How small business can attract and retain the best talent

SmartCompany/AGL / September 26, 2017

It’s no secret that workplaces of the future are going to be vastly different to today’s. Employees are becoming less concerned with full-time employment in favour of mobility and flexibility, and the so-called ‘contractor economy’ is booming in tandem.

The challenge for small business is how to adapt to shifts in this emerging workforce and how to attract and retain the best people to help the operation grow and thrive.

Valeria Ignatieva from women-focused jobs platform DCC Jobs says flexibility is a huge drawcard for candidates of all ages.

“Flexibility can take many forms and mean something different to everyone,” she says. “It can be starting/leaving work at flexible hours, part-time and job sharing. There’s often an interest in combining your work with other passions in life, without letting your contribution and input at work get diminished.”

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She says candidates are also becoming much more selective about their choice of employer.

“Where I have seen the shift is that more recently, job seekers are evaluating employers before they apply for work and so, in a way, choose carefully who they wish to work for,” she says. “They are prioritising a fulfilling role with an employer who offers flexible working arrangements, equal pay, paid parental leave, professional development. That means employers need to step up their game if they wish to attract and retain talent.”

Emma Montrose, People & Culture Lead from payments platform LittlePay, says the biggest shift in recent years is what motivates people to join a company – and stay with them.

“Throwing money or perks at employees doesn’t cut it anymore,” she says. “Having beer on tap or a ping-pong table in the office are nice to have, but we’re seeing candidates that want more.

“First and foremost, people want interesting and challenging work, particularly in the competitive tech industry. Our employees and candidates are seeking autonomy, flexibility and a sense of ownership over their work.

“Employees want to be treated like grown-ups that can manage their own time and workload.”

LittlePay has adopted flexibility within its practices and the workplace itself.

“We offer all the standard flexible work arrangements in terms of where and how we work – working from home, adjusted working hours, part-time arrangements etc,” she says. “We’ve also got a ‘kids corner’ set up in our Geelong office for those occasions when after-school care doesn’t quite work out as planned.”

Similarly, Sydney-based law firm Marque Lawyers is embracing flexibility by changing the work practices of a very traditional industry.

“In the legal industry, almost all firms manage their lawyers by timesheets, so everyone is accountable for their hours,” says Managing Partner Michael Bradley. “The focus is on how people are spending their time, and flexibility is incompatible with that. Employers worry about what their lawyers are doing when they can’t physically see them.

“We don’t have timesheets, and we manage our lawyers by reference to the quality of their work. How, when and where they do the work isn’t particularly important to us, and we trust our people to care about the business as much as we do.”

DCC Jobs pre-screens employers who want to advertise on the site through a rigorous process based on their policies and initiatives around supporting employees, specifically women.

“Our pre-screening criteria includes a number of areas, there is simply not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution,” Ignatieva says. “We publicly share the information on the employer profiles on the website so that women can easily conduct their own pre-screening of the employer to make sure they have the support they are looking for.”

She says communication is key for small businesses to adopt a flexibility approach – and the best place to start is to simply ask your staff.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to your staff, conduct surveys, analyse responses and act accordingly,” she says. “Your staff can give valuable insight into the needs of your workforce and what needs to be changed in order to successfully retain the talent but also attract new talent.”