The measures I put in place to attract and retain new talent

Here, Mike Preston discusses the investment his business ProtectMyPeople has made to retain and attract new staff, and what he believes SMEs can do to attract more young employees.

Retaining key staff and attracting new talent is a massive challenge for small businesses nationwide, not least for ours as an innovative insurance comparison company based in the beautiful Cumbrian town of Penrith.

The Lake District is a wonderful place to live and work, but the competitive nature of the digital marketplace and software development industry overall means the opportunity to move to, and work in, bigger towns and cities nearby is always there, so as a business we knew we had to offer something different.

Many of our staff members are aged under 30 and, we have noticed, looking for something different from their employer. Considering they will make up a third of the global workforce by 2020, they are also an employee stream that we and other SMEs simply can’t afford to ignore.

Growing headcount

As part of our strategy for 2017 we wanted to grow our staff by almost 50 per cent, with further growth planned for 2018. This meant effective recruitment and retention were going to be vital if we were to achieve our plans. Because of this growth, we needed new premises which, as we could commission to be built to our specification, gave us the opportunity to include aspects that we felt were important to our staff and in keeping with our culture. We established that our millennials are looking for flexible working hours and good benefits, as well as a great working environment which we felt our new purpose-built office building could provide.

One thing we knew the building had to do was offer our employees more than other employers in the area, and so we came up with a list of must-haves based on our staff’s feedback; a gym, great kitchen facilities and a lovely working environment. We wanted our workplace to reflect our ambition as a business, so we invested in contemporary meeting rooms with a digital booking system, an interactive reception service and slick and modern decoration and office furniture.

In December last year we officially moved into the office building – only a few months in and the investment has paid off. Our employees are coming into work earlier or staying on later to use the gym facilities, the addition of a table tennis table has increased collaboration between teams, and our kitchen is quite simply the hub of our business. The staff love coming to work, there is ample parking, ample meeting room space, and they can work and play here.

Showing candidates ambition

Recruitment, while never easy, has certainly been helped by the new offices. Last year while our office was being constructed, we were able to show potential recruits our plans and give them a real sense of our ambition which they could be part of. As a result, we achieved our recruitment objectives and are already ahead of our goals for 2018. All recruitment meetings include a ‘tour’ of our facilities that often leave our potential employees speechless. Recent new recruits have voiced their enthusiasm of their new environment on social media and recommendations for new recruits from new starters has been evident.

What we have also found through our recruitment process is that millennials want to experience the ‘feel’ from their place of work, and from their employers. They want to feel appreciated, they want to feel comfortable in their working environment, they want to feel looked after – and quite rightly so. In fact, research carried out in 2016 found that nearly four out of five millennials said more benefits would make them more loyal, which as an SME is so important for us.

As well as working hard on our offices, we have also worked hard on employee benefits. Therefore, we also provide group life insurance to all our employees through our company. As we are a group life insurance comparison company, of course it is easier for us to offer this benefit, but we are continually surprised by how many small to medium businesses fail to consider this cost-effective benefit for their own employees. Research published last year shows that only 4 per cent of SMEs offer this benefit to its employees, despite the affordability it offers businesses in giving their staff that ‘looked after’ feeling.

Group life insurance is life insurance for a group of employees. It is taken out by the SME as a means of providing their workforce with peace of mind should the worst happen. It provides a lump sum – a multiple of a salary or fixed amount – to the loved ones of an employee if they die while employed by the business.

Offering benefits

No single benefit can ever solely be the game changer when it comes to ensuring employee engagement, retention and attraction for SMEs. But offering what you can when you can will make a big difference in attracting the new talent you need to develop your business, as we have already found.

According to the Manpower* survey, once you have attracted a millennial employee, challenging them, keeping them interested and feeling appreciated can lead to them sticking around, with 64 per cent saying they want new opportunities with this employer, rather than looking for a new one.

As our parent company, nears its 20th birthday we have had cause to reflect on the many challenges we have faced as a company within that time, not only in the insurance sector but also in the wider business world. Digital innovation is our life blood, and yet without a growing workforce we are all too aware that we will stall – and so our recruitment and HR strategy has had to change to meet the generational challenges we face.
Offering different benefits, be it a gym, good coffee or life insurance – to a generation who, it would seem, is all about working to live and looking after those that they love, is key to ensuring that the stream of new recruits not only comes through the door of any SME, but more importantly stays.

Mike Preston is business development director at ProtectMyPeople

Further reading on attracting and retaining staff

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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Retaining staff

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