I’ve read a lot in the media about how large businesses are often losing out to smaller companies when attracting and retaining top young talent, says Rashid Ajami, Campus Society. The latter appears to offer fresh and exciting opportunities that larger organisations struggle to match.

This of course varies on a case by case basis but, in general, the ‘brand’ and appeal of innovative, disruptive smaller companies is high.

The reality, however, is that successful SMEs are working very, very hard to attract the right candidates for their business.

The ideal of being part of an innovative, nimble organisation is one thing but larger companies still have an impressive array of corporate benefits, competitive pay packets and brand-name recognition to woo top young talent that many smaller organisations can’t match.

So what can SMEs do to get the people they need for their business? I’ve attempted to answer this, based on what I’m seeing in the market and my own personal experience.

Communicate your company’s message

What is your company’s core proposition? What sets you apart from the rest? What benefits do you offer and why should ambitious young people dedicate their time to your business? Before everything else, you must be succinct and clear on these points, to distinguish your business within the market.

Give employees ownership

One of the biggest selling points of smaller companies is the level of ownership young employees can take. With the support from you and your management team, young workers should have the chance to build on their curiosities, create their own ideas and personally execute them. The value of this cannot be underestimated when compared to the traditional hierarchies of many larger companies.

Let employees steer their own career paths

Working for an SME should also give young people the potential to carve out their own, longer-term career paths. This sense of control over the future direction they’re going in, again, is a key differentiator to the framework-led structures of larger companies. It will be an exciting prospect for the ambitious.

Learning by example

Don’t underestimate the influence you, personally, and your colleagues can have on younger workers. Ensure that there is a strong, experienced management team within your SME and that they have time to support and mentor new recruits. A dynamic, exciting company that gives young talent direct access to more experienced staff will allow the new generation to shine and be inspired; they can seek guidance, learn fast and progress quickly.

Be responsive

When processing job applications with candidates, be as responsive as possible. By putting transparent and well-organised recruitment processes in place, young workers will feel reassured that your company is taking them and itself seriously.

What’s more, many of today’s 18-25 year olds have never known a life without technology, so they’ll expect swift and regular updates and constant contact. They are also often straight out of university, where a support network and responsive staff is part of the norm. Help make the transition to the world of business a smooth one for them.

Competing for top candidates

SMEs will always be up against the big boys when it comes to attracting the best candidates – everyone wants the best people working for, and alongside, them.

It’s hard work, but it really does pay off! Since starting Campus Society, I’ve found that building the team has been one of the best parts of running a business. Watching new recruits learn, grow in confidence and take responsibility for their projects is seriously rewarding.

Every company is different but the above, universal steps can be put in place to help young workers get off to the best start in their careers – ideally with you overseeing their development and progression.

Rashid Ajami, CEO of Campus Society