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Don’t blend into the background: Here are 5 ways to attract top talent to your SME or startup.
by Julia Robinson
Posted 08 July '15

At the centre of every successful business is a team of passionate and talented people, and for small to medium sized players (‘SMEs’) in the life sciences it’s crucial to be able to attract these people from the offset. Whilst you may not be able to compete with larger businesses when it comes to certain perks (such as salaries and benefits), there are key areas where the most creative small businesses can really stand out from the crowd.


Here are five ways in which you can get started:


1. Get social

LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are all brilliant ways to get your business out there. But, before you launch a twitter-storm, think about what you want to say. Whilst it’s important to have an active presence (a large part of Twitter is simply reminding people you’re ‘out there’), don’t annoy people with a constant stream of meaningless posts. Instead, think tactically. Is there a campaign you could build or a hashtag you could use to build a relevant, engaged community? Think about social media as an opportunity for a conversation rather than just shameless promotion.


Networking may be a term you dread, but all it really boils down to is talking to people. Forge links with local schools and universities, and make sure they know who you are. Keep yourself up to date with science fairs, conferences and exhibitions - and spread the word wherever possible. It could be this which ultimately opens the door to your ideal employee.


2. Maintain your brand

The recruitment process is an excellent opportunity to build a strong brand. Dedicate time to your website and make sure it explains clearly what your mission is - what do you do and why? Ensure that your careers area is professionally designed and presented, and that the descriptions match your organisation as well as the type of employee you are hoping to attract.  Finally, when you get to the stage of inviting an applicant for interview, make sure that your brand is reflected in the workplace. It’s pointless to have a bright and friendly website when the team appears stiff and awkward in person. The more your brand ties together, the more professional you will appear.


3. Demonstrate your culture and values

Hand-in-hand with having a concrete brand is having a strong sense of culture and values. As an SME it’s vital to build a business your employees want to get out of bed for. Establish a clear vision to go alongside your mission, where do you want to go and how will your employees help you to get there (check out this article for advice on how to do this:


In a small business there’s nowhere to hide, so be open about what you can offer them and what it’s really like to work for you. Remember - your current employees are your best ambassadors, so give shortlisted interviewees the opportunity to meet them - it’s a great way to determine whether they share the values of the company, and crucially, if they’ll fit in with the company culture in the long term. If someone doesn’t share your vision it’s unlikely they’ll go that extra mile for you, so it’s invaluable to find this out early on.


4. Highlight opportunities to develop

Studies have shown that the most ambitious people are not motivated by money,  but by the chance to learn and develop (1). While as an SME you may not be able to offer an upward promotion, unlike larger companies you’re in the valuable position of being able to give talented individuals the chance to be closely involved in all aspects of your business (and develop a wide range of new skills along the way).


Investing in training and development will pay off in the long run, but don’t assume it always has to cost the earth. Shadowing is a valuable way to ensure vital skills are passed along, and involving people at all levels when it comes to developing strategies for the business is a great way to promote innovation (never underestimate the power of a team brainstorm!). If you can demonstrate to potential employees that your SME can offer them the chance to evolve alongside the business, you’ll attract true assets to your team.


5. Future-proof

As your business grows, it’s vital you look towards the future. What additional roles do you envisage, and what new skills will you need to reach your vision? You’ll want a whole team of talented individuals, not just one, so make sure you refine your recruitment process as you go along. 


Don’t rush to hire as many people as possible at times of growth, remember that every one of your employees should fit within your organisation. As an SME you have the chance to mould a team that works really well (indeed, this is crucial to your eventual success), so take your time.


Above all, ensure that you treat your employees well and reward their hard work. Demonstrate your appreciation with team dinners and pub trips to help boost morale (or for some more extreme ideas check out the likes of Google, Facebook and Valve (2). Small businesses can more easily adapt to meet their employee’s needs than larger businesses, so use this to your advantage to continue attracting top talent and keep your existing workforce happy.




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