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How SMEs can compete to attract top talent

Just as consumer branding aims to build positive recognition for a product with its current and potential customers, employer branding aims to build positive recognition for an organisation with its current and potential employees. 

Employer branding is particularly important for SMEs.  While they are often incredibly dynamic and attractive places to work, some job seekers assume that larger organisations can offer them more — whether that takes the form of a bigger salary, greater opportunities for progression, or more perks. SMEs, therefore, need to go the extra mile to demonstrate they’re a highly desirable place of work, especially when they’re competing with large, well-established organisations. 

For SMEs, the key to attracting top talent is to focus on the unique qualities and strengths that only they can bring to the table. Below are some examples of what these attributes might be and how to leverage these in recruiting. 

Individuals have a direct impact on the business

One of the most attractive things about working for an SME is an individual’s potential influence within the organisation. At a smaller organisation, each employee is essential to the company’s success and can have a say in its direction. 

There are countless examples of SMEs that have gone on to have a significant impact and become leading brands. Two local examples include Zoe Foster Blake’s skincare company Go-To Skin, which generated $38.6 million in profit last financial year with less than 50 employees. Another is Who Gives a Crap – the Australian social enterprise with cheeky marketing was founded by three friends in 2012 via a crowdfunding campaign. The team consists of around 100 employees now, and by donating fifty per cent of sales, has gone on to donate over $10 million to projects ensuring everyone has access to clean water and a toilet.

You get to try new things

Another benefit of working for an SME is that employees can get to wear many different hats. Roles tend to be less specialised, so employees have opportunities to try different things and learn new skills. Research shows that 85% of employees consider variety important or very important; therefore, highlighting this opportunity to candidates during the recruitment process can be strategic. 

Employees are highlighted 

At most large organisations, the company website will only highlight the board and executive team. At an SME, the whole team will likely be on display. Not only does this make an SME’s current employees feel valued and important, but it also conveys a sense of inclusion and camaraderie, which can be very attractive to prospective job candidates. 

Sharing authentic content via social media is another way to demonstrate your culture and will help attract people with similar values. 

The freedom to be unique

Big businesses may have deeper pockets for luxury perks, but SMEs take the gong when it comes to localised, personal, or quirky cultural offerings. There are many ways that an SME can showcase its culture without breaking the bank. For instance, you could close the office early on Fridays, implement a company wellbeing initiative like a ‘switch off’ day, or make the workplace dog friendly. 

With less staff comes fewer logistics. This means spontaneous and exciting team bonding activities or gifts for staff can be simply organised without needing to cut through the red tape of a larger organisation. 

Emphasise personal ties to the community

These days, most people want more than just a paycheque from their employer; they also want to know their work has a social impact. Research shows that 62% of millennials are prepared to take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. 

Giving back doesn’t mean you need to support major development projects, though. SMEs can make a positive contribution to society by volunteering in their local community, sponsoring events, or working pro bono. By giving back, everybody wins — the community and your employees — and candidates will see that you are a company with strong values.

The best way to begin your employer branding journey is to listen to your current employees. What do they love about working for you, and what are their concerns? Use these as a foundation to make any necessary changes and understand what you should promote about your organisation to build your employer brand. 

Read more: Let’s Talk: Recruitment

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Kate Furey

Kate Furey

Kate Furey is Indeed’s Career Insights Specialist and APAC Corporate Affairs Director. Kate has a dynamic global background in communications, marketing and journalism. Kate’s passion lies in helping people find jobs they love.

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