Ask Us – Employee retention

We are an SME and I know 2018 is going to be a huge growth year for us.  However, I suspect some of our staff are looking elsewhere for jobs.  Losing that experience will have a detrimental impact on our operations, but as a SME I’m very limited as to what benefits I can offer our workforce.  How can I compete with bigger organisations?


Thanks for getting in touch.  The first thing that jumps out at me is your statement that you know some members of your staff are looking elsewhere.  Why?  Leaving for better benefits is not the top reason for employee dissatisfaction (in fact according to Resourcebank (2017), the top leaver reasons are career progression, job satisfaction, work-life balance and management).


If you can understand why employees leave your organisation, why they join and why they stay, you will start to gather the intelligence that you can use to help with retention strategies.  So talk to your staff or survey them. Assess recent leaver reasons.  Evaluate whether you are recruiting the right people in the first place.


If you feel your reward package is not competitive, then it may be that you need to assess who your labour market competitors are and how you compare to them.    To be able to run your business with the right talent, it could be that you do need to invest in benefits to attract and retain the people you need.  To give you confidence in doing this, try doing some financial modelling to assess whether increasing pay will get you a return on investment for keeping experience that lets your business grow?  You could try offering staged pay increases.


Don’t let being a SME make you feel that you cannot compete. You have lots to offer:

  • the opportunity to play a big part in a smaller operation (rather than vice versa).  You are able to offer much wider experience, autonomy and flexibility in roles than bigger organisations can
  • the opportunity for your workforce to see their impact.  It’s really powerful seeing how your input makes a difference
  • career growth as the business grows


Research by Prospects (2017) found that 37% of graduates looking for work hoped to work for a SME, where a smaller 29% were interested in larger employers.  There is definite interest in the benefits of working for a SME employer.


That said, no-one should be indispensable.  You should always be prepared for people leaving your business.  The job for life culture is long gone and people may leave for so many more reasons beyond dissatisfaction e.g. relocation, travel, caring responsibilities, career change or even an ‘under-the-bus’ scenario!  A crucial part of business planning should be succession planning; considering how you will fill roles should they become vacant with or without notice. (And on that note, are your contractual notice periods at the right level for your needs? If you don’t have a contract, statutory notice is only 1 week).


Can we help further?

Please get back in touch if we can help you further with staff surveys, HR planning, succession planning, retention strategies or contractual terms.


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