Business Matters: Recruiting and retaining talent for SME growth | Blogs

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Rebecca Padgett, senior lecturer for employability and professional development at Leeds University Business School and facilitator of the Help to Grow: Management course, examines how SMEs can attract and retain new and diverse talent.

In a small business, your employees are your business, but finding the right employees is one of the hardest and most crucial aspects of any business – and it’s getting harder and harder.

Recent research shows that 79%[i] of companies struggle to find the right people. Since the pandemic, the combination of high numbers of people leaving their jobs and booming demand means that employers in sectors such as technology, manufacturing and service industries have faced labor shortages. -work.

The ensuing talent rush has seen companies recruit relentlessly and make accommodations to recruit workers, ranging from offering high starting salaries to flexible work arrangements.

Coupled with this is the war for retention, with 69%[ii] British workers willing to change jobs. Employees of European SMEs cite the main reasons for leaving as stressful working environments, lack of appreciation and lack of opportunities for career progression.

These challenges are exacerbated in the SMB community where there are often fewer resources and less brand recognition.

Since your competitive advantage comes from having and keeping top talent, here are my top tips on how SMB leaders can attract new and diverse talent, then retain them to grow with your business:

Differentiate yourself: incentives such as flexibility, part-time, remote work, and project work can offset the higher salaries that larger organizations typically offer.

Develop local educational partnerships with universities, colleges and schools: consider giving opportunities young talents through apprenticeships, internships and student placements. Cultivate the skills your business needs. The most innovative companies have a diverse workforce of varying ages, skills and backgrounds.

Harness the power of social media: LinkedIn is a great place to share stories about your small business culture to build company awareness, attract candidates, and help your employees feel proud to work for you.

Ask your employees what is important to them: you might be surprised by the results, but if you take the time to fully understand the attitudes and needs of your employees, it will pay off in the long run.

Create attractive benefits: develop a competitive benefits package that delivers value to all employees, not just some. A younger workforce might value the benefits of the gym and mobile phone, while a more mature workforce might prioritize family benefits.

lead by example: Small business leaders are always watched, and the negative impact of poor leadership can spread quickly through a team. People want to know that they are respected and appreciated. Saying “well done” and “thank you” costs nothing and goes a long way.

Use your access benefit: staff tend to communicate directly with management within SMEs, so use this to ensure staff feel valued and respected by taking their thoughts and ideas seriously.

Want to expand your business?

The Help to Grow: Management programme, run by Leeds University Business School, is designed for local small business owners and senior managers operating in small and medium-sized businesses, who want to grow.

This 12-week course offers 50 hours of hands-on training in leadership and business strategy, with one-on-one support, mentorship and peer learning networks.

Enroll in the Help to Grow: Management course and you’ll walk away with the skills and tools to innovate and build a plan for your next stage of growth.


[i] UK Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Recruitment Outlook, January 2022

[ii] The Great Resignation – Confronting Mass Exodus, Randstad UK, November 2021

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