What startups can learn from the world's leading corporates when it comes to talent acquisition

Michael Doolin, Founder and Group Managing Director of Clover HR gives startups effective, simple and affordable advice to maximise their chances of hiring top talent.  

Tell us about your career in corporate HR?

My very first HR role was a dream come true, especially for an unworldly but tenacious graduate trainee. I had the pleasure of joining the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham where I first learnt of the concept of employee engagement and its pivotal role in creating healthy, profitable, organisations. My career later took me to British Airways, DPD and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) amongst others, but running my own business, and working with SMEs has been the most rewarding experience of all. It’s made me really appreciate the creativity and “can-do” attitude of the UK’s entrepreneurs. 

What’s one of the most common problems SMEs face when it comes to hiring?

I read figures recently from the latest Barclays Business Barometer which suggested that SMEs are expected to hire as many as 3.5 million people this quarter, which gives me confidence that the green shoots of recovery may finally be taking root. That being said, many are struggling with recruitment simply because they do not have the size or reputation of larger players in their respective industries. That means they have to make a lot more effort when it comes to advertising roles but typically, they don’t have dedicated HR teams, so it’s an uphill struggle for management teams, as they have to split their time running a business and hiring. Unfortunately, the latter takes a back seat until the staff situation becomes so dire, it has to be addressed. 

What best practises can an SME business employ that corporates use every day to their advantage when securing talent?

Firstly try and nurture the talent within your existing team, because nobody knows your business better than a well-embedded employee, and many can rise to the challenge of a new position if given the opportunity to do so. Corporates do this all the time so as to save time and money on recruitment fees. They also utilise performance management techniques to help said employee develop the skills they need so they can meet their own aspirational goals, as well as their company’s objectives.

When new entrepreneurs hear “performance management” they think it’s some highly technical or arcane exercise. It’s not complicated at all. It just means setting goals for employees and making sure you set-up regular check-ins and reviews to ascertain their progress in meeting them. By doing this, employees will feel they’re valued and being invested in, and will definitely reassure anyone else considering applying for a job with your company. Many corporates who want to get the word out about what a great employer they are, will definitely showcase it with a case study. Not only are they great PR for a business, but they really don’t take much effort to create. That should make them a “win-win” in anyone’s book.    

Are there any tech secrets that corporates use that SMEs might utilise?

The best secrets are the open ones! Websites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor are so important for hiring talent, yet so many SMEs don’t invest time into maintaining their presence on them while others fail to use them at all. One of the first things a job candidate will do to see if a company is right for them is look for evidence online, by checking these sites. They will expect to see award wins, pictures of staff nights out, CSR statements regarding charities or the environment, anything that demonstrates a core company’s values and how they might be treated. Don’t be afraid to fly your own flag. Showcase your business’s successes and the talent will come to you.