Monday 18 June 2018

How smaller companies can compete in the fight for talent

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Microsoft executive vice president Peggy Johnson at the opening of Microsoft’s €134m campus, One Microsoft Place, in Dublin last month. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Microsoft executive vice president Peggy Johnson at the opening of Microsoft’s €134m campus, One Microsoft Place, in Dublin last month. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Maureen Lynch

In the war for talent, SME managers often feel overwhelmed by the need to compete with multinational titans like Google, Microsoft and LinkedIn.

They have the catered meals, free gyms and international travel to Silicon Valley. You have a generous tub of instant coffee and a kettle in the canteen.

That's before you even start to compare salaries.

It's true some jobseekers will always be lured by the perks of a multibillion-dollar company - but it's equally important to remember that this environment doesn't suit everyone. Some people actively avoid it. The Hays What Workers Want 2017 report shows career progression and development opportunities are more important to staff than benefits and brand names. An SME employer is often in a better position to offer these opportunities and leverage them for staff retention.

Rather than hope to compete head on, SME employers need to play to their own strengths.

Small firms are often able to avoid the closed off "us versus them" culture found in larger corporations. Small scale means senior and junior staff are on a first-name basis and there is usually a team-based, collaborative focus.

People tend to leave managers, not organisations. SMEs need to make sure they have the best people as managers - those who communicate frequently with their employees as opposed to solely in an annual review, who motivate their team and who care about their progression. An ideal manager should praise staff but also offer up constructive guidance when needed. Strong, personable and communicative managers retain their teams, and this is an attribute money can't buy.

SMEs that help employees develop and learn new skills will improve their job performance while also improving their job satisfaction. Developing staff is a key retention tool that also helps to overcome skills gaps, an issue which 75pc of Irish employers currently face, according to the Hays Salary and Recruiting Trends 2018 report. Employers can do this by looking at the areas in which skill shortages exist within their business, and cross-referencing these with the goals of their employees and the demands of the wider market.

Teaching these new skills to employees doesn't need to be costly. SMEs can get employees involved across projects to expand their skillset - and work gets done in the process.

In a small firm there should be scope for mentoring by senior staff, providing the opportunity to shadow a high performer, or attending client meetings could help more junior employees grow.

While SMEs may not have the training budget of a large corporation, they can utilise the people resources they have within their business to teach and mentor others.

Being close to the employee means SMEs can also more acutely promote and encourage a good work-life balance.

That's increasingly a priority for many workers. It doesn't mean spending a fortune on "free" yoga sessions, it means being responsive to the need to work remotely, or for flexible hours.

Maureen Lynch is a director at Hays Ireland

Irish Independent

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