Attracting Top Talent across North of England – Marc Bradley

24th Jun 2024

For small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), the talent acquisition landscape in northern England can be daunting. The foundation of the local economy, small businesses find it difficult to compete with larger enterprises that can afford to pay more and have more ostentatious names. Talent Acquisition Manager at RTC, Marc Bradley delves into how SMEs can ensure they can remain competitive in a big players market.


During my 14 years of recruitment and finding the right person for the right role SMEs are a beacon of hope to those searching for a job. Their offer differs from something that large companies can’t deliver. Hands-on experience.

But by 2027, there could be a 20% talent gap across the north, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) analysis. This means that even big businesses will struggle to find qualified employees, creating an opportunity for SMEs to thrive.

But it’s not just being able to offer hands-on experience, here are my top tips on how SMEs can highlight their strengths.

Growth and Development - Offer a chance to learn and grow alongside a company. A recent Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) report found that 78% of UK graduates prioritise career development opportunities when choosing an employer1. Making employee development a key part of company culture ensures workers stay up to date on industry best practices and learn new skills. This, in turn, boosts employee engagement and attracts top talent. 

Close-knit Teams - Promote a collaborative and supportive work environment. With the rise of remote work, a strong company culture is even more important according to a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) study2. According to the definition of collaboration in the workplace is “working together with one or more people to complete a project or task or develop ideas or processes.” In a workplace setting, the people who are collaborating must communicate clearly and share knowledge effectively.

Direct Impact - Emphasise the ability to see your contributions make a real difference. 83% of UK employees report feeling more engaged when they understand how their work impacts the bigger picture according to a study by Engage for Success3. But how can you do this? Well, we aren’t talking about “Pizza Fridays” A company needs to create line-of-sight goals, roles and performance metrics. Clarity sets the foundation for appropriate appreciation. Actively engage the workforce, and set aside time to discuss recent achievements and ways they can continue.  Ask how you can better value their contributions.

Bridging the Skills Gap: Building Your Talent Pipeline

The lack of specific skills can be a hurdle. Here's how to tackle it:

  • Invest in Training - Develop programmes to equip your workforce with new skills. Upskilling your current team is often more cost-effective than recruiting entirely new talent.
  • Partner with Local Institutions - Collaborate with colleges and universities to find promising candidates. Focus on programmes aligned with emerging industries to stay ahead of the curve, such as renewable energy or artificial intelligence.
  • Create Apprenticeships - Invest in the future by nurturing homegrown talent. Apprenticeship programmes are a great way to develop a loyal and skilled workforce.

Remember, attracting top talent is not just about offering competitive salaries. Highlighting your unique strengths and providing opportunities for growth and development can make your SME an attractive choice for job seekers.


ICAEW: Business and Finance Outlook 2024 ↩

CIPD: The Future Workplace Report 2024 ↩

[Engage for Success: Employee Engagement Trends 2023]( 

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