New online platform to help small businesses recruit and retain the right people
Small Firms Association survey finds four-fifths of Irish small businesses find it difficult or very difficult to recruit and retain right staff
“My generation might think that having a nine-to-five workplace routine is important, but the millennial generation wants a lot more flexibility.” Photograph: Getty Images
More than four-fifths of small businesses in Ireland are finding it difficult or very difficult to recruit and retain the right people. This was among the key findings of a Small Firms Association (SFA) member survey carried out late last year, and has led the organisation to launch a new online platform to help small businesses recruit and retain the right people.
“The Grow, Scale, Succeed platform is the SFA’s response to support small business in the competition for talent,” says SFA director Sven Spollen-Behrens. “We are now reached full employment, and our members see recruitment as a critical business issue. The new online platform provides content to alleviate this pressure, and helps address small firms’ concerns around recruitment, employee engagement, as well as remote and smart working.”
Launched earlier this year, the platform features a range of resources including case study videos from small businesses sharing their recruitment tips and stories about how smart working benefitted their business.
Also featured are guidelines on where to source new candidates and different types of workers, podcasts on creating job spec, ways to engage employees and bullying in the workplace. There is also advice from Vodafone on improving connectivity and cyber-security to enable remote working.
Spollen-Behrens believes small businesses have a lot going for them when it comes to competing for talent despite the obvious attractions of the multinationals. “The multinationals are trying to suck up the talent but if you look at their staff retention rates small businesses are doing quite well. The surveys make quite an interesting read in that respect – small firms are very good employers.”
Indeed the Grow, Scale, Succeed survey found that small businesses have a strong staff retention rate with 30 per cent of employees staying for between three and five years, 23 per cent for between six and 10 years, and nearly 27 per cent for more than 10 years.
“While multinationals may have better packages overall, it’s not all about the money,” he says. “People get the opportunity to work with the owner, and be part of the decision-making process in a small business. Small firms can also offer greater flexibility.
“And if you look at the packages they do offer, they are really quite innovative. Many small firms offer pensions, healthcare, wellness and wellbeing benefits, learning and development opportunities, and structured career paths. Of course you get the fancy snooker tables and furniture in some tech companies but you’ve still got to work really hard there.”
He agrees that money does count but this can vary with age. “We have had some interesting conversations about the five generations in the workplace,” says Spollen-Behrens. “My generation might think that having a nine to five workplace routine is important, but the millennial generation wants a lot more flexibility. They also want purpose, and want to work for organisations with good CSR agendas and environmental policies. The differing expectations around packages for the various age groups are important.”
Smart working is also important, he adds. “Look at Abadoo. That’s a successful Irish company enabling professionals to work from home or in co-working spaces or a blend of the two. Shopify has 200 staff here in Ireland but doesn’t have an office. We are also seeing hybrid working models emerge where employees only have to come into the office on certain days each month.”
The Grow, Scale, Succeed platform contains a number of resources for employers who wish to introduce smart working.
“You need guidelines for both employers and employees,” says Spollen-Behrens. “There is that viral clip of the BBC interview where the child jumps into the shot. There has to be certain rules obviously. But smart working and flexible working are things small businesses are only too happy to offer.
“Lots of smaller companies are targeting people with young families. Young parents who might want to return to work with flexible hours or be able to work from home. Small firms can be more nimble and agile when it comes to designing jobs for those people.”
The platform is intended to be a dynamic resource for small firms which will continue to evolve over time. “It’s not just a graveyard of documents which will sit there,” says Spollen-Behrens. “It includes podcasts, videos and webinars, and we have small business owners talking about their own recruitment strategies.
“We will continue to add new content every week, and our aim is to make it the go-to platform for small businesses with recruitment and employee engagement needs, and to help them use technology to future proof their business for the changing world of work.”