How to compete with big companies for the best talent

Claire Harvey of Reed

By Claire Harvey, Managing Director, Core Network, Reed

Small businesses are having to work harder to attract the best talent. Not only are they competing with bigger businesses that can offer generous pay and benefits packages, they are also trying to attract talented professionals in a candidate-driven market.

Below are five things you can do to remain competitive and secure the best talent to help your business grow.

Consider career changers before you advertise

Compared to pre-pandemic, there’s a much wider pool of potential professionals  – particularly if recruiters proactively consider applicants outside of their immediate sector.

To maximise the reach of job adverts, consider using a variety of wording for skillsets and job titles in the job description as this will increase the discoverability of vacancies in job-seeker searches.

As for reviewing applications, SMEs would do well to think beyond the individual’s most recent job title and, instead, assess each applicant based on the actual skills, experience and education they can bring.

Remain competitive against the market

When analysing job listings, we found that average salaries have increased 4 per cent this year. After a decade of stagnant wages, there have been double-digit percentage increases in salaries in the hospitality (+18%) and retail (+10%) sectors so far in 2021 compared with 2020 and 2019 – far exceeding the average rate of increase for other sectors.

For businesses in a position to do so, the logic is clear: raising salaries will help drive applications. And don’t just boost salaries – advertise them too. Job adverts that display a salary range receive 43 per cent more applications than those that don’t. No matter which way you look at it, money talks.

Businesses are also getting creative to encourage applications. For example, many restaurants and others in hospitality are offering incentives and referral bonuses for those that help bring in successful hires, in order to on-board new staff without delay.

Be flexible

Over half of job seekers said they want to work from home for at least part of the week. And with ‘work from home’ being one of the most popular search terms from job-seekers so far in 2021, it’s not something to be overlooked in job adverts.

Albeit not possible in all roles, if businesses can accommodate flexible hours, a hybrid working model or fully remote work options, be sure to clearly call this out in job adverts in order to appeal to as wide a candidate pool as possible.

Think about other incentives

They are a great way of adding additional talent pulling power to your company. Often, if you cannot afford the highest of salaried for a role, the perks you offer can be vital.

A survey conducted by Reed at the end of 2020 highlighted the benefits that were most important to professionals. These included remote working, flexibility, generous pensions, performance bonuses, health insurance and more paid time off.

You may also want to consider the ‘soft perks’ you can offer to complement compensation and benefits packages. Offering these are natural happiness-boosters in the day-to-day life of workers, the power of which shouldn’t be underestimated. These can include prize or monetary gifts, career development packages, subscriptions to mental health apps, team building days or meal subscriptions.

While the little things count, it is now more essential than ever for companies to think more deeply about their employees’ needs and wants. With many forced to spend prolonged periods working from home during the pandemic, people have benefited from more time and a more fluid way of working – something that people won’t want to give up anytime soon.

The importance of company culture

It can be easy to overlook the importance of selling a business’ employee value proposition (EVP) whilst bulking out job descriptions. But missing the bullseye here can create a big mismatch between expectations and reality through the hiring process.

In fact, according to a study by Leadership IQ, only 20 per cent of companies have clearly defined the attitudes and characteristics separating their culture from competing organisations.

SMEs can overcome this by focusing on how it is perceived from within to identify what unique qualities, values and benefits ring the truest across its workforce.

Take time to detail the approach and offerings a business has when it comes to elements such as employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, mental health, on-the-job learning and development, and so on. When packaged together, this can form a business’ own effective USP to help secure talented individuals.

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