Five Ways that Small Businesses Can Attract and Retain Talent

Small size and limited budgets don't need to be a barrier to your success. Learn why providing career development for your employees can be a competitive differentiator for your business.

Most small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs realize the importance of human capital development, but limited resources prevent them from growing their workforce. In launching its Human Capital Movement in SMEs in 2015, SPRING Singapore, an enterprise development agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore, noted that HR professionals “spend most of their time on transactional HR activities such as payroll and processing work instead of strategic HR activities like talent management and development.” 
 
Unfortunately, this point often holds true today. However, in order to drive the greatest success, SMEs need to recognize the “importance and urgency” of shoring up HR resources—capability and capacity—and managing talent.
 
Career management and development is an important tool that SMEs can use to attract and retain talent. Here are five ways that leaders can attract the best and brightest for your organization:
 
1. Acknowledge the power of your team 
Debunk the notion that the boss knows everything. You don’t know it all—much less can you do everything. Adopt the mindset that people power your business.
 
The C-Suite may be great at selling your business vision; however, it’s your senior leaders and mid-level managers who will need to convey the message down the line. Involve your second-liners in growth planning, so they understand your vision and can inspire the troops. Working with your leaders also gives you the opportunity to identify high potential talent and size them up for succession planning.
 
2. Attract like-minded talent
Do not apologize for the size of the company. But do attract individuals that are the right fit for your organization. Being small does not mean you are left to hire those who have been filtered out by the big boys.
 
What is the one aspect of your company that makes you most proud? Perhaps your business offers employees a healthy work/life balance. Maybe you're expanding overseas (with exciting roles or travel opportunities abroad). Highlight these selling points consistently in your job ads, during interviews, and on your company website. The talented individual who values these benefits may prefer to work for your company than for a larger organization.
 
3. Keep them engaged
You don’t need a bottomless budget for training and development. Look outside for funding and get creative within. Tap external funding sources. In Singapore, for example, SkillsFuture Credit grants $500 to all Singaporeans aged 25 and older to spend on any approved training course. You just need to give employees time off to pursue these courses. In a Skills Revolution, organizations that empower their employees to seek out ongoing training and development will be better positioned to keep up with technology and changing business conditions. 
 
Secondly, have regular career conversations with employees. Not a single conversation, Career Conversations are a series of chats designed to empower your senior leaders and line managers to talk to their employees about the organization's strategic priorities and individuals careers. Make the sessions intentional, scheduling them as often as you deem necessary. An unhurried dialogue over a cup of tea does not cost much but can do wonders for morale, productivity, and the bottom-line.
 
4. Get them to stay
Because SMEs are lean, employees may have to wear many hats—to grapple with being a jack of all trades and master of none. Some employees feel as though they are being thrown into the deep end each time a new role comes up, leading to frustration and attrition.
 
To help prevent this, provide a buddy or mentor to demonstrate the ropes for each new assignment. Exposing employees to multiple roles help individuals nurture their learnability and strengthen their all-around capabilities and skills. New skills lead to new career opportunities. 

While career growth opportunities can increase loyalty to an employer, this is also when retention schemes become important. Incentivize your employees—whether via promotions, overseas attachments or leadership opportunities—to stay.

5. View HR as vital partner
If you're not already, your leaders need to start viewing HR as a strategic business partner—not just a support function. Arm your HR people with software that allows them to reduce time spent on transactional tasks such as attendance data entry, reconciling payrolls, and tracking leave patterns. This will give them more time for strategic activities like career development, high potential identification and implementing programs to attract and retain key talent.
 
Small size and limited budgets need not keep companies from effectively managing their employees’ careers—and their organization’s future. In today’s competitive market, high-potential talent is key. Hiring the wrong person could cost you a tidy sum in productivity losses, as well as lost opportunities for business growth. Free your HR personnel to do what counts—scout for savvy individuals with the right fit.