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UK SMEs Must Leverage Company Culture to Secure Talent

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UK SMEs must create a tech-friendly culture to attract and retain top tech talent, according to a new white paper from Robert Half UK, Recruiting for the future: The challenges for UK SMEs. While remuneration and work–life balance are the top reasons for job moves, SMEs’ ability to offer an innovative culture with high levels of responsibility is central to their ability to secure and retain talent over larger organisations.

With the UK talent market suffering from a lack of digital skills, companies across all sectors are locked in a war for talent, competing with one another to hire skilled technology professionals to help their businesses adapt to increased digitalisation.

In this competitive market, SMEs often feel that they cannot compete with larger companies, with three quarters (75%) of CIOs believing that it is more challenging for SMEs to attract tech talent because they prefer to work for larger technology companies.

However, aside from offering candidates competitive remuneration and flexible working options, SMEs are often well place to offer superior opportunities in terms of culture and responsibility that allows them to stand out from their competitors. According to our 2019 Salary Guide, a third (32%) of SMEs enhanced their workplace culture to attract top talent in the last three years, compared to just a quarter (24%) of large businesses.

Creating a tech-friendly culture

To create an environment that appeals to technology professionals, a collaborative, innovative, flat culture is key. Tech professionals typically have a desire to work on projects that can make an immediate difference to a business or its customers, and can find working in silos or large management structures typical of large organisations frustrating and isolating.

SMEs should also focus on building a workplace that embraces the latest technology trends to aid their workforce on a day-to-day basis, for example by transitioning from server-based to cloud-based systems, allowing easier access for remote working. This is often easier for SMEs who are unencumbered by legacy systems, and can allow them to create an environment where staff feel enabled rather than inhibited by tech.

SMEs are also in a position to offer candidates greater responsibilities both in terms of their role within the company and even a stake in the business. This can be an effective tool to encourage staff to make a real difference within a company and reap the rewards.

Finally, a technology-friendly culture should flow from the top down. By bringing in senior figures with an understanding and appreciation of the impact of technology, SMEs can signal to potential candidates that the business is technology-focused and awake the challenges of the future.

Matt Weston, Managing Director of Robert Half UK, commented:

“The UK talent market currently lacks the digital skills required to help businesses adapt to digitalisation, artificial intelligence and automation. The demand for skilled professionals in these areas will continue to grow exponentially and employers will continue to struggle to hire and retain top technology talent.

“If SMEs are to compete with larger organisations in the war for talent, they must leverage their company culture to go above and beyond competitive salaries and flexible working offers. In addition, they must play to their strengths, using their agile nature to create a technology friendly environment, provide exciting and rewarding projects and empowering technology professional to take a lead role within the organisation.”