Struggling to attract, recruit and retain staff? Don’t worry; you’re not alone! Sadly, a staggering 80% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are experiencing recruitment and staff retention challenges.
To help, we’ve created this recruitment guide for small business owners, leaders and managers to help you inspire, attract and recruit (and keep!) your present and future workforce.
In this six-part blog series, we’ll cover the following topics to help you boss your recruitment strategy and build all-round happier and more engaged, productive teams:
- A round-up of the current recruitment landscape
- Ways to make your small business irresistible to job candidates
- How to build a strong employer brand (and why you should!)
- Managing employee wellbeing in a hybrid workplace
- Benefits all UK small businesses should offer employees
- Winning approaches to improving staff retention
So, let’s jump straight in and take a closer look at the current recruitment market (spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel).
UK recruitment landscape: How’s it looking?
Many UK business owners are finding themselves in a tricky spot: record job vacancies but a real struggle to find the right candidates. In July 2022, the UK hit a record high of 1.85 million vacancies. Since then, the number has been dropping (1.1 million in January 2023), but still, four out of five businesses are finding it tough to fill their talent gaps.
The aftermath of Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic and now the cost of living crisis have left many people cautious about changing jobs. But then there’s also been a wave of people rethinking what’s important in their lives and leaving jobs for ones that give them the satisfaction and flexibility they crave.
Pay, flexibility, shortages
Ever-increasing salary expectations, demands for flexible working and skills shortages are some sticking points for small business recruitment and retention.
According to a study from WorkLife by OpenMoney, almost half (44%) of senior decision-makers find salary expectations challenging. Similarly, a survey conducted on behalf of Paragon Bank by Opinium found that 65% of SMEs have had to increase salaries to recruit candidates.
So, it’s not surprising that pay is still the top priority for candidates, and one third of resignations were due to staff seeking a higher salary in Q1 2023. Those figures come from Totaljobs’ Hiring Trends Index, which also states that 57% of UK workers actively looking for a role in 2023 seek a higher salary.
New work-life expectations
But hey, it’s not all about the money. The Opinium survey also revealed that 81% of SMEs said flexible working hours were nearly as important to new recruits, equal to pension and just below training and development (84%).
The WorkLife by OpenMoney analysis found that staff not wanting to return to the physical workplace impacts a third (33%) of SMEs. Not offering good flexible working options to meet employee demands is also a growing worry (22%).
But flexible working arrangements are proving to be a winning recruitment strategy. The Opinium research states that nearly six in 10 companies (58%) said working from home arrangements had helped them recruit from a wider talent pool. Six in 10 SMEs also said that flexible working practices had improved some business areas like recruitment, staff retention and productivity.
Multiple studies also show that SMEs are struggling to find the right people due to a skills shortage in their sector. To tackle this, half of employers have upskilled more existing staff and raised wages (48%) in the past six months.
SMEs have a lot to contend with – not only staying afloat with rising costs but also adapting to changing employee demands, recruiting new staff and keeping hold of team members.
In short, it can be a tough time for small business recruitment.
Here’s the good news…
We know it all sounds doom and gloom so far, but there’s hope!
Results from Barclays’ latest SME Barometer reveal that 41% of SMEs are more optimistic about their future following a difficult second half of 2022. The survey of 603 SME business leaders also showed that 23% intend on upskilling or reskilling their current workforce to help support business growth in 2023.
What’s more, recruitment is on the up despite the economic climate, according to Totaljobs’ Hiring Trends Index. More than a third (35%) of businesses increased recruitment in the first quarter of 2023, compared to 30% in Q4 2022.
More good news – the same research also found that most employers (57%) think they will find the talent they need in 2023.
Phew! That’s enough numbers for one day.
Now, let’s look ahead and tackle those recruitment issues head-on. One of the top solutions is upskilling your existing team members and bumping up those salaries.
But remember, job quality is a massive deal for employees. Job quality can be enhanced in many ways, like flexible working options and career progression through training and development. That’s what this guide is all about – to give you the inspo you need to create a winning recruitment strategy that helps attract top talent and keeps them hooked.
Ready for more? Keep an eye out for part 2 of our small business recruitment guide for ways to make your company irresistible to attract candidates.