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Employment Hero CEO Ben Thomson’s guide to cut through the competition in 2024

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) serve as the backbone of the Australian economy, contributing over 50 per cent of GDP and accounting for 70 per cent of all jobs in OECD countries.

Despite their pivotal role, economic challenges often expose SMEs to vulnerabilities, especially when competing for top talent against larger corporations with deeper pockets and more extravagant perks.

Amid ongoing economic uncertainties and the global cost-of-living crisis, the pressure on both employers and employees has heightened. Employment Hero’s latest The State of Recruitment Report disclosed an 81 per cent surge in advertising rates for SMEs over the past year, reaching an average of $5,380 to advertise a role in Australia. This places SMEs in a challenging position, navigating a competitive hiring landscape against multinational corporations.

However, as we enter 2024, new opportunities emerge for smaller players to compete and carve out a distinctive identity. The key is not necessarily to outspend but to outsmart the larger competitors.

Here are four tips for SMEs aiming to attract top talent:

Harnessing agility and flexibility

Small businesses possess a notable advantage in their agility. Unlike larger corporations, they can swiftly adapt to market changes, customer needs, and emerging trends. In 2024, this agility should be a pivotal aspect of their strategy, involving the readiness to pivot by adopting new technologies, exploring niche markets, and tailoring roles and benefits to meet specific employee needs. Leveraging strengths and adopting innovative strategies is imperative for SMEs to remain competitive. Additionally, SMEs boast a faster hiring process, with 48 per cent filling a position in under ten days, compared to the industry average of 30 days. Embracing and promoting work flexibility will give SMEs a distinctive edge in the evolving landscape of hybrid, flexible work.

Cultivating a distinctive company culture

While large corporations may entice candidates with attractive salaries and benefits, SMEs can compete by fostering a unique and inclusive company culture that values each employee’s contribution and supports their professional growth. Prioritising employee engagement and well-being, implementing flexible working arrangements, encouraging open communication, and creating a supportive environment that values work-life balance can enhance productivity. Collaboration, through partnerships with other businesses, can also be more impactful than competition, opening up new avenues for growth and visibility.

Promote an accelerated career trajectory

Despite facing constraints, SMEs offer valuable experience and a faster career trajectory due to less competition for progression and salary increments. Employees in SMEs have the unique opportunity to be closer to the heads of departments and the founders and directors of the business, making it easier to ascend the corporate ladder and directly share ideas with decision-makers. SMEs can emphasise their ability to offer faster career progression as a means to entice new talent and provide constructive opportunities for growth for new and existing employees.

Cultivating employee success and well-being

While large companies may flaunt extravagant perks, small businesses can create a more intimate and supportive work environment. Focusing on what matters most to employees, such as flexible working arrangements, professional development opportunities, or a strong company culture, can contribute to a positive workplace dynamic. Happy employees serve as the most effective brand ambassadors for the company.

Stepping into 2024, the landscape for Australian SMEs is teeming with potential. Success is not solely about having the greatest budget or the flashiest perks, but rather playing to strengths, connecting with the team and community, and staying true to values. This is how SMEs can not only compete with larger players but also carve out their own distinctive and successful path in the business world.

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