LinkedIn exclusive: Why SMEs have the advantage when it comes to talent

Startups and SMEs have become the hottest places to work. In fact, we at LinkedIn found a huge 87 per cent of the country’s professionals are attracted to the idea of working for a small business and this sentiment is even stronger amongst the youngest generation of workers.

But, what can smaller businesses do to make sure they’re best positioned to win over these great candidates and secure top talent? At LinkedIn, we decided to find out.

Feeling satisfied

To do this, we conducted a Work Satisfaction Survey, through which we questioned more than 10,000 professionals worldwide to find out how fulfilled they feel at work. The results show that small businesses and startups are home to some of the happiest employees in the UK – with 45 per cent of professionals working for SMEs describing themselves as very or completely fulfilled at work.

On top of that, we also discovered that those working for SMEs are some of the most loyal employees – with three out of ten planning to remain with their current employer for the rest of their working lives. We also found that a fifth of UK professionals would prefer to work for a small business over a large one and more than a third (37 per cent) would willingly take a pay cut to work for a startup.

Yet, despite having the happiest and most loyal employees in the UK, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of SME employers told us that they feel they have to work harder in order to attract the best hires.

This disconnect between SME employer perceptions and the rest of the working population points the finger to one thing; SME owners across the country have an opportunity to embrace their company’s smaller size as a way of attracting top professionals. By taking a few simple steps, small businesses can ensure they are showcasing why they are the perfect choice for talented professionals:

(1) Know your story

Our research found that more than half of UK professionals (52 per cent) wouldn’t consider a job if they didn’t know or agree with the company’s values, and for a fifth of professionals – aligning with a company’s values is a key factor contributing to their fulfilment at work. Despite this, our results also show that one in ten HR professionals don’t feel able to articulate their company’s values.

It’s vital then, for startup businesses to be clear about what they are trying to achieve, why their company matters and what it means to work there.

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(2) Show off your employees

Small businesses have a huge advantage that they’re not making the most of – their employees.

As our research shows, SME employees clearly love their jobs. In fact, three quarters of professionals working for SMEs (77 per cent) say they’d happily recommend their employer to a friend, compared with only two thirds of those working for larger companies. This means that when it comes to bringing in talent, employee networks are a potential goldmine for small companies.

Despite this, we’ve found that only three out of ten SME employees say they’ve actually endorsed their employer on social media. This suggests that small business leaders need to do more to encourage their existing teams to ‘sell’ the company on their behalf.

SME owners need to make sure they are working with current employees to keep social profiles up-to-date and empower them to share relevant and engaging content, such as company news, with their networks. LinkedIn’s newly redesigned Careers Pages are another great way of showcasing your existing employees to the network’s 20 million UK members.

(3) Show, don’t tell

When looking for a new job, going online is often the first port of call for professionals today. Therefore, it’s vital that you are easy to find online and your company website accurately reflects why you’d be a great choice for a top candidate’s next career step.

Video and images are some of the best ways to give people an insight into your company, and the great news is that these types of content have never been easier or more affordable for even for the smallest of employers. You can easily capture your culture on camera using smartphones and simple editing applications and then share via your LinkedIn Company Page, Facebook and Twitter, for example.

Big isn’t necessarily better

Our findings speak for themselves – a huge amount of UK professionals either want to work for an SME, or are working for an SME and don’t have plans to change that any time soon.

This should be music to the ears of small business owners, who can be safe in the knowledge that if they can have the right conversations with the right people, there is a wealth of talent out there keen to join them. By building an authentic employer brand, and letting employees speak for themselves, small businesses can make sure their organisation is more attractive and accessible to top talent.

Dan Dackombe is director of Talent Solutions at LinkedIn

Don’t miss LinkedIn’s five-point guide to growing your business with the professional network.

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