In 2015, the UK experienced a significant increase in the number of people breaking away from traditional employment into freelance and self-employed roles. According to official figures from the Bank of England, between 2008 and 2015, the number of self-employed workers rose by 700,000.
This trend is often experienced after a recession, as workers either set up freelance careers following redundancy or seek new opportunities for wage increases. Traditionally, this leads to the creation of small businesses, with freelancers become employers in their own right – thus continuing the healthy economic cycle.
With 2016 consequently looking set to be a year of busy small business recruitment activity, I will identify four key tips to support this sector through the early days of hiring:
- Incentivise staff
When it comes to staff wages, small companies typically struggle to compete with large corporations, so it is important that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seek other ways to encourage the best candidates. Research from Indeed uncovers that beyond high salaries, job seekers prioritise roles that offer flexible work hours (37%), meaningful work (35%) and a pleasant work environment (32%).
While SMEs may not always be able to offer the impressive salaries of the largest corporations, their small size means they can focus on getting to know their employees on a personal level and tailor the benefits offered to suit their employees’ needs. Highlighting how a candidate’s work will make a real difference to the organisation is also a key way to draw job seekers who may otherwise seek employment with larger competitors.
- Implement strategies to overcome the impact of the National Living Wage
The introduction of the National Living Wage in April will pose a significant challenge to a number of SMEs this year. Indeed uncovered that over two thirds of SMEs believe the new ruling will negatively impact their ability to make hires and grow, while over a quarter already cite costs as the biggest challenge they face when hiring.
With staff costs rising, SMEs will need to find new efficiencies to maintain profit margins and ensure that they are still able to appeal to the most talented recruits. Embracing remote and flexible workers can be a successful strategy for SMEs who lack the funds to maintain a physical office presence, or have the flexibility to operate outside of the standard 9–5 working hours.
Moreover, taking on remote workers from regions in the UK where the employment market is less competitive, can be an effective way for SMEs to broaden their search for the best candidates outside of regions where employees are already in high demand.
- Embrace support where you can get it
Providing a cost-effective way to take on new talent, apprenticeship schemes are particularly beneficial to self-employed workers, looking to make their first staff acquisitions. Throughout 2015, the government announced a number of apprenticeship schemes to support young people to get into the workforce, while simultaneously helping small companies to hire.
Most recently, in November’s Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to impose a new apprenticeship levy of 0.5% on company payrolls from April 2015, to ensure that large companies ‘shoulder the cost’ of training workers.
Self-employed and small business owners should keep track of all the public schemes available to them via the government’s official site, to make sure they are taking full benefit of the help available.
- Take a multi-channel approach to hiring
This year, more than half of job search through Indeed was completed via a mobile device and this figure is expected to continue to grow. However, Indeed uncovered that a mere 9% of SMEs currently optimise mobile for recruitment – with many UK SMEs still relying on newspapers and personal contacts as their main means of hiring.
Job seekers want the flexibility of searching for jobs on the go – and companies that do not accommodate this, could be losing out on the best candidates. In 2016, companies of all sizes will have to embrace smart phones and tablets as a core platform for hiring.
2016 is going to be a telling year for a number of self-employed workers and micro-businesses as they look to take on some of their first employees and grow their businesses.
This is a crucial stage of building and growing a company – these early employees will establish the success, culture and make-up of the organisation’s future.
Faced with stiff competition from larger corporations, it is crucial that small and emerging companies have a thorough understanding of the skills they require in an employee – and devise schemes to attract and maintain these candidates.
By Bill Richards, Managing Director UK at global jobsite Indeed