Research recently conducted by Sage – Small Business, Big Opportunity – looked into how small to medium-sized enterprises the world over survive – and thrive – despite challenges such as the rising costs of living and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the study found that difficult times increased the need for government support and better financing options for small businesses, it also showed that 81% of South African SMEs expect at least a partial return to pre-pandemic profitability in the next 12 months.
One of the main findings was that 42% of respondents attributed confidence in their business success to the quality of their people, and 56% plan to hire more people in 2022, with 70% confident that they will meet their staffing requirements within a year.
This means that talent is a clear pillar of optimism for SMEs, which is good news for job creation and unemployment.
But what is the best way to attract top talent to ensure your business’s long-term success? Read on for our top advice.
The fountain of youth
While the pandemic affected everyone, the most long-term effects are likely to be felt by the youth. Many businesses faced with cash flow issues and uncertain futures had to halt hiring, graduate schemes, and apprenticeship programmes as they believed they lacked the capacity or resources to hire and train new employees.
The youth do, however, have reason to be optimistic about the future. Governments worldwide are announcing incentives such as the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) to companies that recruit young people into their workforce as their businesses stabilise and adjust. With Sage research finding that a lack of government support was one of the critical challenges to business growth, now is the time to take advantage of the ETI and give the youth the opportunities they deserve.
Following this trend, the World Economic Forum predicts that Generation Z workers will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025. Understanding this will enable payroll and HR functions to adapt business cultures and ways of working to attract the best young talent. Businesses can use the wealth of organisational and employee data they have access to, to better meet candidate and employee demands.
The most successful, future-focused businesses recognise that factors other than solid monthly remuneration are key drawcards for today’s young professionals. An inclusive and collaborative working environment that offers flexibility and paid time off is fundamental to maintaining morale and productivity. The challenge for HR, however, is that key motivators differ from one employee to the next, which is why one-size-fits-all benefits packages are unlikely to tick all the right boxes for young employees.
So, how do businesses attract the right talent? They need to take a personalised approach and offer each employee incentives and conditions to support their career plans and life stage. However, keeping track of these individualised incentives requires an integrated approach to company data. Using cloud-based HR and payroll software is the best way to manage the relevant employee data and access it readily, anytime, anywhere.
Naturally, the basics need to be in place first. This means implementing a solid Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that will draw potential candidates to the business and make them want to apply in the first place.
The future-fit EVP
Since the pandemic, people looking for new roles are bringing different expectations to the table. Businesses need to consider these and implement them as soon as possible if they wish to attract the workforce they need. A future-fit EVP will stand you in good stead against other potential employers.
When determining the focus of your EVP, it is essential to consider the following:
Purpose before profit
Individuals are increasingly looking to work for companies that are ‘purpose driven’; that have a purpose beyond profitability. This ‘purpose’ is the idea of what the company is, what it stands for, and why it exists. These are the drivers of its decisions and actions.
Companies must clearly articulate their stance concerning everything from mental health to sustainability and the environment, as there is a growing expectation that they will take positive steps in these matters locally and abroad. As such, your EVP must be holistically related to your purpose and connect the employee experience with helping the business contribute to the greater good.
Value over volume
Over and above expecting more from their employers, individuals are becoming increasingly cognizant of the value they can add to organisations. According to a Citrix study called Talent Accelerator, employees are growing more confident in their skills, resulting in 86% saying that they want to work for a company that cares less about the volume or output they can produce and more about the value or impact they can deliver to the business as a whole. Moreover, they expect to be given the trust and space to do their best work, regardless of when and where they’re working. As a result, companies will need to relook at how they measure productivity because traditional metrics will no longer apply.
Grow or go
There has been a considerable shift in the mindset of the next generation of workers. They are looking to gain experience and are confident in assessing how specific roles will give them access to new skills. They know that the quickest way to progress their career is to change jobs rather than wait to be promoted, which means that companies that do not develop their staff risk losing them to companies that do. Research by the Harvard Business Review shows that 82% of employees believe they need to hone their skills or acquire new ones at least once a year to remain competitive in a global job market. A solid EVP that caters to growth and skills development throughout the employee lifecycle will help aid retention.
Businesses must ensure they have the latest collaborative technology to enable agile learning if they want to find and keep the best available talent. This is confirmed by 88% of employees who say they look for this when searching for a new job.
Fixed on flexi
Since the pandemic, a strong emphasis has been placed on flexibility regarding both hours and location. Research suggests that some 88% of workers consider it essential when applying for a new position.
Furthermore, 83% of workers predict that because of the global skilled talent shortage, companies will offer flexible working models to appeal to suitable candidates regardless of where they live, but only 66% of HR professionals feel the same. Moreover, 76% of respondents believe that employees will prioritise family and personal interests over proximity to work and will seek jobs in locations where they can focus on both — even if it means lower pay.
Delivering on DEI
How does your organisation measure up in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion? Does it accommodate people’s unique needs? These are the questions candidates ask organisations that wish to hire them because employees want to work for a company that prioritises diversity.
If your business is not set up to cater for a diverse workforce, it’s time to investigate how you can become more inclusive. This is important because 86% of employees and 66% of HR professionals believe that a diverse workforce will become increasingly crucial as roles, skills, and company requirements change over time.
Making your business attractive to the workforce of tomorrow is the only way to ensure that you can recruit and retain the calibre of employees you require to see your business into the future. SMEs looking to grow would be wise to take heed of the expectations of those entering the workforce, and if they haven’t already, start refreshing their EVPs to reflect those needs.