How can Small Businesses Compete in the War for Talent?

Big businesses and well-established brands are usually better equipped to successfully hire the best talent. But how can SME’s and Start-up’s level the playing field and gain an advantage in the war for talent?

Pedro Barahona – an Elemigo who has helped Startups and SME’s such as AnyDesk achieve their growth objectives – shares his approach to helping the underdogs secure industry-leading talent.

Well-known tech giants like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix or Google (FAANG) are able to leverage their brand positioning to attract a disproportionate amount of the talent pool. Candidates may desire to work for businesses with a certain level of prestige or, at least, businesses their friends and family may have heard of. In some cases, these organisations may also be able to pay more generously.

The challenge for recruiters and talent acquisition people working in a FAANG business is efficiently filtering the volume of applications they receive each day. In a recent interview with Elements, Katarina Berg – CHRO of Spotify – revealed that the music streaming giant regularly receives over 1,000 applications every day. 

The challenge for the rest of us – the talent acquisition experts attempting to grow SME’s, startups or even lesser-known corporations – is in competing with these industry giants.

So how can we remain competitive?

 

Do not rely entirely on direct applicants

Relying entirely on candidates coming to you is not a winning strategy. If you’re an unknown entity then you have to be proactive. You have to go and find great candidates yourself. 

But bear in mind, the big players are also actively looking for candidates. In fact, some have entire teams dedicated to sourcing, interviewing, testing and relocating candidates. 

How can you compete against entire teams dedicated to recruitment?

You need to put the candidate first, appealing to their motivations and eliminating the usual pains associated with finding and starting a new job.

 

Figure out what makes your EVP unique

More important than HOW MUCH you can offer is WHAT you can offer. A recent survey conducted by Linkedin revealed that the main reason people switch jobs is that they do not see an opportunity for advancement with their existing employer. 

This is great news for smaller businesses and it is here that you begin to win. It is here that you realise your concerns about not being able to compete on salary are less devastating than you may have considered. In fact, in the same survey, compensation and benefits ranked a lowly fifth place. Clearly figuring out your employee progression plan is a far larger piece of the puzzle.

In the same survey, participants indicated that the main reason they choose to remain with the same employer for several years is because of the people they are working with and the culture that surrounds them. Being able to build and communicate a great company culture can go a long way towards making you more attractive in the jobs market. 

The key point here is in how you communicate that culture. Whilst having a great work environment is something that the whole company contributes to, conveying that culture to candidates is the recruiter’s job. A clear message of what it is that you do, why you do it and who you want to join your journey is vital. 

 

Provide the perfect Candidate Experience

Recruitment, much like User Experience, is one of those activities that becomes invisible when it goes right. When it goes wrong, disaster ensues.

Smaller Talent Acquisition teams may have the advantage here. With closer, more connected channels of communication and feedback loops, there is a greater opportunity to catch and correct any potential hiring mishaps, before they fall through the cracks.  

When thinking about our treatment of candidates, let’s start with a bold statement: people deserve to be treated like people. It is fair to expect a human experience when we are making potentially life-altering decisions. It is not unreasonable to desire a hiring process where clear expectations are set and personalised interview feedback is provided. Nor is it unreasonable to expect some degree of package and benefits flexibility, based on an individual’s unique situation.

The size and scale of larger companies can make creating these sort of high touch, personalised candidate experiences difficult or unsustainable. But it is here that smaller, more agile organisations and TA teams are capable of creating competitive advantage in the battle for the best talent. Being afforded time to understand candidates and their core drivers at a deeper level, coupled with the ability to be more creative with compensation, benefits and ways of working, may just be the differentiator for a candidate deciding whether to choose your business over another. 

 

Smaller can be better – get closer with your Hiring Managers

Your relationship with your hiring managers determines how flexible you’ll be able to be with your candidates. Having the hiring managers buy-in allows the recruiter to move the candidate seamlessly through the process, helps with providing useful feedback and enables flexibility when securing the candidate. Establishing a great relationship with the hiring manager is, therefore, extremely important. Good rapport is great, but doing your homework and understanding the role, be it on a technical or business level, goes a long way. Ultimately, shifting the mentality of the recruiter as a service provider and instead understanding that hiring managers and recruiters are part of the same team striving to fulfil a mutual goal, will go a long way towards achieving success.

Where big organisations with large recruitment teams may struggle to establish this true business “partnership”, smaller teams will hopefully face fewer obstacles. Enabling TA consultants to better embed themselves within the teams they are hiring for provides a unique advantage; the ability to channel increased collaboration towards greater speed and transparency for both business and candidates.  Further, this gives the recruiter a better perspective on the challenges innate to the role, improving the accuracy of their sourcing and pitching efforts.

 

My final thoughts…

Whilst smaller businesses may struggle to match the ferocity of hiring that market-leading businesses are able to achieve, this should not impair their ability to secure their desired talent. As long as your EVP is strong and effectively communicated; your candidate experience is transparent, flexible and timely; your processes are relevant, sensible and efficient; and your final offer is both competitive and personalised to meet the candidate’s needs, then size should not affect an organisation’s ability to secure the best and brightest talent.

We help you secure the best talent. Rapidly.

Elements are the pioneers and leaders of Embedded Talent Consultancy. Our consultants are embedded within some of the world’s best-known organisations, solving their toughest and most complex hiring challenges.

In addition to our work with leading brands, including Spotify, IKEA and TikTok, we have helped scale SME's and Start-ups, including Zendesk and Stitch & Story.

To find out more about how Elements can help your business, contact us at hello@weareelements.io