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The Different Ways your Small Business can Attract Top Talent

Covid-19 aside, the world of work has changed. Competitive salaries, pensions, and cycle-to-work schemes are no longer enough to attract and retain talented employees. Nowadays, people expect much more from their benefits and perks package before accepting a new role and keeping it for the long term.

In this article, one of the UK’s best company formation agents, Rapid Formations, explores how small businesses can attract top talent with desirable and out-of-the-box workplace benefits. From free food to share options, there’s plenty that small business owners can do to invest in their teams and stand out among competitors.

Flexible working policies

If you’re wondering how to stand out to new recruits, a flexible working policy remains one of the top benefits that people care about.

It’s no news that the pandemic has revolutionised the way people work. It has drawn attention to the fact that hundreds of jobs can be done from home without jeopardising productivity (in most cases, even improving it) and boosting job satisfaction – a win-win for staff and employers.

Considering how well this system works, flexible working remains a top priority for 77% of job seekers, a People Management survey found. For many, it can even be a deal breaker.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, just 23% of employees say they’d prefer a pay rise over flexible working patterns. Considering this, flexible working is an extremely powerful way to attract top talent to your small business.

But what exactly does it mean, what types of policies do workers expect, and how can you implement them effectively? Flexibility means different things to different people, but generally speaking, it’s choosing where and when you work.

For the average small business operating Monday-Friday from 9am to 5:30pm, this could mean flexi-hours. For example, they can choose to start work any time between 8:30am and 9:30am (and, of course, finish later in the evening). This way, you’re giving your team the freedom to adapt their working arrangements to any external commitments they may have, such as childcare, without impacting their day job.

Another option for small businesses is to implement a hybrid working policy. This involves employees spending part of the week (typically two or three days) in the office and the remainder at home.

If you don’t yet have any flexible working policies or are looking to improve them ahead of recruitment, be sure to collaborate with your existing staff members and find different ways to satisfy both employees and the business.

Ultimately, facilitating a work-life balance shows that you’re a trusting and considerate employer, and new recruits are bound to notice you in their job search. Without such policies, you could be significantly restricting your talent pool access and missing out on valuable, high-quality staff.

Financial benefits

Another way you can attract top talent to your business is by helping to alleviate people’s everyday expenses. Despite the ONS reporting the biggest wage growth against inflation in two years, many people still face a series of financial pressures.

Especially now that returning to the office in some capacity is quickly picking up, workers are having to spend more money on things like commuting, lunch, and childcare. In fact, research from Finder shows that those travelling to the office full-time could be spending over 9% of their annual take-home pay purely on commuting and food.

For the average London worker, that’s more than £3,000 a year. So, anything an employer can do to support their staff financially is a welcome benefit that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Now, for small businesses with limited budgets, this doesn’t mean buying lunch for the whole office every day. You can offer these benefits in many ways without hurting your company’s financials but still making a huge difference in your employees’ lives.

A simple example is stocking the kitchen with fresh fruit and snacks, or if you can stretch your budget a bit more, a free lunch for everyone every now and then. If you work from home and have a remote team, why not send them some lunch vouchers instead?

These simple, low-cost gestures go a long way. Not only do they stretch employees’ disposable income, but they also perk people up, boost daily productivity, and make them feel more connected to the business.

But it’s not just free food that you can attract workers with. There are many other financial benefits that new recruits are looking for, such as:

  • Subsidised travel
  • Discounted gym memberships
  • A business healthcare plan
  • Retail vouchers
  • Free branded merchandise (e.g. jumpers, travel mugs, water bottles)
  • Free toiletries
  • Free parking at work
  • Work-related training

These are all highly desirable workplace benefits that potential employees are paying attention to in their job search. An attractive salary is no longer enough to lure them, especially if it’s an office-based job. To entice top talent to join you, you should explore ways to help staff feel valued by supporting them with some of their expenses.

Pet-friendly workspaces

Having a pet-friendly office policy is a no-brainer for small businesses looking to attract new talent. This unique, growing trend won’t cost you anything and can have a tremendously positive impact on overall well-being and workplace culture (not to mention the headache it’d save people when they can’t find a sitter).

Animal lovers know that our pets make us happy. For many, their pet is their best friend or support companion. Incorporating them into their work life can help people feel more comfortable and calmer at work, boost their self-confidence, and significantly improve job satisfaction.

Pets also have a positive impact on our pawductivity (excuse the pun), which is a huge benefit for both employees and employers. They are known to reduce stress and anxiety levels, not only in their owners but also in those around them.

Simply petting or being in the presence of pets can put staff members in a better mood and make them more focused, thus allowing them to accomplish more during the day and produce higher-quality work.

Furthermore, you’ll be supporting your team’s physical health by allowing trained pets in the office. Most will bring their dogs, who will need to go for a lunchtime walk. This way, employees have an opportunity to take a break from their computers, increase their step count, and enjoy some fresh air, which they may not otherwise do.

Finally, pets will transform your workplace culture. They make the office more social and friendly by facilitating conversations and connections among colleagues.

If you don’t have an office or you simply don’t have the space for pets at work, you can still attract pet-loving workers by offering them pet insurance. Corporate policies may be more cost-effective than you think and, while helping employees save money, you’ll portray yourself as a modern, caring, and memorable employer.

Extra annual leave perks

UK employees are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave. For a full-time employee working five days a week, that’s 28 days’ holiday a year. Also, though it doesn’t have to, the statutory allowance does normally include bank holidays.

This is the bare minimum that future recruits will expect. To appeal to a larger pool of candidates, you should consider offering a more generous annual leave package – if you’re in a position to do so.

An alternative that many employers offer nowadays is the possibility of buying additional holiday days (normally up to five per year). This way, if staff members use up their allowance, they have the option to buy more from the company at their typical daily rate. Not only does this boost their annual leave package, but it also gives employees greater flexibility if they need it, without worrying about exhausting their original allowance.

If you’re brave enough, you could introduce unlimited holidays. Approach this perk with caution, however. Without a set amount of annual leave, some people may not take enough time off work and risk burnout. On the other hand, some employees could abuse the system and end up taking far too much time off.

So, while it’s unlimited, this policy does need to be managed carefully in order to be effective. Given that it is, you could seriously impress job seekers with this unusual perk.

If unrestricted holidays are unsuitable for your business, there are other options. Why not give staff their birthdays off? Really, it’s just an extra day off, but packaging it as ‘a day off for your birthday’ can be more inviting.

Fair sick pay is another attractive workplace benefit. Some companies provide paid sick days only once a certain length of service has been completed and some don’t offer them at all. So, you can stand out by offering new joiners reasonable sick pay from day one (five days a year is fairly standard).

Employee share schemes

Last but not least are employee share schemes. Incentivise new joiners with this unique benefit, giving staff the option to purchase a stake in the company whilst giving them (and your company) significant tax relief.

There are four employee share schemes: Share Incentive Plans (SIPs), Save As Your Earn (SAYE), Company Share Options, and Enterprise Management Incentives (EMIs).

With SIPs, staff members don’t pay any Income Tax or National Insurance Contributions (NICs) on shares held in the plan for five years. Under the right circumstances, there is also no Capital Gains Tax (CGT) due on the sale of SIP shares either.

As the same suggests, SAYE is a savings programme. Employees can save up to £500 a month on this scheme and use their savings to purchase company shares. Any interest or bonus gained is tax-free.

With a Company Share Option Plan, staff can buy future shares worth up to £60,000 at a fixed price without incurring any Income Tax or NICs on the difference between the purchase price and the share’s market value.

Finally, EMIs allow you to grant up to £250,000 worth of share options to qualifying employees within a three-year period. Given that EMI shares are purchased for at least their market value at the time they were granted, employees don’t have any Income Tax or NICs. When they sell those shares, they also pay a reduced CGT rate of 10%.

Employee share schemes are a great way to attract new talent. It shows that you not only value but also actively reward people for their contribution to the business and invite them to celebrate your joint success. This workplace benefit also demonstrates to new joiners that you’re a high-growth company and a desirable place to work, with plenty of opportunity and progression to look forward to.


In a congested labour market, small businesses can often be clouded by larger players with bigger budgets. The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to attract top talent.

However, you do need to think outside the box now that the work landscape has changed considerably since the pandemic. Use our guide to explore unique perks and benefits that employees actually want and value.

Rapid Formations is one of the UKs favourite company formation agents. With over a decade of expertise, they help entrepreneurs get their new business ventures off the ground in no time.

Once registered, their expert team are there to guide you and your new company through life after incorporation. Find out more about quick, simple, and affordable company formation packages starting at just £12.99 on the Rapid Formations website.