, this can unite your employees in a common cause. It’s a great boost to team-building and employee engagement. And, of course, it’s a good thing to do.

Building the right Employee Value Proposition.

A competitive remuneration and benefits package is the foundation on which a strong Employee Value Proposition is built. This could be in the form of the benefits an employee receives, in exchange for the skills and experience they bring.

Salary, of course, is an important factor. However, a well thought through benefits package can be a great boost to overall remuneration, as well as help staff feel valued by the company. The thought that goes into arranging benefits demonstrates to staff that you’re taking their wellbeing into account.

Benefits for staff benefit businesses.

The right employee benefits not only help businesses attract the right people, it also helps retain them.

Private Medical Insurance and other healthcare options that can support the wellbeing of staff, as well as employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and health cash plans, are a great way to do this. Helping staff get a quicker diagnosis and access to earlier treatment can mean a faster recovery, which ultimately means less time off work - a win-win for employee and employer.

Group protection is also a good option. This includes benefits like life assurance, income protection and critical illness that can offer a valuable financial benefit when needed. For example, income protection supports an employee if they’re unable to work through ill-health or disability. There’s also the ability to add additional assistance, such as fast-track access to counselling, second medical opinions, as well as mental health first aid training for managers to spot the signs of mental ill-health.

Benefits like this can reduce absence as well as expedite returns to work. So it’s not just good for employees, it’s good for businesses too – especially smaller companies where staff absence can have a huge impact.

Presenteeism is another issue for employees, where people are present at work but distracted by their own financial worries. Research shows 58% of employees are affected by money concerns4. Employers can support their staff’s financial wellbeing in a number of ways, including offering access to financial education, money management, budgeting and debt-counselling.

Start looking after your employees today – it’s easier than you might think

So as you can see, looking after your employees is also looking after your business, and shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to performance and bottom line. The more you can make staff feel valued and a real part of your business, the more they will be able to give back.

After all, when people thrive, businesses thrive.


1 Office for National Statistics, Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: May 2017, published 25 May 2017
2, 3 https://www.uk.mercer.com/our-thinking/career/workforce-monitor-august-2017-update.html
4 https://www.neyber.co.uk/employers/aboutourbenefit

Disclaimer: This article has been written in collaboration with Legal & General, one of Elect’s insurance providers. It is for information only and is not specific advice. It is based on our current understanding of the attributed research which may change in the future.

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