In this feature, Hannah Dawson, Founder and CEO, Futrli, shares tips on how SMEs can harness the power of workplace diversity.

Hiring new staff is one of the biggest decisions you can make as an SME owner, especially if your goal is scalability or you need to secure funding. Above everything, a diverse workforce is one key to success.

In my experience, the ultimate dream team is a combination of disparate people with unique quirks and contrasts. I’ve personally achieved success through harnessing the individual strengths, talents and perspectives of a diverse team – and I’m not the only one.

With this in mind, here are some of the recruitment lessons I’ve learned over the years – from convincing our Chief Engineering Officer to work with me on ‘an idea’ from my home office (aka my kitchen table), to growing to a team of 100 exceptional individuals across five offices globally.

1. Do: think big with small budgets

Tight salaries don’t have to act as a barrier to attracting and retaining great employees. Maximise the strengths of being smaller to enable you to grow in the long-term. Remember: salary isn’t the only draw for potential new employees. Get creative with your thinking. What else can you offer to make staff feel valued? 

Empower every employee with a sense of ownership over the business, and responsibility for its success. This could be through offering specific training or mentorship. Encourage fast career progression, perhaps giving the option for staff to grow into other roles in the business they’re passionate about.

Building a flexible workplace is another powerful incentive, and an advantage SMEs have over most larger organisations. Being given the autonomy to work in the most productive way, fitting it around individual schedules, is hugely appealing to employees. Perks that encourage belonging and community never hurt either – foster a culture everyone is proud to be part of.

2. Don’t: be afraid to hire less experienced staff

A diverse team includes people with different levels of expertise, education and training. Juniors can add a lot to a business, as can those with a wealth of knowledge but in an entirely different industry.

Those with less or different experience often have fewer preconceptions about what a job ‘should’ be or how certain things must be achieved. With this comes enthusiasm to succeed, a willingness to learn and the ability to quickly adapt – all crucial to a growing SME. 

Diversity also aids in creative problem-solving. Old issues will be tackled with a fresh perspective, and innovative new ways of doing things are enhanced. Provide the right training opportunities that allow a less experienced employee to grow with your business, coming to know it inside out. You might just have a superstar in the making on your hands – someone who’ll support and boost the success of your SME long into the future.

3. Do: seek out experts to take your business forward

An SME’s growth is dependent on its leader clearly and confidently delegating their workload. Within your team, it’s vital to have employees with strong sector expertise and experience, individuals you can trust to run their departments autonomously.

Hire strong senior and technical staff who will complement your skillset. Let them help you take your business where it needs to go, so you can spend your time where it’s needed most. These employees will support the success of less experienced staff, empowering them to achieve more and ensuring that high-quality work is produced. 

Your team is an investment for your business. Senior management will provide you with the strategic vision, leadership and support needed to scale up effectively. It might also be possible to hire on a part-time basis, depending on the situation. Either way, not bringing experts on board will cost your SME in the long run.

4. Do: choose cultural fit over the perfect skillset

If an employee doesn’t integrate well with the rest of the team, it can lead to problems, regardless of that person’s abilities or experience. Imperfect fits can decrease collaboration and communication, which only results in failure and frustration for both parties.

Ultimately, if you hire someone who isn’t a good cultural fit, they’ll end up looking for another role that is more aligned to their values – leaving you with additional recruitment costs. Shape your values and vision for the business then find employees that share them. It’ll boost job satisfaction by creating a workplace that people will want to stay in.

5. Don’t: confuse cultural fit with uniformity

Hiring someone whose values reflect your organisation’s certainly doesn’t mean taking a cookie cutter approach to recruiting. However, if these values are not clearly defined, you face the danger of subconsciously hiring people very similar to yourself.

A team of carbon copies will not lead to your SME’s success: diversity is vital. It’s the most important element of any organisation’s culture. Teams are stronger when the people within them are of different ages, genders and backgrounds.

Hire people who will question your beliefs. Hire people who are complementary to each other, but not necessarily similar. Hire for diversity, for a richer thought process and for an environment in which people of different backgrounds are truly given a voice and can thrive. This is what will carry your SME forward and make it a better place to work. 

6. Do: say goodbye if it’s not working out

Despite your best efforts, hiring mistakes can happen. Perhaps an employee is not performing well or is creating issues within the team. Either way, take action as soon as possible to avoid further costs to your business.

Let’s say you’ve already communicated your expectations and given this individual the opportunity to improve. If they’ve refused to accept your support or make a change, and you have documented evidence that they’ve failed to meet certain standards, then it’s time to cut them loose – especially if the situation is causing low staff morale.

Do it face to face, with compassion and respect. Always state the reason for dismissal clearly. Thank them for their contributions to the company and explain the next steps, then share the news with your team (handling the entire situation as sensitively as you can).

7. Don’t forget: Your company is only as extraordinary as the individuals within it

… and when those individuals are representative of different genders, nationalities, ages and backgrounds, you instantly boost your SME’s potential. More brains around the table lead to a richer thought process – and that’s good for business.

Hannah Dawson is the founder and CEO of Futrli. One of the leading female entrepreneurs in the SaaS space, Hannah flies the flag for women in technology by leading Futrli with an innovative approach to diversity; this is a passion close to her heart and core to their strategy as they grow the team globally.