GUEST POST: How SMEs can become brilliant employers and set a course for growth

Written by Kirsty Craig, managing director of Kirsty Craig Associates

Hands up! Who thinks managing people is one of the most challenging aspects any SME business owner has? Let’s be honest… it’s not a skill that comes naturally to most people and why should it? Managing people is THE toughest responsibility because every person is different, unpredictable and motivated by a unique set of factors.

Having spent most of my working life in recruitment, I created Kirsty Craig Associates ten years ago to provide support to SMEs, specifically across HR, recruitment and people development, because, in talking with our clients, I recognised that the same issues were coming up time and again. We believe absolutely that people management can make or break a business. Great people can take any business to great places. Unhappy or under-skilled people can drag a business to the ground.

So, how do SMEs become brilliant employers? We’ve identified three key periods in an SME’s lifecycle when investing in your people can pay dividends…

Recruiting your first employee

Recruitment can be unbelievably frustrating. It takes time, energy, and a whole heap of emotional investment with no guarantee of the right outcome. From the moment you decide to build your team, the single most important thing you need is a structured and measurable recruitment process to work with. Not only will this help you to find and hire the right people but you won’t fall foul of current employment legislation either. Creating a strong employer brand that showcases the values and ethos which underpin your business – the ‘why’ someone should want to come and work for you – is essential if you are to achieve the right result. Most successful business owners surround themselves with people better than they are, so engaging with your people at every stage of their employment journey with you allows them to see the very best of your business at all times.

The way you manage your recruitment, and your employer brand, will help you to become an employer of choice and attract top talent.

When an employee or new recruit is underperforming

Perhaps you’ve hired an employee, and during their probationary period, it becomes clear that they aren’t performing in the way you had hoped. You have three options. You could let the employee go and recruit again, hoping for a different outcome. You could sit tight and hope that things improve with time. Or you could work to understand the root of the problem and act accordingly.

Has your onboarding and training been successful? Is your new employee feeling supported? Do they understand their role and your expectations? Is there a fundamental clash of values at play? There is much to be learned from this scenario about your recruitment and onboarding processes. Seize the opportunity to make sure that all is in place to make the employee experience the best it can be to give them every chance of being successful in their role.

When your managers are under-performing

The employee who is committed to their role and their employer, and who is delivering the required results for the business, are often promoted to a managerial level as a result. While they might be wonderful at their current role, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will be brilliant managers without being upskilled. And why should you expect them to be?

Most people leave their job because they are being badly managed – fact. So, making sure that when you promote, you invest in upskilling your new managers through training and coaching, will give you the best opportunity of retaining your key people, which ultimately results in your customers being better served.

Managing people is a process that takes time, effort, strategy, and empathy. Prioritising your people may seem counterintuitive (didn’t you hire them to lighten your load, not add to it?) but nothing will have a bigger impact on your business and its success or failure.

Equip your people with the skills they need. Instil your company values into their everyday experiences. Identify your business’s mission, vision, and values, and let them inform your recruitment processes. Become a brilliant employer and watch your business soar!

If you want to learn more about how to become THE best employer you can be, get in touch on 01244 732070 or