08 February 2022

SMEs must compete with large corporates to recruit and retain talent

With nearly a third of employees expected to look for a new job in the first half of this year1, and employment confidence continuing to soar2, competition for the best talent is rife. Companies need to demonstrate they are the employer of choice to ensure they do not lose out. This presents a great opportunity for SMEs, which often have the ability to be more agile than the bigger corporates and can be fast to adapt to challenges, streamlining their processes, developing new products, and getting them to market quickly.

Competing with the larger corporates, SMEs need to ensure that they are selling themselves effectively to prospective employees to capitalise on this opportunity. They also need to make sure that existing staff are not tempted by ‘better’ offers elsewhere.

Brett Hill, Distribution Director at Towergate Health & Protection says: “The pandemic has meant that business is not as usual, and SMEs in particular need to show how they are adapting with the times to attract and retain the best talent. From creating exciting, challenging new roles and offering competitive employment packages, to emphasising the benefits of working in an SME and showcasing how new employees can make a real difference, smaller companies need to ensure they are in a strong position to recruit and hold on to the best staff.”

Significance of SMEs

SMEs make up a massive majority of the business community. The government’s business population estimate3 shows there were 5.6 million SMEs (businesses with 0-249 employees) in 2021, making up 99.9% of the total business population in the UK. Their role is, therefore, crucial to UK economy.

Highlighting advantages

Working in an SME can bring multiple advantages, and it is important that these are highlighted. A big attraction to smaller companies is that they can offer a more familial experience with a greater sense of community. Employees can feel part of a team and see the impact their role is making – as opposed to being a small cog in a large machine.

SMEs can work with more agility too, responding to market trends more promptly, helping to keep employees engaged in new activities. Although Covid-19 has been challenging for many, for others it has brought opportunities – enabling businesses to offer staff diverse and interesting roles. Letting employees know the current direction of the business, and potential opportunities to explore, can help capture and hold the attention.

SMEs can offer packages to compete with larger organisations

Many recruits are attracted to large corporate organisations for their high-quality training opportunities, professional development, and alluring reward and remuneration packages. Despite often having smaller budgets, SMEs can still compete.

Now is a good time to review reward packages. Benefit providers develop and enhance their employee benefits propositions all the time, particularly ensuring they are affordable for SMEs. They also often include added-value perks in the process, such as access to personalised health and wellbeing hubs, motivation and rewards for improving lifestyles, and employee assistance programmes – all helping employees to manage their mental, physical, financial and social wellbeing. Employees come to expect such benefits as part of a remuneration package, so SMEs need to keep on top of developments to ensure they can deliver.

Brett Hill, Distribution Director at Towergate Health & Protection says: “SMEs have many weapons in their arsenal to attract and retain talent and they need to showcase them to secure the best people. Many businesses are looking to recruit to help them thrive during the pandemic, so the war for talent is on, particularly during these times. Communicating the advantages of working in an SME, and reviewing employee benefits packages to ensure they are competitive, can help new employees to understand what a career in the business can offer, and make them want to join, and stay.”


1. 9.4 million workers look for new roles in H1 | Robert Half
2. Labour Market Outlook | Surveys | CIPD
3. Business population estimates for the UK and regions 2021: statistical release (HTML) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)