Competing with Bigger Businesses

How can you compete with bigger businesses to keep your employees happy?

Incredibly frustrating to small businesses is trying to level the playing field with the big guns. This is felt in many different areas but a notable one is in talent retention – the art of keeping your employees happy. Having the best staff is perhaps even more important to a smaller business. You can’t throw the same resources at an employee that a large company can, so how do you compete with them in terms of keeping your employees happy?

Realise your advantages

Whilst feeling daunted by larger competitors, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that you have advantages too. Many individuals don’t want to be a ‘cog in a machine’. They want to be able to make their mark and have their individual contribution recognised.

As a small employer you have the ability to offer individuals diverse roles which allow for their self-development. You can be flexible and easily notice value-added rather than hours put in. Realise that you have advantages as an employer.

Be a good boss

There a number of reasons why individuals become dissatisfied in their role and leave. This may include advancement opportunities or a change in personal circumstances.

Frequently cited is a poor relationship with their boss. This is in your control. You cannot put a price on the positive relationship you build with your employees. It makes them want to come to work and give their best. Don’t underestimate its power.

Ask them how they are, what their children are up to, or what they did at the weekend. Take an interest in their volunteering. Simply show that you are interested.

Be appreciative

You may not be able to throw performance related pay in to the mix, or dish out large bonuses but this doesn’t mean you can’t show appreciation. Make sure you notice when someone does something well and say so. Let them leave a little early to go to their child’s sports day without using annual leave because they worked late to get that last project out. Give them a Christmas gift with meaning.

Be collaborative

A huge advantage you have over large businesses is that you can make the organisational structure relatively ‘flat’ without tiers which create an ‘us and them’ culture. Instead, show that you value the individual contribution of each employee by actively seeking their collaboration in a range of different areas.

Create a nice place to work

Small employers can create workspaces which are unique and personalised. The result is a nice and comfortable working environment conducive to productivity. This can extend to allowing remote working (where feasible) or break areas which encourage creativity.

Pass on the feedback

When positive feedback comes in, share it with the relevant employees. Your business thrives because you aren’t faceless, so thank the very faces who are making it work. A quick email to say it’s been noticed can create a real feel good factor to someone’s day. Similarly, keep a stock of small rewards (e.g. gift cards) which you can hand out at impromptu moments for a job well done. It’s about recognising the individual.

Be creative with benefits

You may not be able to offer private health care or generous car packages, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer benefits which your employees value. Perhaps provide lunch on Fridays through a local sandwich delivery company, or give generous annual leave allowances.


What does your small business do to keep employees happy?

Kara Copple
An experienced business and finance writer, sometimes moonlighting as a fiction writer and blogger.