Home Professionalisms How To Attract Talent From Large Businesses To Your SME

How To Attract Talent From Large Businesses To Your SME


by James Calder, CEO at Distinct Recruitment

Once a professional has worked within a large corporate business for a few years, they may decide to apply for a role within an SME. This is often because they are interested in learning how a business is run and will have a better opportunity within a smaller team. It is easier to progress within an SME than a large corporation and through hard work, they could cement themselves within the industry.

Working for a small business can seem daunting to professionals from large corporations, as they aren’t used to being a big fish in a small pond. This step can often mean taking on more responsibility and being relied upon by the team. There is also the fear that smaller businesses won’t have access to the resources and benefits that they are used to.

The major benefits of moving to an SME can include the opportunity for professionals to make a noticeable impact within a company, the chance to give advice in planning the future of the business, as well as a more flexible working environment with more control over their personal development. This should be a clear theme throughout job advertisements and during the interview process, in order to reassure candidates that they are making the right decision for their future.

Experienced professionals can offer invaluable advice which they have learnt from their years within large corporations. They will understand how to manage large teams of 50+ staff members and ensure that the correct processes are in place. Many businesses use the strategy of recruiting non-executive Directors, who provide tremendous insight for the members of the board, yet can often go unnoticed by staff at the core of the business.

Attracting the best talent from established industry giants to a fast-growing SME can be particularly challenging and it can take time to find the ideal candidate. Today’s marketplace is especially uncertain under the influence of politics, creating another obstacle for encouraging talent to leave their comfort zone and move to an SME. Large corporations are often established within the industry, respected by professionals and hold financial power. This is the biggest concern from candidates applying to roles within smaller businesses, as they are afraid of losing this in place of their new role.

Investing in your brand has never been more important. SMEs should continuously work on their brand image, culture and ethos to ensure they are attractive to high profile professionals looking to change roles. PR and social media campaigns can be an effective way to show potential candidates how you are implementing changes and improving your internal processes, as well as highlighting why candidates should join your business on its journey. Within large corporations, employees might feel unvalued as if they are just a number, so showcasing that you care greatly about your staff can be a major selling point for SMEs.

Large corporate businesses and SMEs are in fierce competition with each other for the most talented employees. Typically, the big players might win most of the battles, but in recent years SMEs have become increasingly attractive. One weakness of small businesses might be at a trainee or graduate level, as larger businesses will potentially have the resources for a more structured approach to training. For those starting out in their careers, this will appeal more, especially if there is a graduate scheme. Though, this is an area that small businesses are continuously improving and it might be worth investing in this department.

There comes a pivotal point for any high growth organisation when the business has made the often unrecognised transition from a small startup to a large organisation. With this growth comes certain intricacies and processes which were not on the CEOs radar or were previously deemed unnecessary. Within this period, it is crucial to implement processes which allow the business to grow rather than to hit a ‘glass ceiling’. For example, with the team growing rapidly, it can become more difficult to please and retain each member of staff. If the board of directors has never lead a company of this size before, they may be inexperienced in which strategies are necessary for success.

Whilst recruiting senior professionals with years of experience is a costly investment for smaller businesses, it could be the key to overcoming certain obstacles that a fast-growing business may encounter during this transition period. For example, a fast-paced company could be feeling the strain within their HR department as more employees join the business. Hiring an experienced HR Director, with years of experience in managing 100+ employees, would be a worthwhile investment.

Despite ongoing uncertainty surrounding UK business, SMEs are continuing to grow and improve their company culture. They haven’t yet been defined by their brand and can decide what their core values are as they learn along the way. This is an attractive opportunity for a talented professional who wants to try their hand at developing a business and benefit directly from the results of their hard work.


James Calder is CEO at Distinct Recruitment, a recruitment consultancy specialising in marketing, HR, office support, technology, supply chain and procurement, and finance. Based in the East Midlands, the company works with a number of SMEs across the region as well as larger household brands including Boots, Vision Express and DHL.