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Becoming one of the UK’s top SMEs to work for

With the battle for talent as fierce as ever, small business bosses need to convince potential candidates their business ranks among the top SMEs to work.
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LinkedIn recently launched Top Companies 2017 – a list of businesses Brits most want to work for. The interesting thing is that it is made up of large consumer brands, which undoubtedly invested time and money to develop talent. But building a strong team doesn’t require bottomless pockets, and while it’s worth dedicating resource to, there are other ways to become one of the UK’s top SMEs to work for.

The research used to compile the list found that Brits are happier and more fulfilled working at SMEs, with 77 per cent of UK workers in small businesses saying they’d be happy to recommend their employer to a friend, compared to only two thirds of employees at big companies. The challenge for smaller businesses lies with letting talent know you exist and the opportunities you offer.

A talent brand that compliments how you market yourself to customers and how you recruit is key to boosting your status as one of the UK’s top SMEs to work for. So if you work in, or own, a small business it’s time to start creating synergy between your HR and marketing strategies. While you might not have dedicated resources for each function, following these tips and learning from bigger business wins in this space will help you build a brand that is attractive to candidates.

Use consumer marketing

This year’s list showed people like to work where they shop. The top 20 companies are associated with high quality customer service, advanced product design and attention-grabbing marketing. And this means being set up for success before a job ad is even posted.

Any boss looking to market their company as one of the UK’s top SMEs to work for will need to place consumer-focused content on networks – it is a cost-effective way of engaging with potential recruits. And when it comes to sharing content, SMEs can actually have the edge on larger companies. A report by Universum found two thirds of small businesses lead in being able to publish content “as and when needed” compared to just 43 per cent at large companies.

Get creative with talent campaigns

Injecting creative flair into your recruitment campaign is a great way to attract people, especially those with specialist expertise that might not be aware of the range of jobs you offer.

Who doesn't love a space invaders themed ad?

Who doesn’t love a space invaders themed ad?

A fantastic example of this is Top Company Sainsbury’s “Invaders” campaign. Designed to help the brand attract design and technology talent, the campaign saw Sainsbury’s ‘invade’ the Manchester tech scene.

The execution, which included spray-painting space invaders on the streets outside competitor tech employers, gave the brand a personality – and made design and tech talent think differently about Sainsbury’s as an employer.

While your own recruitment campaign might not stretch to Sainsbury’s scale, you can create a campaign that makes your target talent sit up and take notice.

Call on your best ambassadors

When it comes to promoting why you’re one of the top SMEs to work for, no one can say it as well as your employees. Encouraging your existing team to share positive experiences among their own network of contacts means that you automatically widen the pool of potential candidates you reach.

John Lewis Partnership, the number one company on the 2017 list, makes the most of its employee ambassadors through videos highlighting the benefits of working at the company on its careers site, and employee case studies on its LinkedIn company page. Meanwhile, small business PIE Recruitment give people a window into what their team is like to work with – populating it with fun photos and punchy blog posts from employees.

So, regardless of your company size, empowering employees to create their own content – whether it’s photos, short videos or blog posts – is a powerful way to do this, without it costing the earth.

But, all of this will only work if you are authentic. It’s vital that your talent brand is true to who you are as an organisation; manufacturing a culture simply won’t work. Instead, pool resource and expertise to build a brand that resonates with the professionals you want to attract – and show them what makes your business special.

Jon Addison is head of LinkedIn Talent Solutions UK

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As the champion of UK enterprise for 20 years, Real Business is the most-read SME website dedicated to high-growth businesses and entrepreneurs. Through daily news, unique insight and invaluable guides we are an essential resource for thriving businesses.

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