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How to build a team that grows your business

A football team gets promoted and within a season all their best players have been signed by bigger clubs offering higher wages. This weakens the team and down the league they go. In the same way a football team is dependent on the skill and talent of its players and negatively impacted by the loss of talent, so is an SME. When looking to grow - whether that means moving up a league table, or by increasing a business's profitability and business share, recruiting and retaining the best talent is key.

Currently, openings for new employees in larger businesses is on the rise and to sign the best talent they are offering exorbitant salaries and benefits to lure key employees away from their current businesses, perhaps explaining a first half turnover rate of 12.7%*, the highest in the last five years.

As a small business owner with only 8 full-time employees in Hong Kong, this concerns me. The loss of even one of my employees would have a detrimental effect my business's profitability, productivity and morale. So, what can small businesses like mine, do to compete with the big boys? Perhaps surprisingly, my strategy is to think of my employees as players and myself as the manager of a football team.

Invest in your best players

65%** of SME employees claim that a higher salary is their main reason for pursuing a new job. However, what this may actually reflect is that they feel undervalued. This leaves the goal wide open for small businesses like mine to retain key employees and attract new star talent to help their business grow.

Research shows high-performing employees are up to 8 times more productive*** and have a significant impact on business profitability. To ensure these key employees feel valued, small businesses should invest selectively through competitive salaries, rather than raising salaries across the board, building a team of high-performing employees that support growth, without breaking the bank.

Train them to shine

Training allows small businesses to increase their employees’ overall skills, boosting capabilities above and beyond the competition to drive business growth. Investing in key employee development is therefore crucial. 38%** of employees consider career advancement as a key factor in deciding whether to stay with a company, and many leave because of a lack of opportunity.

Training with the clear purpose of career advancement can help small businesses to identify and prepare key employees for promotion, offering them the career advancement opportunities needed to ensure their talent, experience and the investment in their training, doesn’t end up helping a competitor grow instead.

Keep them playing in top form

Finally, keeping players healthy and motivated is key to winning that trophy, and it’s the same for businesses. Just under half of SMEs in Hong Kong offer employees Group Health Insurance, with the majority claiming GHI is a cost-effective way to minimise employee turnover and boost morale.

There are tailored plans and wellness options to fit any business size and budget, covering everything from hospital and surgical procedures to outpatient, health checks and even acupuncture. As a result, 39%**** of mid-sized SMEs surveyed by Cigna claim GHI directly improved employee productivity and quality of work.

Staff turnover decreased once I introduced Group Health Insurance and has helped me to cost-effectively provide an added benefit that my competitor’s do not.


Thinking of employees the same way football clubs think about players makes a lot of sense. For both, it is the best people that make the difference between winning and losing, and both must do all they can to keep their best players if they want to grow.

*Hong Kong Institute of Human Resources http://www.hkihrm.org/index.php/component/content/article?id=2316
** Hays Recruitment https://www.hays.com.hk/press-releases/HAYS_322395
*** Mckinsey https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/attracting-and-retaining-the-right-talent
**** All research conducted by Kantar Hong Kong Limited, August 2019

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