By Tracy Filler, GrowthAccelerator

Working for a small business brings its fair share of advantages. Employees, even junior ones, have a higher profile within a company and will feel like more than just a small fish in a big pond. There is more variety, responsibility and opportunity to work closely with senior management and a feeling that their contribution has a real effect on the success of the business. All round job satisfaction is often higher for employees of small businesses.

However, in spite of this, small businesses still face a challenge in attracting and keeping talent that might easily be lured away by the attraction of working for a big company. Your business may be more flexible and informal than a large corporation, but your employees will still see the potential of higher earnings and career progression offered by a bigger rival.

Small businesses have real progression opportunities available but aren’t always necessarily that great at showcasing them. By having a clear progression plan in place your business will have a better chance of keeping talented staff and enabling them to help your business succeed.

Plan ahead

Consider the resource that you need for your business today. Then consider the position that you could be in in two years’ time and then five years’ time. A clear plan will help you to recruit specific people into your business that you need.

Once you have done this and have the right staff in place you will be in a much stronger position to plan progression for them and the business.

Flexible but stable

Implementing a progression plan for employees does not prevent you from being flexible. Flexibility is a luxury that most big employers can’t afford, but that smaller businesses can.

When an employee is clearly ready for a promotion, as a smaller business you might not have an obvious role in which to put them but, by considering their skill set you can create a job for them that suits their strengths, keeps them engaged and that will contribute to your bottom line.


How many employers know what their staff want and need? When you run a small business you are in the strong position of having the ability to know every person that works for you.

You should plan to take the time to understand your employees by talking to them and finding out what they want from you and how they want their careers to progress. The interest you take in their personal growth and the ability to create bespoke career paths together will almost certainly help to improve morale and staff retention.


There’s a perception that larger companies offer more training for their employees. As a smaller business you may not have the in-house resource at your disposal to deliver this but that doesn’t mean that you, and others in your organisation will not be able to provide structured training in certain areas.

You should also not ignore the expertise that younger and less experienced employees have and the knowledge they can pass on. This is the generation that grew up with the Internet, smart phones, apps and even social media. Your company might not have a structured training programme, but you can offer young people the opportunity to not only learn from their colleagues, but also to teach them something.

Of course finding room in your budget for external training will allow your team to learn from people outside of your business. This is knowledge that can be transferred to the rest of the team and give you alternative and potentially new ways of doing business.

The false economy

Deciding where and how to spend money are the most important considerations for any business, regardless of size. Of course bigger companies can afford to make decisions and risks that a small business might not be able to.

Salaries may look like the obvious place to protect the bottom line and this has been a generally accepted necessity throughout the recession. However, wherever possible you need to consider the long term and a growing economy. Will your decision to save money now lead to talent walking out the door? If so then you will have to spend money on recruitment and potentially lose even more money down the line.

Consider your progression structure when budgeting and try to ensure that you are in a position to invest now to keep an employee that could help your business succeed in the future.