How small firms can compete with large businesses for top talent

by Jake Martin, Title Text

3 min read

©iStockphoto.com/francisblack

Research from Careerbuilder tells us that large employer brands like Coca Cola, IBM and Google will attract 3.5 times as many job applicants per posting as other comparable companies.

The idea that bigger employer brands are more attractive to talent is also backed up by another study by the Employer Branding Institute which found that 49% of employees surveyed said that the employer’s reputation was a key influencer in deciding where to work.

Since bigger brand employers have an advantage when attracting top talent, it follows that smaller, lesser-known businesses with ‘weaker brands’ may find it harder to attract the best candidates in the face of fierce competition from more dominant larger employers.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though – if smaller firms can build talent attraction strategies that play to their own unique strengths as a small business, they should be able to compete more effectively with larger business in the skills marketplace.

Developing a competitive hiring strategy

There are a series of steps to follow to develop a hiring strategy that leverages your strengths as a small employer. The first of these is to establish what differentiates you from larger employers – that is, what is your small firm employer value proposition (EVP)?

Recent research by American Express Business Monitor has shed some light on what factors/perks small business are currently using to differentiate themselves from larger employers during the hiring process. The top three factors/perks were:

  • Flexible working hours
  • Work from home options
  • Independence

It appears that as a result of their inherent bureaucracy, hierarchy and strict procedures, larger firms are simply not able to match small businesses in these three areas.

Small businesses may be able to attract talent away from big businesses by basing their EVP on these three factors/perks.

You can and should also develop your own insights into your small business EVP (in addition to those provided by studies), and you can do this by conducting ‘stay interviews’. These involve sitting down with your current employees, either as a team or one by one, and asking them why they joined your company, what keeps them there and what they like most about the culture and environment.

Communicating your offer

Having established your small business EVP, it is important that this is reflected in your employer brand and communicated to your staff and job candidates. So, how can this be achieved?

Simply, it means developing and formalising your chosen small business EVP, which may be telecommuting and flexible working policies, and bringing much more focus and attention on the varied work, job flexibility and independence that is inherent in smaller companies relative to larger businesses. These messages and polices should be reflected in the careers and company culture section of your website, in any employer marketing collateral, and on external job descriptions.

Your HR staff and hiring managers should reinforce these messages throughout the recruitment process, which means that interviewees should be informed as to the unique benefits of working for you, a smaller employer.

If you can establish your own small business employer value proposition based on firm insights, both external and internal, you can engage more effectively in the war for talent against larger employer brands and other small firms in your sphere.

Do you have any insights as to what small businesses can do to compete with larger businesses for talented staff?

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Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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