Attracting great talent in today’s job market can prove difficult. Following the initial candidate surge post-recession, the candidate pool began to dry up as candidates gave more serious thought to moving. People began to focus on security, favouring longevity and stability, over the lure of an exciting new chapter. Something that affects whether a candidate decides to accept a job offer or not is the size of the company. As a recruiter, I am often asked, “How big a company are they?” Just the other day I received a call from David, a personal contact who lives in Cumbria, asking my advice on whether or not he should move from a large manufacturing firm to join a small family owned independent business. He was worried it would be more risky.
It dawned on me that like David, many candidates are linking company size with job security. However, is this really the case? Does size really matter? And if so, how can smaller local employers highlight the benefits of their own business to best showcase what they have to offer potential new recruits?
Is bigger really better?
Larger companies tend to have more potential to offer candidates the more “glossy” benefits such as; Company sharesave schemes, career-long training packages, pre-defined promotional pathways, as well as more formal big budget yearly celebrations and events. This is not to say that a SME business will not offer staff training or send out invites to the Christmas party, but on the main, these benefits are usually more informally arranged and can be less consistent.
Working as a professional recruiter in Cumbria, the perception many candidates have of a “bigger business” is that they will gain better working conditions, enhanced sick pay, a high contributory pension and more holidays. However, this is not always the case and often larger companies fail to offer staff the unofficial perks typical of a smaller business.
So back to David…while discussing the pros and cons as to whether he should move to join the smaller independent, the reasons for joining, began to outweigh those against. David talked to me about the fact that senior management reports and red tape were getting worse, and that the company expenses system was so complex, staff wait up to 6 months to be reimbursed. He was beginning to feel like just a number, and although his own line manager was fantastic, his hands were often tied from managers above, in their “Wizard of Oz” command centre miles away at Head Office. David told me about ideas he has, ideas that would save the business money, add value and most of all increase his work satisfaction. Unfortunately, he tells me “because the company is so big, it is hard to make changes at an individual level and after 6 years I’m just getting bored.”
So does size actually matter?
I began my career working for a large corporate blue chip agency in Lancashire, followed by an equally large competitor. I had many years enjoying benefits similar to those outlined above. Receiving excellent training, share saves and a clear promotional path that has led me to the position I have today. After returning to Cumbria 4 years ago I made the move to a small independent agency and was thrown into unfamiliar territory. I can therefore totally sympathise with candidates who are unsure of the move to a smaller business. I also felt the fear they can feel in regards to job security and company fit.
I interview hundreds of candidates from Cumbrian SME’s and find it incredibly interesting to hear how others run their business. When I ask candidates what they like about working for a small business, they almost all tell me “the people I work with” and “the flexibility I get from my employer.” Candidates from smaller businesses have usually moved internally, changing roles many times within the same business. This allows them to gaining a variety of informal on-the-job training, accumulating skills which cover a wide range of positions, albeit informally. Candidates tend to stay longer in these environments as there are fewer opportunities for boredom to manifest.
Small Business…Big Rewards?
SME’s in my opinion have so much to offer local candidates, and as I meet with local hiring managers and owners, I get to see first-hand their commitment and passion for running a business in Cumbria. In a small business, the staff work more closely with the owner or MD, which allows for a much more consultative and collaborative way of working. This can have a huge impact on staff commitment and loyalty as employees are able to share ideas and can really “get to know” the decision makers in the business in which they work.
Candidates increasingly share with me the notion that monetary rewards are not the only driver for the reason for a change in position. For many the importance lies with increased flexibility, the feeling of belonging (to feel less of a number) to have a more varied and enriching job role where they will feel more challenged. Small businesses can provide opportunities for staff to be more creative and as a result, they often develop skills and interests in areas they never knew about previously.
Personally, I can relate to this as since joining a small business I have had much more freedom to develop my creative skills and have had opportunities to put these into practice through new marketing responsibilities. With a less centralised approach to marketing, small businesses allow much more scope for customers to fully interact with and “feel” the personality of your business.
More often than not, SME’s are family owned and can employ more than one member of the same family. In certain situations, this can lend itself to tensions in the workplace. Candidates have shared with me their concerns with this type of arrangement in the past. However, in these business structures, staff issues are usually ironed out faster, less formally and with less of a lasting grudge or personal conflict.
So what does this mean for local recruiters in Cumbria?
Only last week I visited the Director of a relatively smaller and new business in Carlisle who are recruiting for a new member of staff. The opportunity for this said person is set to be fantastic; full flexibility in regards to working hours, training package if required, free parking, great holidays and the chance to join the business at the start of an exciting growth phase. The client was concerned that this latter point would put off some of the candidates currently working for more established firms. The advertising has attracted talent so far and the opportunities on offer seem to outweigh the fact that this business is in its infancy stages. I guess if the whole “feel” and package is right then size plays less of a part in the decision making process.
I am keen to share these candidate insights with you, so that regardless of what size business you work for, own or manage; you can take advantage of the positives when trying to attract new talent. You should be talking about the benefits associated with the size of your business at the advert, interview and offer stage of the recruitment process. This can only help to attract and entice applications from an already competitive pool. Candidates in Cumbria look beyond the salary scale, and will want to know about culture, team working, workspace, flexibility and holidays and whether or not the owner and team they work with are a friendly bunch! In a world where we never really switch off from work, candidate expecting more than just pay in return for their hard work and commitment.
Organic growth is exciting in SME’s and something I took some time to adjust to when I joined my current employer. Overnight, what can often begin as a throwaway comment can lead to a completely new company direction! I guess this is as a result of a more entrepreneurial spirit that runs through the veins of a small business. It is worth mentioning that this can feel a little unsettling for some though when the ship suddenly turns direction. For these candidates the more structured environment of a larger business therefore is a real draw. With this in mind, there is the need for smaller businesses to attract candidates to who are flexible throughout their employment not just in the first week!
By the way, David did decide to take the new job… he starts next month.
Thanks for reading,
Lyndsey Sisson, founder of “That Recruitment Blog”