Your business is big enough now to need HR support but hiring an HR manager is absolutely the wrong decision.

A Familiar Scenario

Your business is growing fast and you have ambitious plans for the future. To facilitate this and effectively deal with the increasing pressures placed on you and your management team, you need to scale up various aspects of the business.

This potentially includes everything from the physical space you have available to your core business departments whether that is sales, service delivery, manufacturing, etc.

You also need to scale up your capacity in business support functions like accounting, marketing, and, yes, HR.

Does this sound familiar?

The problem with HR is its complexity.

The HR Specialists Your Business Needs

As a fast-growing and ambitious business, you need specialists in multiple HR areas. This includes:

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding new staff, contracts, new employee support, etc
  • Performance management and performance issues
  • Handling grievances
  • Handling claims of harassment, bullying or discrimination
  • Disciplinary issues
  • Staff retention strategies
  • Employee wellbeing programmes
  • Benefits packages

These are all individual skills that need specific expertise. Plus, the list above isn’t even definitive.

The HR Reality

There is no single individual with all the necessary skills who is capable of delivering on all the requirements outlined above.

This is why large companies have HR departments staffed by multiple people. These teams are required to handle the HR workload of the business, but the individuals on those teams don’t all do the same thing. Instead, each will specialise in specific aspects of the HR function.

The requirements don’t stop there either. This is because the HR function in your business needs to deal with situations that exist today while also resolving issues that occurred in the past. It also needs to plan for the future to ensure your HR strategy aligns with the goals of your business.

Your HR function should support your managers. It should give them confidence so they can make better decisions and help deliver better business results.

You need the same solution in your business, i.e. specialists that can support your business in every aspect of HR. However, the size of your company can’t justify the expense of hiring the team you really need.

Many fast-growing businesses in the same position as yours often compromise when faced with this situation.

Don’t Compromise

In most cases, this is an unconscious compromise. Most business owners don’t realise that HR has so many elements and specialisms. Unlike, say, accountancy, where they know they need a bookkeeper and a financial controller. As they grow, they know they will need to appoint a financial director or CFO too.

Yep, it sounds counter-intuitive, but in the vast majority of growth-driven SMEs, hiring a HR manager is a compromise – a compromise you don’t need to make.

In terms of HR, business owners know they need help, and the default position is to hire a HR Manager.

However the business owner comes to this decision, the solution typically involves finding the best-darned HR professional they can and then paying them well to attract and hopefully retain them for the long-term.

However, this story often then follows a similar script.

This starts with the workload on the HR manager becoming too much. The array of HR challenges is too broad and many are outside the HR manager’s competence.  Also, the pace of progress is often not as fast as the owners of the business want.

A decision is then often made to recruit a support person for the HR manager, usually in a junior position. Or maybe to employ external consultants to resolve more serious issues.

As a result, the business owner now has a HR team and high HR costs but is still in a compromise situation in relation to the skills and capacity available to the business.

This is why not compromising is a better business decision. You need an alternative solution instead.

The Alternative to Hiring a HR Manager

The alternative is to hire your own HR department. One that is there when you need it, on demand, and with the specialists that are required. A department to take care of all the day-to-day HR activities your business needs in addition to the more challenging issues that crop up from time to time. 

Recording holidays, storing key information securely and in compliance with GDPR, keeping an eye on probation dates, issuing contracts to new employees, and everything else – just pass it to your HR department.

Hang on though – we’ve already mentioned above that the size of your business doesn’t justify hiring a HR team.

The answer is to hire a HR department as a service (hint: HR Duo can help here). 

With a HR as a service, you get all the specialists you need without having to directly appoint anyone, plus you can scale up and down according to the requirements of your business. It’s the holistic and effective HR solution your business needs.

Download your free guide to HR Operational Risk

In any business, but especially in startups beginning to scale and growing SME and , recruiting has always been a challenge.  The hires you make will help to define the future success of the organisation.  Choose the wrong person and that one moment of decision could take months or years to unpick.  

In our constant pursuit of excellence, we have again sought an understanding of the challenges facing our clients.  Are the difficulties in recruiting the same as always? Or, are they more difficult in an increasingly digital world that favours the gig economy?  As we began this year, we sought to understand if the challenges facing small and medium-sized enterprises are significantly different from those of large enterprises and multinationals. Over 78% of our respondents came from small to medium businesses, and almost 22% were from large enterprises. 

At HR Duo, we offer a complete HR Department, providing HR software and support and advice when you need it.  Therefore, we are continually striving to understand the recruitment sector. Consequently, we recently spoke to Business Owners about hiring practices.  We asked about the current state of recruitment and sought to understand the challenges they faced.

Of all those asked, 59.4% of Business Owners said they found it challenging to recruit staff.  This is 10% less than the 69% of CEOs and managers asked in 2017, a significant improvement. It suggests that new recruitment approaches are having an impact. However, it still represents a considerable concern about the state of the job market and the capacity to find the right candidate.

The biggest challenges when recruiting

There are two takeaways from the results that interested us the most.  First, the lack of required skills and experience still factored as the most significant challenge facing SMEs and Startups.  While this is down by 15% from when we asked the CEOs and managers three years ago, it still represents the highest level of concern.  Second is the impact of salary expectations. People expect to be paid more and consequently, it is difficult to hire the best team and maintain a reasonable salary budget.

Other concerns included a lack of applicants (38.3%), competition over applicants (11.7%), promoting the vacancy (10%) and office location (6.7%)

These results suggest there is still a need for solutions to closing the skills gap and seeking the right talent at the right price.

Managing the skills gap

Research suggests that the use of fluid working practices and a reward system are the best ways of addressing the skills gap.  Business looking to the future recognise that the working relationship with talented staff needs to be more flexible. There needs to be employee-centric approaches to development and reward.

Technology might feel like an existential threat, disempowering and disengaging those recruited.  However, it is also a way of engaging those with talent in varied and meaningful work. This tech allows employees the flexibility to work in a way that suits the lifestyle to which they aspire.

In this new model of working, Business owners and Founders need to look beyond the standard list of criteria and expectations of candidates.  The hard skills of the past, and even the softer skills that are more difficult to measure and evidence, are becoming irrelevant. Instead, companies need to be looking at the qualities that the candidates offer – including, crucially, the capacity to self-manage, to continue to learn, to work with honesty and integrity, following an internal code of ethics and a vision for a better future for the company.  

As we advised in our survey from 2017 and again, we suggest today, you need to go beyond that black and white list of qualifications to hire your new staff.  Finding the perfect candidate who comes ready-made to fulfil your position in your way is a rarity. If you find them, they are going to cost you more to hire because they have highly desirable CVs – and your competitors want them too.

So, the answer is a more liquid model of skills required by your business.  You need to recognise that the relationship with your employees is reciprocal and based on mutual respect and trust – Positive Employee Relations as we like to say. there are also opportunities to be flexible around working hours and locations. Companies that prioritise the wellbeing of staff will find they will become much more desirable to the best applicants.

This change in focus will require you to change your mindset when recruiting.  Rather than look at the skills list the candidate offers, look for the attitude they project.  You could take someone raw, straight out of university but who has a recent history of involvement in societies and charity events.  You get someone who needs your training for the skills you need but comes ready packaged with the right qualities to learn above and beyond your expectations. Of course this approach requires a significant investment in time and potentially, resources.

Managing your staffing costs

The apparent solution to recruitment issues might be to throw larger salaries at the applicants you can find.  The survey suggests that higher salary expectations are a significant challenge as it is. Consequently, the idea of going above and beyond this to hire the talent you require feels unrealistic and unsustainable.

The solution to the skills gap and the possible answer to staffing costs could well be the same.  Your performance management programme and training and rewards package could be integrated into your recruitment practices.  In a GETI survey for the oil and gas sector in 2019, the findings suggested that workers are looking for a package. Therefore, it might not be a matter of the highest salary.  You might not be able to keep up with this staffing cost. However, you could still attract talent by putting together a cohesive package that offers development. The same survey noted that applicants were not only looking at the opportunities today but the chance to travel, learn new technology and shape a career with your company.

You could easily reap the rewards by offering more than just a high salary.  Your pitch, when competing for the best talent, should include how you will value this applicant as an individual and look to add to their skills and abilities.  You want a workforce skilled enough to go it alone and succeed in their own right, but they don’t want to because it is so good working for you.  

As a small business, you can’t hope to out- pay larger enterprises.  However, you could look to outsmart them with a people-orientated recruitment policy.  The offer of a more substantial salary should be the last resort. If there is someone out there that you cannot do without – and who you do not want to be employed by your competitors, then offer a highly competitive salary might be in order.  However, in reality, you cannot use this as a policy with every hire you make. It is, therefore, a short-term perspective on trends that will likely continue far into the future.

Don’t ignore the issues with applicants

Although the headlines are salary and skills, a sheer lack of numbers when advertising a job cannot be ignored.  Almost 40% of Business Owners stated this was one of their top two concerns. If this is you, then you need to consider your relationship with the marketplace for talent and manage your expectations.  

What does this mean? It means you need to be required to put some effort into walking towards the candidates – rather than having these applicants walk towards you.  For instance, do you have a graduate scheme? Having links to universities and encouraging interns and graduate employees will show your willingness to seek out the best people straight out of university.  Although the biggest companies are very active here, there is is still scope for SMEs to compete. You need to play to your strengths though. Graduates joining you will get far more responsibility and a wider experience. Again, this means you need to invest in training as these workers will come raw and without specific skill and experience.  However, if you seek them out and draw them into your company out of university, you will earn staff loyalty. Where there is a lack of applicants, retaining the current employees must be a significant priority. Therefore, graduate hires offer this win: win for companies.

According to the Harvard Business Review (May-June 2019), much recruitment is done without a job being advertised. Most companies are recruiting people through social media, such as LinkedIn, bringing in people who were not necessarily looking to change roles. A lot of recruitment is now outsourced, and the subcontractor actively seeks the candidates to fill the position – persuading them to apply.  Whether this virtual approach to hiring is right or not is questionable. However, what it proves is that companies are recognising they need to go out and seek applicants and should not remain passive in this search.

To the future

Probably most significant in all these challenges is the fast-moving nature of the recruitment sector.  Not long after happening upon the best strategy to hire the best talent, the world moves on, and your approach no longer works.  You may have a method that nets a lot of applicants of whom a handful meet your hopes. You may have strict standards, keeping the bar high but are willing to put your money where your mouth is – supporting this strategy with a high staffing budget.

However, changing technologies – both in recruitment software and those that allow people to work in a way that suits a lifestyle they choose – may make these strategies redundant.  Therefore, using keyword searches on CVs, using AI on applications, allowing flexible working remote from the office and putting together a benefits package that makes people feel valued – these are the solutions that could move your recruitment forward.

First impressions are everything and your Job Description will be the first time many of your employees will encounter your fledgling business. A basic Job Description usually contains the job title, duties, skills and competencies, a bit about the company and a salary. However, you’ll probably agree that ‘basic’ isn’t quite in line with your company vision.

Your workforce is one of your most important assets and you want to attract the best.

With this in mind, it’s worth investing considerable time to ensure your outbound communications are effective. In the long run, this will save you time and resources (after all,  recruitment is a time-hungry animal).

In our recent survey, we learned that 69% of business find recruitment difficult. As many as 3 in 4 SMEs struggle due to lack of applicants, or getting applicants at their intended level.

We are committed to helping small businesses with their HR challenges and providing easy to find, expert-advice online. So, we called upon our friends in the industry who kindly shared their wisdom and sound advice.

We asked them:

How Do You Write A Perfect Job Description?

Making the role stand out

There’s a deficit of attention in our information-rich world.  So cut to the chase: What is special about working in your SME? Avoid meaningless buzzwords and instead create a short story based on one of your existing employees. Here’s an example:

Nina was looking for work where she could stretch her imagination and learn whilst doing creative projects.  Nina found that because at SME Ltd, we thrive on flexible, adaptable and highly self-directed people.

Pitch at the right level

Describing the impact a role has can be of more value than a list of competencies, and a range of accountabilities.

Mihai wasn’t looking for another Head of Accounting role.  He wanted to be close to the people who needed sound economic advice, forecasting and investment management.  He found that with us because we understand our customers’ world and what’s the best out there to help them succeed in tough financial markets.

Get the right candidates

It’s often how it feels rather than what precisely you’ll do that will attract the right candidate.

Marsha knew she wanted to be in a place where you were given a tough assignment but all the support and opportunities to succeed.  We don’t interfere with how you want to work, we provide the conditions that help people flourish and keep our clients happy.

Ensure that who you hire, stays

Commitment and belonging mean more than entrapped by contract or stuck doing “just enough”.

Josh has been with us for 2 years and was our first hire into a customer liaison role.  Now leading our entire Customer Experience division, Josh is an example of how we’ve grown with our people. Creating opportunities is as much how we work as generating new business and increasing our impact in the marketplace.

Perry Timms is a Chartered MCIPD, Founder & Chief Energy Officer at PTHR and author of the newly published “Transformational HR”. In 2017, he was awarded “HR Most Influential Thinker”, following his high revered TEDx talk: The Future of Work.

Follow Perry on Linkedin here.

Adverts are as much about raising awareness about the company as they are about actually attracting people to work at an organisation. In fact, the return on adverts is typically quite low, especially if the company has a negative brand image elsewhere (e.g. people might research what it’s like to work at that company before actually applying) so it’s important to get your entire company message consistent and positive.

Get them excited

Your ad is about attracting people to want to talk to you so it should get someone excited. The key thing to get across in an ad is what the person applying stands to gain by getting this job (e.g. will they get specific training, will they work directly with clients/the business leaders etc). To get this right, you need to know your audience and what will appeal to them. You need to show some ‘upside’ to the candidate for applying to the ad.

Go beyond skills

It’s becoming increasingly important to convey how someone would feel doing the job they apply for. A list of skills that they must have doesn’t tell them what’s in it for them as an applicant, it just includes or excludes them. Absolutely include what skills are required but that should just be a part of the advert.

Make sure the advert is detailed

People often think that if they keep the advert light on details, they will attract a broader and larger population of people. An ad isn’t successful because of the number of applicants but because of the accuracy of the candidates on what you are looking for. Better off getting 10 relevant candidates than 100 of which only 5 match what you are looking for. People are more likely to apply for an ad if they know some detail about the environment they are signing up to, some detail on the job they will do and what they stand to gain. They are less likely to apply if there is little detail.

Keywords are your friend

Most job boards will place ads based on how many times you use the keywords in the ad (i.e. the title of the job and key skills required). People are more likely to apply for the first three jobs that match their search criteria so make sure your ad shows up in their searches by smartly using keywords throughout the ad.

Make the title simple

People don’t search for ‘fantastic opportunity’ when they are job searching. They search for e.g. ‘Marketing executive’. Have the job seeker in mind when writing the title. Think about what they would search for.-

Kunjal Tanna is the Director of LT Harper, a recruitment firm set up in response to a global skills shortage in the Cybersecurity sector. With 15 years experience working in the technology space, she specialises in placing highly sought after professionals with IT Security skills.

Follow Kunjal on Linkedin here.

Know exactly what you’re after

Be very clear in your own mind exactly what the role is and what it is you want the person to do, before even attempting to write a description. Asking for someone who is “good with customers”, or “can generate business leads” is not specific enough.

If you’re not 100% clear on your expectations, it can lead to moving goalposts or evolving the role once the hire has started. This leads to a decline in professional trust. Also, candidates can sense when an employer doesn’t really know what they want, and anyone with experience will know to avoid. The benefit of role clarity is that the description will be more appealing to the right people.

Make sure the JD honestly reflects the role

If a company is struggling to recruit, or the company needs to recruit with a sense of urgency, it might be tempting to exaggerate the positives of the role and/or gloss over some of more mundane expectations.

Whilst this may increase the number of applications, it may also increase your turnover rates if new staff feel the role hasn’t met expectations. This ultimately leads to a waste of time and resources. So, make sure you’re job description accurately reflects what the person will be doing day to day.

Set the scene

Build a future into the role, let the candidate see the opportunity to progress, grow and develop.

Be clear on the hierarchy and where the role sits within the company structure.

Bring desirable qualities to life by including both enablers to success, such as ‘Have a great personal and professional integrity and inspire this in others’ and barriers such as ‘Not fully ‘buying in’ to our company culture’ to let candidates know if they will be a good fit.

Use the department’s targets, company values and behaviours and hierarchy to cascade and bring alignment to roles, if the department head’s role is ‘Accountable for providing reporting and feedback to monthly management meeting’. It should follow that their direct report’s role may read ‘Responsible for providing insights and contributing towards department reporting’.

Rebecca Clough is the Managing Director of In Car Safety Centre, the UK and Ireland’s leading car seats specialists. She joined the company after 13 years in finance and procurement with Diageo.

Follow Rebecca on Linkedin here.

Writing a job description may feel like a chore but it’s one of the first pieces of literature a potential employee is going to read about your company and first impressions count.

You may think the ball is in your court with candidates wanting your job opening, but for the excellent people that your organisation really needs, you have to give an excellent impression at every step of the hiring process.

With all your employee communications you need to start with your vision. Where is your company going and why? This is important to get candidates who are motivated by your purpose and who will support it.

At Countingup we talk about creating a really simple way to run a business by giving every small business accounting and banking in one place. That’s our vision.

An employee wants to know where they stand in an organisation. At Countingup we refer to this as roles and goals.

  • Roles are what you do
  • Goals are the outcome of what you do

It’s important to let candidates know in a job description what their roles and goals are as this gives clarity of accountability and sets mutual expectations.

You could list loads of values and behaviours that you would like a candidate to have and they would probably all be worthy attributes, but we prefer to focus on just two that are key for us:

  • Are you committed to getting things done quickly and with excellence?
  • Do you speak the truth and listen with an open mind to improving?

The next step at the interview stage is of course ensuring that a candidate actually measures up to the template you’ve set out in the job description.

Tim Fouracre is the founder & CEO of Countingup, the new finance solution for SMEs offering accounting and banking in one place. Previously, Tim founded Clear Books plc., which provides small businesses with clear & simple cloud accounting and payroll software. 

Follow Tim on Linkedin here.

Writing a Technical Job Description

Writing a technical job description can throw up a number of challenges. This is commonly observed in specialist fields such as IT. If the prospective candidate can poke holes in the job description, it can be very off-putting. To the prospect, this is usually a sign that the company doesn’t really know what they want and anyone with skills and experience will know to avoid.

Therefore, whenever creating a technical job description, it is vitally important to avoid these common pitfalls:

Too broad

While we’d all wish to recruit that one person who can do everything, it’s not very practical to expect it. Try not to expect skills across multiple domains that have no relationship. For example, asking for an expert graphic designer who is also an expert software developer. People will be one or the other, but not both.

Too specific

Don’t fill your job descriptions with obscure minor skills, nor list them as must-have requirements. Again, this can occur when a non-specialist recruiter is handing a job and there is the potential to fixate on small details.

For example, competent web developers and coders can quickly pick up specific nuances between common code resources that are based on standard programming patterns. It shouldn’t really matter if they have hands-on experience with an exact resource if they have knowledge that is directly transferable from similar projects with minimal effort.

Too advanced

While you want to make sure the description covers all bases, try not to add requirements that aren’t essential, or ask for skills that rarely get used. This risks reducing the amount and quality of applications for the role. Unnecessary requirements deter people who are genuinely competent with the job’s main requirements, leaving the applicant list with a higher percentage of people who exaggerate their capabilities. It also pushes up the salary expectation while alienating junior applicants who are capable of doing the job.

Working with recruiters

Finally, make sure the person handling recruitment has a fair understanding of the role they are recruiting for. Seems obvious enough, but is often overlooked. This is particularly relevant to those in SMEs, whose businesses are often niche and specialist in nature.

For example, a classic mistake is when recruiters attempt to recruit JavaScript developers for a Java role. JavaScript is a completely different technology to Java; in the same way that English is different to French – both are European languages, but you can’t pass one off as the other.

Leon Brown is an award-winning education content developer & technology writer. He owns and operates nextpoint.co.uk, offering a no-nonsense and jargon-free approach to learning maths and programming skills through interactive software, content and training programmes.

Follow Leon on Linkedin here.

Recruitment survey bring welcome news to recent graduates, especially those who may be struggling to find their ideal role.

Recently, we surveyed over 100 CEOs and Managers across small and large businesses, to find out what issues they faced when recruiting new staff.

The results showed that 69% of businesses struggle to some extend when recruiting and there is a wide range of reasons why.

While recruiters face challenges in filling empty roles, graduates face challenges in securing them.

In the UK alone, Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) 2015 data showed that almost 16,730 were out of work six months after leaving university and over 60,000 students were in “non-professional” roles, meaning they were overqualified for the work they were doing.

The results of the recruitment survey, however, show surprising opportunities for job-hunting graduates that may just address some of the biggest traditional hurdles to workplace entry:

Applicants Stand-out in an SME

According to the recruitment survey findings, students who target their application efforts towards SMEs stand a higher chance of having their CV read and considered.

  • 27% of SMEs cited “lack of applicants” as a key reason why they couldn’t fill roles within their businesses, compared to just 16% of larger businesses.

That means a graduate CV could be sitting in a much-reduced competitive pile of applications at an SME. Securing such a role could also offer the opportunity to join a small team in a growing business and experience more areas of it than the traditional single specialist department in a big corporation.

This experience early on could help graduates find their personal passion and strengths more quickly.

Landing a Job Without Experience

The recruitment survey found that attracting job applicants with the rights skills is an issue for businesses big and small, with 44% of all businesses claiming it as their biggest challenge.

Obviously more well-known companies receive greater volumes of applications; however, they feel inundated with applicants who don’t meet their requirements.

  • 35% of big businesses stated that “lack of skills or experience” in applicants was a challenge in their recruitment.

It is no secret that the more real-world job experiences an applicant has, the more employable they become. A university degree – while often a requirement for many roles – doesn’t take the place of relevant work experience.

Often graduates lacking in experience after years of study will find themselves either struggling to secure relevant interviews or doing work for which they are over-qualified.

With the aforementioned issues SMEs have in terms of attracting applicants, there is obviously a better chance of them considering hiring a less experienced graduate and training them for the role.

In fact, many businesses proactively seek grads as there are many advantages in doing so. The trouble for the grads is the sheer number of them. There’s a supply and demand issue, especially when it comes to the more obviously places to apply.

In the recruitment survey, small businesses respondents confirmed that a lack of applicants and tighter budgets for salaries lowers the bar and makes them more open to developing their employees.

  • 25% of small businesses cited an investment in training and development as the method they use to attract talent to their companies.

Taking advantage of this training and development could actually help graduates get a bigger leg up their chosen career ladder, more quickly, than those who enter traditional big-name businesses.

  • None of the respondents from larger business cited training and development as a recruitment strategy. 
  • However, 33% said “being a big, known brand” was their greatest recruitment asset

Competitive Salaries

Another regular complaint amongst graduates – whether in work or job seeking – is that the salaries advertised for graduate roles are too low.  The labour market data proves that it still does pay to get a degree at university (on average young graduates are more likely to be employed and are paid an average of £6,000 a year more than those with no degree).

However, it is equally true that graduate salaries haven’t risen with inflation.

A young graduate in 2008 was typically earning around £24,000. In 2015 a young graduate was still typically earning £24,000.

The recruitment survey confirmed that some businesses both big and small (16%) did find salary expectations a challenge when they were recruiting.

But it would be untrue to assume low salaries of the SME sector only, as a significant proportion of SME respondents said they actually offered larger salaries in order to compete in the market and attract applicants.

  • 33% of SMEs who responded to the survey said they offer larger salaries in order to be competitive in their industry.

The Future is Bright for Graduates

Every year a new batch of graduates will flood the job market, applying for all the easiest to find roles at the most well-known companies.

And with so many employers citing skills and experience as a recruitment issue, businesses know they have to look beyond qualifications to hire great staff.

In this competitive job market, the most successful graduate job hunters will be those seeking out their industry SMEs who are more likely to read CVs, have softer expectations in terms of experience, with many focussing on benefits like training and development to entice applicants and some offering rewarding salaries too.

Sending targeted applications to SMEs and demonstrating a clear desire to learn, develop and contribute, could be the key to graduate job success in 2017.

 

When it comes to the list of challenges faced by businesses big or small, old or new; recruiting new staff is always up there at the top of that list.

In order to best advise our customers, we wanted to know if the challenges in recruiting are the same as they always have been, and if they differ for large enterprises compared to SMEs.

We conducted a survey simply asking 100 CEOs and Managers “Do you find it difficult to recruit staff?” and then asked them to identify why in order to gain insight into modern recruitment challenges.

Overall, 69% of respondents said they found it difficult to recruit staff, but why…

What are the biggest challenges when recruiting?

The most prominent challenge that businesses face when recruiting is that applicants were not skilled or experienced enough to fill the position (44%). The next three reasons included lack of applicants (23%), challenging salary expectations (16%) and competition over quality applicants (13%).

What helps most when recruiting?

Meanwhile, those who didn’t struggle to recruit (31% of the survey respondents), stated that their recruitment successes came from offering large salaries (27%), followed by recruiting for a big or well-known brand. Company benefits and development opportunities both scored highly (17% respectively). 15% of respondents also cited “office location” as an advantage when recruiting.

So, the secret to hiring success?

The broad spread of responses given would indicate that there is in fact, no secret behind recruitment successes. Clearly, different strategies work for different companies. That means that the best strategy for recruitment is to identify what will work best for your particular business situation. 

Does business size matter?

Contrary to what you might expect, larger businesses actually find it equally difficult to hire new staff as SMEs.

In fact, a marginally higher portion of those in a larger enterprise said that they faced difficulties in hiring new staff – 73% compared to 66% of SMEs. However, the reasons behind these challenges differ between large and small enterprises and these differences offer key insights.

Recruitment challenges for large businesses

There’s clearly no shortage of CVs being submitted for the roles with only 16% coining “Lack of applicants”.  The main reasons why larger businesses felt they struggled to recruit included candidates lacking the required skills/experience (35%) and competition over candidates (28%). Therefore, where the applicants didn’t lack in skill, there was increased competition to acquire them.

When you consider that there’s no shortage of applications, but a lack of skilled applicants, it’s fair to surmise that larger businesses feel inundated with lower quality applicants who don’t meet basic role requirements.

Recruitment challenges for small businesses

Looking at the top reasons why SMEs felt they struggled to recruit tells a similar story but with some key differences. “Lack of skills and experience” is even more an issue than it is for larger businesses (50%). However, other prominent challenges were in the lack of applicants (27%) and keeping up with salary expectations (19%).

Learning from successfully recruiting companies

Whist the majority feel they struggle with recruitment, not all do. Building a great team is difficult, takes time and resources. To help guide a recruitment strategy and see that efforts yield the desired results, we also explored what worked well for both small and large businesses. 

Recruitment strategies that work for large businesses

Large businesses who feel they were enjoying relative success when it came to recruitment have highlighted some stand-out contributing factors. These include, being a big/known brand (33%), offering company benefits (27%) followed by good office locations (20%).

Recruitment strategies that work for small businesses

SMEs who reported successful recruitment strategies cited their winning factors as offering large salaries (33%) and placing an emphasis on training and development (25%).

 

 

Key takeaways for businesses

Comparing these tables demonstrates that larger businesses are far more able to leverage their brand equity to maintain a skilled workforce. They feel they can rely on the strength of their brand combined with wider company benefits for staff.

Unfortunately, many SMEs are not in such a privileged position, and so this provides little comfort. Those in the SME space may feel they are forced to compete with salaries to lure new staff to their fledgling business brands. This is obviously not ideal and places additional financial pressures.

However, many SMEs are choosing to invest more in training and development for their teams – things that ultimately benefit their employees. Offering benefits such as training helps to make smaller businesses hugely attractive as employers when pitted against larger rivals in the recruitment marketplace.

Too many applications? Improve recruitment processes

There is a clear mismatch between the job description listed and the experience level of applications received.

This results in a more time-consuming recruitment process that includes additional shortlisting. Businesses need a better process for quickly vetting candidates and shortlisting applications if almost half of those received will end up unsuitable for the role.

To combat receiving too many applications, businesses should consider an improved online application process with the ability to create screening options. Posing qualifying questions, requesting samples of work, or requesting a cover letter which touches on relevant experience areas, are all ways to narrow down the applicant pool.

These will enable you to quickly rule out those not suited to the role, without having to review all the CVs sent. Meanwhile, that extra step will be enough to put off those who blanket-apply for every job going.

Not skilled enough? Manage expectations

The survey clearly reveals a skills gap in the market, or at least the perception that there is one. There are a large number of businesses who feel that applicants aren’t fitting their exact requirements.

Those businesses struggling to find those with the right skills or experience may either want to review their criteria and expectations – the archetypal candidate rarely exists – or look into services like SkilledPeople.com who specialise in candidate with 20+ years experience.

Either way, businesses must be prepared to look beyond a black and white list of qualifications when it comes to hiring new staff. It’s rare to find the perfect candidate who ticks all the criteria boxes and also comes with all the knowledge they need to do your new job.

Remember that, those who do meet your criteria will be as highly sought after by your industry competitors as they are by you. Such candidates will be able to command larger salaries, forcing your staffing costs to rise.

Going above and beyond salaries

Most companies offer training of sorts but this isn’t always integrated into the recruitment process – it’s maybe an afterthought or possibly even just taken for granted. However, prospective new hires take great interest in the wider package.

Those promoting more than just salaries when recruiting will reap the rewards so don’t overlook the value placed on these by potential new employees. Include these in your employment pitch, especially if you will struggle to be as combative as your competitors when it comes to salaries.

Furthermore, your business can only benefit from a heavily skilled workplace.

Some employers may be tentative about investing in training as it’s can be expensive, time consuming and, should employee leave, that expensive training leaves with them. However, consider this advice given by Richard Branson:

“Train people well enough so they can leave,

treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Hire for attitude, train for skill

Instead of focusing on skills when interviewing, look to invest in training and nurture a culture of professional development. That way, you can affordably and literally “out-smart” your competitors.

Remember this golden rule – Hire for attitude, train for skill. 

Focus on graduate job hunters

It’s well documented that many companies like hiring graduates (who by default will not be overly skilled or experienced). Some of the key benefits to doing so include they can be moulded, and are keen to learn.

The market conditions described by the survey results mean that a greater number of SMEs are investing in training in order to stay competitive. It’s a win-win that offers SME’s the opportunity to hire experience hungry staff, and offers graduates the opportunity to get ahead in a chosen field.

The results of this survey should be welcomed by those struggling to get a foot in the door, particularly for those graduates who may want to pursue a career in a field that differs from what they originally studied (graduates don’t always follow in the career path of their respective field of study).

Possible need to relocate

Businesses on the outskirts may be losing out to inner city businesses with better transport links. If you’re struggling to recruit primarily because of your location, then this could provide a strong enough business case to relocate.  Expansion and recruitment should be an early consideration for any new business. You need to ask yourself whether you have access to the local talent pool which you will need in order to grow.

Increase salary offers (as a last resort)

Whilst a business shouldn’t rely solely on offering large salaries to recruit, ultimately, if you want the best candidate then you must be prepared to pay for them in a competitive marketplace.

For businesses who struggle to get good candidates over the line, if there’s limited alternative options available, nor scope to offer training or wider benefits, there may be a need to be more competitive with salaries.