Five steps to attracting the best talent

Small businesses face fierce competition in attracting the best talent, so how can they develop an edge?


Cast an eye over the website of any FTSE 100 company, and you’re likely to find a whole section devoted to attracting new talent. Inside the UK’s leading companies there’s hoards of HR teams, constantly working away to bring the best brains into their business.

This puts small businesses at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to attracting talent, but it’s still possible to bring in great staff and beat big business to the best. Here’s how.

Step one: create a culture

You may not have mountains of sterling as a small business or startup, but what you can offer is a culture distinct to that of the corporates.

At the recent Future of British Business Growth event Innocent’s Richard Reed emphasised the importance this played in their success. In a crowded jobs market Innocent were an interesting alternative, their ethical approach to business capturing talent that could have gone elsewhere.

Of course, we can’t all be like Innocent but their success offers valuable lessons. Differentiate yourself and win new recruits with a culture that sets you apart.

Step two: learn from John Cadbury

Back in the 1800’s the Cadbury’s founder built a village for his workers, so he could spare them from the grim conditions elsewhere in Victorian England.

Created entirely at his own expense he made the surroundings idyllic, with the result an engaged workforce that built one of Britain’s biggest confectionery companies.

The lesson here is to create a business that goes the extra yard for its employees. Whether it’s through flexi-working or little perks like a free day off on their birthday, appreciate that employees aren’t androids – they ought to be treated like humans. Abide by this in your HR philosophy and you’ll be a more attractive proposition.

Step three: aid ambition

To win the top talent you’ll need to convince that your business is the best place to grow.

There’s no magic way to reflect this, as actions speak louder than words. A good start is solid goal setting though, backed up by agreements if they’re achieved. The best recruits will always want assurances that you’re the right the place to further their career.

Embrace your position as a small business, and free it of rigid, hierarchal structures. Make it somewhere people can get their hands dirty and pick up new skills in the process.

Step four: construct a reward scheme

It can be a struggle to match big business when it comes to salaries, but a fair reward scheme can bridge the gap without breaking the bank.

The John Lewis Group provide an excellent example of how to this effectively, with staff receiving bonuses annually in line with the company’s profits and growth.

This sort of approach is much more sustainable as a small business, with the promise of a lucrative reward scheme potentially appealing too.

Step five: and finally, shout about your success

Award wins can prove a powerful tool in your recruitment arsenal.

If you can point to acclaim from initiatives like The Times Best 100 Small Companies to Work For, then you’re making your business more attractive to potential new recruits. Elsewhere, enter awards specific to your industry, so you can point to credible success that shows you’re the place to be.

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