Becoming an employer of choice as a small business

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Attracting and retaining top talent

If you’re running a small or mid-sized business, the contribution of each person in your team really matters. That means you need to hire the right people from the outset and incentivise the top performers to stick with your company as it grows and evolves. That’s easier said than done when you are competing with larger companies for top talent. The goal is to be an employer of choice.

The good news is that small businesses who think about attracting and retaining people in creative ways can make their size work in their favour. Sure, you probably can’t compete with the remuneration a larger company can offer, but you can give each person more of an opportunity to grow, develop and make a difference, as well as a more flexible working environment.

Here are four tips about how you can recruit and attract the best people:

  1. Create a culture that resonates with your ideal employee
  2. Offer a personalised work experience
  3. Recognise and reward employees
  4. Optimise your hiring process

Let’s dive into the ways you can hire and keep top talent.

1. Create a culture that resonates with your ideal employee

As you hire more people, your company will begin to develop an internal culture. This means the way people think, behave and interact within the business. As the owner of the business, you should seek to consciously create a culture that reflects your vision and values. This will help you create a workplace that will attract the sort of people who share your goals and philosophies.

This is especially important when you’re looking for good young talent. Many centennials and millennials are not just looking for money, but also for a company that offers them purposeful work and that fits with their values and beliefs. Some of the things you could consider in creating a company culture include:

  • What are your values? Put them in writing and live them out for your employees. It’s important to lead by example. For instance, if you want your business to be customer-focused, prove you are always available to solve a customer’s problem.
  • Define the sort of person you want to attract to your company. Each person you hire in a small team will shape the culture, so think about the qualities you value and hire people who reflect them.
  • Think about the perks, work content and workplace environment that will be attractive to your ideal candidates. For example, if you’re running a software development firm, consider how you will offer keen young talent challenging work and opportunities for advancement.
  • Which behaviours will you reward and which will you disincentivise? For example, if you want teamwork, how will you create systems and incentives that get people to work closely together?
  • Company rituals are a great way to build a culture and bring people together. Whether it’s a monthly pub quiz evening, a quarterly adventure like a canopy tour or an annual getaway for brainstorming, give people the chance to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting. Even an hour for coffee, croissants and chatting every second Friday can do the trick.
  • Focus on individual coaching and career development. A small company might not have a dedicated HR team, but the owner or one of the directors should take charge of helping people develop their careers. Make a point of giving each employee a formal performance review once a year, where you can discuss their career goals, how you can help them perform better, and their training and skills development needs. Make time for regular feedback sessions in between each annual review.

2. Offer a personalised work experience

A hands-on small business owner should get to know each member of the team well. Be flexible in giving them a workplace environment that matches their needs and personalities.

For example, you can give ambitious high-flyers more challenging work and opportunities for training. This will keep them stimulated and excited at work. Or you can offer flexible working hours or the possibility of telecommuting to those that don’t need to be in your office to do their jobs.

It is important to be clear, fair and consistent, however. It might be wise to draw up a short company policy that defines when someone may work from home or get company funded training to avoid perceptions that some people are getting special treatment.

 3. Recognise and reward employees

One of the best ways to keep employees engaged and energised at work is to recognise their achievements, reward them for good work and going beyond the call of duty.

Small, sincere gestures can go a long way too, even if you don’t have a massive budget to throw around. For example, a public e-mail thanking the design team for pulling an all-nighter to meet a client’s deadline will be well-received, as will an extra day of paid time off.

There are many small ways to say thank you such as a ticket to the rugby, cricket or football, a fruit basket, or ordering pizzas for lunch to celebrate closing a big project. It’s also important to recognise talent. For example, if you have an employee who is an expert in something, let them write a blog for you or shoot a video for social media. It will not only help build your business brand, but also reward and motivate them because you are showing a trust and commitment to their skills.

4. Optimise your hiring process

Hiring the right people from the start will help you build a great company culture, improve employee retention and drive better company performance. Here are a few ways to optimise your hiring process:

  • Spice up your job ads. Take the time to write appealing job advertisements when you’re hiring for a new role. Describe the qualities of the person you are looking for to fill the role. Don’t just write up a laundry list of skill and qualification requirements. Talk about your company culture and the perks of working for your company.
  • Look for talent in the right places. Think about where you might be able to source the right people to work for your company. Employee referrals can be a great way to find people who will fit in with your company. Or you could partner with a local university to find graduates. Also, consider which websites and social media channels your candidates might use and target them there. Having a website that showcases your company’s philosophy and benefits will ensure any potential candidates know who they may potentially be working for. Your website, which can be created through easy-to-use website builders, is generally the go-to place for anyone considering your company, regardless of size.
  • Interview efficiently. Only call in the best candidates for face-to-face interviews. Remember, each interview will take around 30 to 60 minutes of your time. If there are some that you are not sure about, you can set up a shorter telephonic interview to establish whether they should come in to see you.
  • Hire in haste, repent at leisure. Take your time to hire the right person, even if you’re under pressure to fill a position. It can be difficult and expensive to move someone out of the company if they don’t fit in or are unable to do the job. You’ll lose more time through a bad hire than you will from waiting an extra month or two for the right person. If you anticipate you will need someone in six months or a year, start searching now rather than when you will need them on board.

People are the foundation of your success

From the small coffee shop with a handful of waiters and kitchen staff to the largest multinational, every business depends on its people to grow and succeed. Hiring and keeping the right talent is one of the best ways you can build a thriving business. It is a facet of your business that deserves close strategic focus.

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