Six Ways that Small Businesses Can Attract and Retain Talent

Small size and limited budgets need not keep companies from effectively managing their employees’ careers—and their organisation’s future.

Miss the woods for the trees—that’s what leaders tend to do when firefighting daily. Especially in a small company.
Most small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs realise the importance of human capital development, but limited human resources prevent them from growing their workforce.
In launching its Human Capital Movement in SMEs in 2015, SPRING Singapore, an enterprise development agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore, noted that HR professionals “spend most of their time on transactional HR activities such as payroll and processing work instead of strategic HR activities like talent management and development.” 
The point holds as true today. SMEs need to recognise the “importance and urgency” of shoring up HR resources—capability and capacity—and managing talent.
Career management and development is an important tool that SMEs can use to attract and retain talent. Here are six ways that leaders can attract the best and brightest and get the most out of their talent.
1. Acknowledge the power of your team 
Debunk the notion that the boss knows everything. You don’t know it all—much less can you do everything. Adopt the mindset that people power your business.
You may be great at selling your business vision. But it’s your leaders and mid-level managers who convey the message down the line. Involve your second-liners in growth planning, so they understand your vision and can inspire the troops. Working with your leaders also gives you the opportunity to identify high potential talent and size them up for succession planning.
2. Attract like-minded talent
Do not apologise for the size of the company. But do attract the right fit. Being small does not mean you are left to hire those who have been filtered out by the big boys.
What is the one aspect of your company that makes you most proud? Perhaps your business is family-oriented, expanding overseas (and offering postings abroad), boasts a clear and compelling purpose, or has flexible-hours. Highlight that in your job ads, during interviews, and on your company website. The talented individual who shares your point of view may prefer to work for your company than for a larger organisation.
3. Keep them engaged
You don’t need a bottomless budget for training and development. Look outside for funding and get creative within.
Tap external funding sources. In Singapore, for example, SkillsFuture Credit grants S$500 to all Singaporeans aged 25 and older to spend on any approved training course. You just need to give employees time off to pursue these courses.
Secondly, have regular career conversations with employees. These series of chats enable employees to talk with supervisors about what matters most on their career journey. Make the sessions intentional, scheduling them as often as you deem necessary. An unhurried dialogue over a cup of tea does not cost much but can do wonders for morale, productivity, and the bottom-line.
4. Get them to stay
Because SMEs are lean, employees may have to wear many hats—to grapple with being a jack of all trades and master of none. Some employees feel as though they are being thrown into the deep end each time a new role comes up, leading to frustration and attrition.
To help prevent this, provide a buddy or mentor to demonstrate the ropes for each new assignment. Exposing employees to multiple roles help individuals nurture their learnability and strengthen their all-around capabilities and skills. New skills lead to new career opportunities. 

While career growth opportunities can increase loyalty to an employer, this is also when retention schemes become important. Incentivise your employees—whether via promotions, overseas attachments or leadership opportunities—to stay.

5. View HR as vital partner
Bosses need to start viewing HR as a strategic business partner—not just a support function. Arm your HR people with software that allows them to reduce time spent on transactional tasks such as attendance data entry, reconciling payrolls, and tracking leave patterns. This will give them more time for strategic activities like career development, high potential identification and development and programs to attract and retain key talent.
In today’s competitive market, high-potential talent is key. Hiring the wrong person could cost you a tidy sum in productivity losses, as well as lost opportunities for business growth. Free your HR personnel to do what counts—scout for savvy individuals with the right fit.