5 Ways SMEs Can Retain Staff And Harness The Best Young Talent

Many of the companies that look to recruit students, graduates and other young people via the services offered by E4S are SMEs. Whatever the size of the company, whether it is a larger corporation, a medium sized company operating in a few different locations or a small family business, once new staff have been recruited to the team, obviously, the hope from there is that this person becomes a valued member of the company and stays around for the period of their contract, possibly progressing upwards through the firm.

Staff retention is a key ingredient for the success of any firm, large or small, but small and medium enterprises face different challenges to corporate firms when it comes to ensuring their staff stick around. There are lots of staff retention strategies that SMEs can pull from the larger firms and adapt to their own needs, but this is not the only way SMEs can retain their best staff. SMEs can also develop and make use of completely different strategies that work to their advantage; strategies that celebrate the fact that the company is a small or medium enterprise.

So whichever positions the company is looking to fill – part time jobs for students, temporary summer jobs and other seasonal work, apprenticeships, school leaver programmes or even graduate programmes – what are some of the staff retention strategies small and medium enterprises can use to ensure the future success and continued development of the firm?

1. Small and Medium Enterprises Can Recruit As A Small Company To Attract The Right Candidates

Right from the outset, as soon as vacancies are posted, small and medium enterprises can promote themselves as a smaller company in the job advert, pointing out what this means in terms of working as part of a more close-knit team. Working for SMEs is not for everyone, so by making sure potential candidates are aware that the vacancy is with an SME as soon as the vacancy is advertised, it should save valuable time and money. Those students, school leavers or graduates who do apply for the job are more likely to be applying because the company is an SME.

There are lots of ways small and medium enterprises can make sure they are making the most of their recruitment for staff retention. For more tips on developing recruitment strategies that could help attract and retain the most talented staff, employers can read the E4S blog post, How to Recruit The Best Students and Graduates and Make Sure You Retain Them.

2. Small And Medium Enterprises Can Adapt And Utilise Staff Retention Strategies Used By Larger Companies

Strategies used by large corporations can also be adapted by small and medium enterprises to encourage staff to stay with the company rather than being tempted away elsewhere. Investing in staff development makes team members, whatever their role within the company, feel valued.

Training courses

While bigger companies very often have their own in house training and development, SMEs can possibly make use of courses available locally that will benefit staff.

For example, some of the biggest bar and restaurant chains in the United Kingdom have their own structured in-house staff development programmes where team members can learn about food hygiene, branch management or leadership skills for supervisory roles. While smaller and medium-sized restaurant companies probably don’t have the access to funds for this type of training, they could send their staff on basic food hygiene courses that are being run locally and perhaps offer pay rises upon successful completion.

Structured Apprenticeships

If the SME has a commitment to employing young people and school leavers, another way to really show investment in their development is to perhaps offer the opportunity of doing relevant apprenticeships to those staff. Employers can read more here about how more companies are benefiting from offering apprenticeships to school leavers and young people.

Seeing the value in offering student jobs

Even for students who may be working as part time waiting on staff, doing bar work or working as a kitchen assistant, investing in their development can make them feel a valued member of the company and this in turn encourages loyalty. The knock on effect could be that at busier times such as Christmas and special events, it should be easier to encourage team members to work extra hours and even take some leadership responsibilities over younger or more inexperienced members of the team. It’s worth noting that lots of students choose to stay on at the company where they have had student jobs even after they have graduated. Employers running small and medium enterprises can read more here about reasons to offer job opportunities to students.

3. Small and Medium Enterprises Can Have The Advantage Of Faster Career Progression

And this is a further way that small and medium enterprises can encourage talented staff to remain within the firm. With larger companies, it can be more difficult for even the more ambitious employees to get promotions and progress through the company. SMEs have a different dynamic where staff may need to be more flexible in the workplace rather than solely working within one department. This can mean skills and talent are spotted more easily and staff can progress through the smaller companies much quicker. Students who were working part time whilst at university may have shown strong leadership qualities and choose to stay on after graduation. Likewise, school leavers who may have done Apprenticeships with the company could be attracted to remain with the firm if the option of career progression is there.

4. Small and Medium Enterprises Can Leverage Flexible Working

As of 30th June 2014, employees have the legal right to request flexible working from their employer, based on hours and location. Previously, this right was only extended to parents and carers. Employees have the right to request this once they have been working for the company for a period of at least 26 weeks and although employers do not necessarily have to grant it, it is going to have an effect in the workplace. (For official guidance and further information about flexible working, please visit the gov.uk flexible working overview.

So, how could flexible working benefit SMEs and help with retaining the most talented staff within the company?

Small and medium enterprises are likely to be a more close-knit ‘community’ than larger corporations who are employing thousands of staff and, because of their size, smaller companies often actually need staff to be flexible. Since the change of law came into effect, although there might be more official administrative work to get through for company owners if staff members choose to exercise their right to flexible working hours, it can be easier for the whole team to sit down and arrange working hours that will suit everyone and the company, too. Some employees may have very specific needs with regards to working hours and employers running a smaller company may have quite a bit of leeway in responding to those needs more effectively than those working within the larger firms.

Many large companies already operate a flexitime system which means employees are given the opportunity to commute to and from work outside the traditional rush hour times and also work extra hours to build up ‘flexi days’ where there is no need to go into the workplace. Depending on the nature of the business small and medium enterprises could give staff the opportunity to work from home on occasion or swap shifts with other team members, for example.

Because of the size of the company and therefore a smaller team of staff, other employees may be more likely to do their best to fit around other staff members’ requirements, especially if there is a friendly ethos within the company and a give and take approach. Employing students to do part time work, while at the same time investing in their development, could mean you have reliable staff to go to when you need people to cover busy periods or to cover extra hours when other staff need to change their hours of work. Students often prefer flexible working hours so that they can fit their job around their study and, of course, they are often free to cover busy holiday periods such as Christmas and summer.

5. Small and Medium Enterprises Can Create And Benefit From A Friendly Team Atmosphere

For larger firms with thousands of staff, their challenge can be greater than that of the small and mediım enterprises in creating that friendly atmosphere where staff feel valued, and personal as well as professional needs are met. This is an area where SMEs can actually celebrate their size and have more advantage over larger corporations when it comes to retaining their best staff.

Strong Leadership From Employers Where Staff Feel Valued

One concern about the new law regarding the right to request flexible working hours is that it could possibly cause resentment and divisions between staff in some companies. This might occur if one member of staff is awarded the flexible hours requested while another staff member’s request is refused. However, if employers in smaller and medium sized companies can create a friendly, team atmosphere in the workplace where staff feel valued and feel able to put their opinions forward, this type of potential situation could be eliminated. This means the possibilities of good staff retention are increased.

Holding Regular Staff Meetings

Also, within this framework of employees feeling valued and working in a friendly environment, depending on the size of the company, employers of staff within SMEs can hold regular, informal staff meetings where staff can update each other on progress in their work. The employer or senior staff members can also update staff on development or expansions within the company so that the staff feel a part of this progress and feel involved.

Holding Staff Social Get Togethers

Again, depending on the size of the company, small and medium enterprises can also make staff feel valued by organising staff get togethers where everyone attends. This quarterly evening out or a group lunch out of the workplace, paid for by the company. In this way, SMEs can build a strong team spirit amongst their staff on both social levels and professional levels in a way that large corporations are unable to and this encourages loyalty towards the company which increases the chances of staff retention.

A happy team of staff can mean that even if a company’s best talent is considering a move elsewhere to progress their career, they might feel reluctant to move away from that ethos and choose to remain in their current position. Indeed, if a small or medium sized company develops a reputation in their field for having this type of work ethic within the firm they could even find themselves with no shortage of high quality applicants when vacancies arise and a team of staff that are happy in their roles and keen to stay exactly where they are.

While the challenges faced by SMEs are different to those of larger national and multinational corporations when it comes to staff retention, by adopting clever recruitment strategies and building a sense of loyalty within the company, employers can actually turn the fact that they are a smaller firm into an advantage rather than a disadvantage.

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