Winning the Talent Game: Strategies for SMEs in Defence

By Alarna Chivers on 16 January 2024

Winning the Talent Game: Strategies for SMEs in Defence

​Attracting and retaining talent can be a tricky quest for SMEs who are competing with large companies. While competing with corporate giants for top-tier talent may seem daunting, the secret lies in thinking outside the conventional compensation box.

SMEs face hiring challenges that are unique to big companies. Being clear on what you perceive are your challenges is crucial for developing effective strategies to attract and retain top talent. Some common hurdles we see in SME hiring include:

1. Budget constraints – this is probably the most reported challenge that SMEs face when competing with big companies. As an SME you may have a smaller budget for recruitment and salary packages. This can impact the competitiveness of salary alone. But remember, salary is important, but is not everything.

2. Limited brand recognition – big companies are often well-known, more visible, and are more familiar brands to job seekers. This increases the importance of SMEs having a succinct story and pitch for potential new team members.

3. Risk aversion – talent may perceive joining an SME to carry more risk, as big companies are more established with higher job security. In the current market, job seekers might have concern about job stability, financial health, and the potential for rapid change in an SME.

4. Limited career advancement – job seekers may perceive that there might be a lack of career advancement opportunities in SMEs.

5. Restricted reach into the talent market – this goes hand in hand with limited brand recognition, but other factors include a reduced presence on job platforms, limited geographic reach, and restricted recruitment resources.

Whilst SMEs may face unique challenges in their hiring, they have many opportunities to differentiate, to dispel perceptions and compete to attract the talent that you need and the right talent that will stay and help you build your future. Here are five strategies to make your SME more attractive through your recruitment and hiring activities.

1. Salary and compensation strategies – while budget constraints may limit traditional salary offerings, SMEs can be innovative with compensation through performance bonuses, education reimbursement, flexible working arrangements, extra annual leave, and other non-monetary perks.

2. Highlight the tech, the culture, the people – people come to work in SMEs for all the reasons they don’t want to work in a large company – the flat(ter) structures, the ability to have a wider scope and fingers in more pies. Highlight all your best bits, in your ads, in your interviews, in every conversation with a new prospective team member. Share your vision and passion.

3. Build confidence through transparency in your SME - foster open and transparent communication about the company's financial stability, growth plans, and overall health. You can do this by highlighting the measures taken by your SME to ensure stability during economic uncertainties.

4. Competing on Professional Growth Opportunities – there is a common misconception that larger companies offer better career growth opportunities. While at times this can be true, working for an SME allows employees to wear multiple hats, shift easier into new roles, and have opportunities for skill development. Spend time defining what this looks like in your organisation and promote it through your recruitment efforts.

5. Reaching the market – having less brand recognition will mean you need to work a little harder to tell your story. This presents a huge opportunity though. Build the broadest reach you can through leveraging your social media accounts, personalising candidate experiences, and implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. Not only will this expand your talent pool, but it will also foster a workplace culture that connects with the talent you want to bring into your organisation.

These strategies are, by no means, a one-size-fits-all approach. Take what echoes your company culture and be realistic about what you can implement. SMEs can stand as beacons of innovation, setting new standards in the talent market. If you are on the search for new talent and would like some guidance, contact us today!


Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

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