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SMEs are at risk of losing a David and Goliath battle for talent

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Small businesses are in a David and Goliath battle for talent. Research has found that almost half of SME workers are looking for a new role, compared with 39% of those at large businesses.

Such a talent drain could have a huge impact on SMEs, especially at a time when businesses need to hold onto their best talent to get through tumultuous times.

The good news is SMEs are aware of this battle and are taking action. They’re investing more in their people’s wellbeing and recognising the importance of culture and a happy and healthy workforce. But while SMEs are on the right trajectory, there’s more to be done for them to win the talent battle.

SME workers, for instance, are happier at work – with 65% saying they were satisfied in their current role. They are also less likely to be struggling with their mental health, with those working at SMEs more likely to say their mental health has improved in the past year than those working at larger organisations.

Vicky Walker, Group Director of People at Westfield Health, commented: “For small businesses, it’s not issues like quiet quitting they need to worry about, it’s stealth quitting. This is a movement where workers who might be really happy in their role, will still leave.

“This is a difficult problem to tackle as a talent drain can come as a complete surprise. Two-way communication between employer and employees is more important than ever for small businesses to help uncover flight risks and work out what their people need.”

SMEs are investing 10% more per employee in wellbeing benefits, compared with large businesses. The reason behind doing so also differs. For SMEs, talent retention is the main reason for investing in employee wellbeing; in comparison, larger businesses tend to invest to fulfil a duty of care.

SMEs also have some leverage over big businesses in the battle for talent. The research also found that workers prefer small businesses to large businesses – this is largely driven by workplace culture, a healthier work life balance and being able to maintain better contact with senior leaders. Larger businesses, however, were seen to be better at physical and mental health support.

Vicky continues: “SMEs should know where their strengths lie. They are more attractive for potential talent as they offer a better, more personalised work-life balance and healthier workplace culture; they can easily face the talent drain challenge head on if they play to these strengths.

“We know that culture is hugely important to UK workers, with our research finding that the majority of workers say they are more productive at work if there is a good culture and that there is strong a link between workplace culture and their wellbeing. SMEs clearly have an advantage here that they can use for talent attraction and retention.

“So, small businesses are currently on the right path to win this fight and hold onto their best talent, but the fight is not over.

“At the same time, SMEs are recognising where there might be gaps in the benefits they’re offering and now should be investing in benefits like physical and mental health to level the playing field.

“They also need to focus on making the most of their workplace culture and using this to engage with workers and prioritise two-way communication to find out what would help their employees at work.

“From there, SMEs can maintain a strong and consistent EVP – this will highlight their biggest draws for talent. This EVP needs to be communicated to help their people make the most of what’s on offer and show off the value of the culture and work-life balance that they can offer.”

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