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Beyond The Milk round: How Graduate Hiring for SMEs has grown up

After 15 years in HR I have learnt that the Graduate recruitment cycle is one that can leave you pulling your hair out.  From graduate fairs and job board advertising in the past to using Twitter and Facebook today, the graduate recruitment market has seen some dramatic changes.

In 2015 99% of businesses in the UK were SMEs so, today choosing to work for an SME isn’t considered doesn’t mean that graduates are settling for 2nd best. Big companies can certainly still compete with their salaries (FYI, Aldi are one of the highest graduate payers with a starting salary of £42,000) and development programmes. But there are drawbacks too: the constraints or a larger organisation can sometimes stifle graduates using their initiative and creativity; competition to climb the hierarchy is intense; and graduates can risk their career stalling.  In contrast, a graduate in an SME can progress faster and have the ability to influence at a more senior level.  So be positive – as an SME you have a lot to offer!

Graduate vacancies in 2016 has taken recruitment beyond the pre-recession peak in 2007, to its highest-ever level and unlike in 2007 SME’s are no longer considered ‘poor relations’ when it comes to attracting the best of what the graduate market now has to offer.

  • The ‘milk round’ approach isn’t completely dead and buried and still has its place, however, increasingly companies are becoming more innovative in the way they attract graduates and with the increase in social media and the increased ease of targeting candidates some of the challenges that SME’s have faced in the past have started to disappear.  
  • In the past graduates may not have noticed SME’s on their job hunting radar but with the plethora of technology and social media available today this is no longer the case.  Use technology to promote your brand.  Social media and professional networking sites have gained even more presence in the graduate market; getting on Twitter and LinkedIn has become crucial.   
  • Be cautious though and don’t limit yourself to just looking for candidates online.  There are pitfalls to this approach and although it will allow you reach a large number of candidates the process of manually weeding out those who apply for everything they see can be never-ending.
  • Today you need to generate interest in your company before graduates hit the market.  Blog posts are free to write and can be hosted on your company website, but they can veer quickly into spam territory and the level of SEO required to make them stand out is no small change for an SME so make sure you give it some serious thought before you start spending.
  • It’s not all about the money and company name anymore.  Graduates motivation is no longer only via their base salary, they are looking for more non-traditional benefits too such as a games room/pool table in the office, casual dress, company social events.  If you do this stuff already don’t be shy about telling people and if you don’t it may be time to think about making some changes to help attract the best talent.
  • Having a strong career path and being able to show success against this is another big attraction.  Graduates don’t necessarily want a job for life but they do want a company that can develop and progress their careers and in an SME they are likely to develop faster.  Be clear about what is on offer and the opportunities available.
  • Graduates today do not expect to leave work and shut off for the day, they expect to integrate their jobs into their lives and vice versa. That can mean working remotely when possible, taking time for personal projects and staying connected to friends during office hours.  Make sure that you are communicating these types of benefits when looking for graduates.
  • The relationship between higher education and the SME sector is changing from both sides. SMEs need to raise their levels of skills and knowledge, while the higher education system is producing more graduates than the traditional graduate employers require. Make the time to connect with your local universities and colleges and promote your business throughout the academic year.

Unlike in the past engaging with graduates will depend on “lifting the lid” on your company culture, says David Rudick, VP International Markets at job board platform Indeed. “Heavily influenced by social media and peer reviews, graduate jobseekers also expect a similar level of transparency from their future employers.” If you want to engage with graduates you need to be open about what it’s like to work in your business.

There has been a lot of discussion recently over requirements of candidates and some of the larger graduate recruiters are following the trend of removing the need for a degree level qualification at all, Ernst & Young, one of the UK’s biggest graduate recruiters, has announced it will be removing the degree classification from its entry criteria, saying there is “no evidence” success at university correlates with achievement in later life.  Make sure you don’t limit your search by being to prescriptive over university attended or grade achieved.

It’s been estimated that 32% of this year’s entry-level positions are expected to be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisations.  You should be thinking about how you can work with local higher education establishments earlier than in the final year of a course by offering work experience placements, running skills training events, drop in sessions and so on to generate interest in your company early on. With more people graduating from university than ever, this has put pressure on students to start thinking about their careers and researching what employers in their field look for much earlier in their studies.

Finally, think about your recruitment process once you’ve attracted a candidate.  After all that hard work you don’t want candidates to have to jump through technological hoops just to get to interview stage.  Traditional recruitment processes such as filing out long forms or having multiple interviews could turn off the graduates from the tech-savvy generation.  Consider more innovative ways for candidates to apply such video CV’s or applications.

So, are you ready to hire your graduate? How will your business gain the upper hand in the graduate market? It’s a competition for the best graduate talent out there – so make sure you make the most of it!

To join in the discussion join us at the TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Photocredit: ITV.com

How To Motivate Your Sales Team (Without Just Focussing On The Money)

We all know that a motivated sales team is critical to the success of any business. The relationships they build with your clients and customers create the foundation of your business — not just in terms of individual sales, but also your overall reputation and growth.

So how can you motivate your sales team without just focussing on money? There are many different ways to motivate a sales team. Some companies use a traditional sales structure with set targets and commission paid in line with reaching these. Others go the “fun” route with contests, trips, tickets, dinners and other innovative rewards. All of these things are great and have their place but in my experience sales professionals need more than gift cards or event tickets: they also want to succeed in their chosen profession by climbing up the ladder whilst having a fun and dynamic environment to work in.

In the past traditional rewards of lower base salaries with a commission structure sitting alongside it (typically based on number of sales) have been commonplace. The majority of salespeople are used to a system that rewards only the top sales performers, however the tide is turning (and arguably has already turned). More recent trends show that employers are becoming much more savvy and imaginative when it comes to rewarding their sales teams.

Some companies are now following the trend of using reward systems that reward the individual that tries the hardest. Dan McGraw, founder and CEO of Fuelzee, said that one of the best ways his company learned about motivation was by rewarding the sales team for ‘no’s. “Every time someone got a ‘no’, we tracked it in our system, and the person with the most ‘no’s received a $100 gift card every week”, McGraw said. ”This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of no’s when doing sales. The more no’s you get, the closer you are to getting a yes. The prize of getting a yes is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get there. This nearly doubled our outbound calls and motivated the whole team.”

You might think that a scheme like this could detract from your biggest sellers, but don’t worry, managed properly it won’t and it will simply act as a motivator to those who have the potential to get to a top spot in your business by providing them with recognition as they progress through the business.

Create a fun working environment. For some salespeople, the ability to have a little fun during work time is as much of a motivator as money (remember that your salespeople are working long hours and are in the office for a large proportion of their week) Common rewards for reaching sales goals or benchmark include leaving work early, attending a happy hour or maybe giving a trip to reward success over a long period of time.

Fun in small spurts can be just as rewarding as the financial rewards you offer. Rick Hanson, VP at Hewlett- Packard has said that his company uses Fantasy Sales Team to award points to “players” (sales reps) for carrying out their daily tasks, like increasing a pipeline or closing a deal. The unique twist is that the reps don’t just compete as individuals, Hanson said: they build teams just as in fantasy football. “Reps earn points for their FantasySalesTeam based on the performance of their chosen peers and friends, and this creates an environment of encouragement and pressure amongst the players” he said. “To win the game, they must rely and push on each other to perform. Even more exciting is just how many reps in our sales organization can, and want to, participate”.

Personally in businesses where I have worked you ‘hear’ when a sales representative succeeds. For instance, a closed deal results in the playing of a song of the salesperson’s choice, and sometimes a subsequent team dance (!).

Create Competition and take advantage of your team members’ natural competitiveness as a way to engage your people, boost morale, and make work more fun. Competitions are also excellent for improving performance during slow periods. Focus on a strategic business goal that you all need to meet. Devote a wall in the office to the contest, and post news about wins, display real-time updates and standings, and celebrate achievements. To make it more interesting and valuable, offer a small prize or reward.

Ask your team members what they would like to receive, or use your own judgment to come up with something creative and remember that it doesn’t have to cost the earth!

Take time to celebrate the good times and recognize success publicly. Jeremy Hudson, director of sales at Logic Supply’s motivational secret is “When the wins come, we celebrate them. It can be as simple as a shout- out on the sales floor, an email message to the whole company to recognize the efforts, or on occasion I will request that the CEO take them out for lunch.” Getting the ‘big dog’s’ involved in some of the rewards and incentives can work wonders as your sales team are likely to value some dedicated face to face time with a Director.

Career progression is a simple cost effective way to motivate your sales team too. Although the fun and financial rewards often work, for some sales employees, the ultimate reward is the opportunity to get ahead in their careers. Intrinsic motivators such as development and personal growth play a huge part with a competitive sales team and so don’t underestimate the power of offering training, and development opportunities, showing that you are supportive of allowing them to develop their skills to help move them to the next level or win that promotion (download our complimentary E-book on rewards for more information on intrinsic and extrinsic here).

The simple things can also have an impact on your sales team’s motivation. The majority of employers now offer table football, ping pong tables and similar activities to their staff. And although you might not think that a Ping-Pong table for the office would push people and drive behaviours, I would recommend that you try it, from my experience these types of incentives can make a real difference.

Try to think outside the box and try simple, one off recognition schemes. Colleen Stanley, president of SalesLeadership Inc., believes that email is nice, but a handwritten note is much more meaningful because it shows you’ve taken time to find a card and write a personal note. “I have seen cards sitting on a salesperson’s desk, however, have never seen an email propped up.”

You could also consider sharing content across your sales team. If you have intellectually curious salespeople on your team share with them a cool book, podcast, video or blog – something that you have personally found helpful and really enjoyed. Just be sure to pick topics that are relevant to the jobs or your industry to keep it ‘on point’!

When it comes to understanding how to motivate your sales team there is no simpler approach than asking them. You can do this via a survey, face-to- face or through team meetings but make sure that they understand that by giving their suggestions does not mean that you will put the reward in place. Gather ideas and suggestions and consider what works best for your business, employees and your culture.

These are just some of the ideas you can use to motivate your sales team without just focusing on money. Try to keep things fresh in your business and consider what your employees want to see and use this as a basis to generate new innovative ideas. By offering a variety of rewards, you stand a greater chance of having a motivator for every personality type on your team and developing all of your salespeople into top-tier team players. When your goals and their goals align, only the best things can happen.

For further information or advice and support on motivating your sales team join us at www.thehrhub.co.uk.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Work Placement

The idea of giving young people the opportunity to get a taste of the world of employment can be an appealing one, for many reasons: it can strengthen your reputation; give you an immense amount of satisfaction; ensure that you’re playing your part in creating a skilled workforce for the future. Not to mention give you an extra pair of hands.

But it can be a complete minefield. I recently went to take on an apprentice as was shocked by the sheer bunch of paperwork I had to complete to do this properly. When you get down to the nitty gritty though, it can become tempting to ditch the idea completely. The process traditionally involves a ton of red tape and jumping through hoops, so however good your intentions, it can sometimes just seem like too much hassle.

Things are changing though, and many business leaders can see the value of creating opportunities for young people. Here, we explain what you need to know to move forward.

Step outside the notion of a one-week placement

Back in the day, work experience would involve young people taking a week out of formal education to work a 9-5 role with a local employer. Nowadays, things are much more flexible.

Could you offer site visits to schools? Could you, or a member of your staff, offer mentoring? Could you offer evening or weekend opportunities? Thinking outside of the box could prove to be better for your business, and for the young people who you’ll be working with.

Think beyond making the tea and collecting the post

No one’s expecting you to hand over the running of your company, and throwing your placement right in at the deep end could prove to be overwhelming. Ease them in gently, but be sure to give them real opportunities and challenges to get their teeth stuck into during their time in your business.

Keep in mind that a young person can bring a fresh perspective to the table, as well as energy and enthusiasm. You might just stumble upon your next big business idea.

Draw up a plan

It makes sense to think about how your young person will spend their time when they’re in your business. Of course, they’ll need to know what hours they’re working and where they need to show up on the first day, but thinking a little wider than this can set you up for success.

How will their time be filled? Can they shadow various members of staff? Can they get involved in different projects? Is it possible to offer them an element of choice, so they can learn more about the areas they’re interested in? Be flexible, but be sure to have at least the bare bones of a plan.

Communication, communication, communication

Communication is always important in the workplace, and if you want to offer a successful placement, then it’s absolutely essential. Start by having an initial conversation with the school so you understand what they’re expecting.

On the very first day of the placement, arrange an informal chat with the young person so you can understand what they want to take away from the process. On the final day, provide them with feedback. And of course, invite them to share their own feedback about the experience. You could take away some really valuable insights into how your business is operating.

At this stage, you may well have questions about how all of this could work for you. Perhaps you’ve got unique challenges that you need to overcome, or you’d just like to chat with an experienced professional about getting your work placements right first time. Book here to get in touch today for a no-obligation chat.

You’ll walk away with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

 Photo credit: Olu Eletu

Are You Riding The Silver Wave?

New data from the Office for National Statistics has revealed that over 10 million over-50s are now in employment. The potential reasons could include the fact that the state pension age has increased, and we’re also living longer than we were just a couple of decades ago. The fact of the matter is that we have more older people in the workplace, and as employers, we have a duty to make sure that we’re supporting our staff and ensuring that diverse needs are being met.

So what exactly do you need to know about your responsibilities? And how can you tap into the opportunity that exists when it comes to harnessing the skills of the older generation? Here, we share some of our top tips for making sure that your business is riding the silver wave.

Don’t write off older staff when it comes to learning and development

There’s often the assumption that older people have one eye firmly on retirement, so there can be a tendency to neglect learning and development provisions, and keep the bigger opportunities for younger employees. This is not only potentially discriminative. It’s also extremely short sighted.

Invest in your older workers, and you could see many benefits. Be aware of the skills that they may be lacking, and focus on what you can do to ensure that they’re brought up to speed, and can continue to contribute to the bigger picture.

Consider reverse mentoring initiatives

This offers a great way to improve knowledge sharing all around and has come to the fore recently, with companies including Ernst and Young using it to tackle sexism in the workplace. Essentially younger (in this case female) workers, are partnered with older colleagues to help change attitudes on recruitment and workplace diversity.

Younger staff, who tend to have less overall experience but more confidence with technology, could share their knowledge with their older colleagues. It’s easy to jump to the assumption that you need to fork out for formal training, and it’s true that this is sometimes necessary, but there are many other options that can be just as effective.

Be aware of the needs of older workers

At every different life stage, there are things that employers need to be aware of when it comes to making sure that they’re supporting their staff and giving them a degree of flexibility to help them to meet their needs. One thing that you might want to consider for older staff is how you can support them when it comes to their caring responsibilities.

Many older workers will want to spend time with grandchildren, and taking this into account could keep them motivated and engaged. As a rule of thumb, offering flexibility, as long as you keep operational requirements in mind, can be great for morale and motivation.

Our workforces are becoming more diverse, and this can be a wonderful thing for your business. But you do need to take the time to make sure that you’re fulfilling your responsibilities, and doing all you can to keep your policies and practices fit for purpose.

If you want to ensure that you’re getting things right, get in touch. We can carry out a review of where you are, and what changes may need to be made to keep your business thriving. To do so book your free consultation here.

You’ll walk away with a clear idea about what you need to do next.

TheHRhub: the ultimate support for startups and SMEs. Sign up here for free tools and guidance.

p.s – To get ahead of your game when it comes to another area important to your employees: Reward and Recognition, download our FREE eBook: Show Me The Money! The Ultimate Guide To Reward And Recognition In An SME.

Deborah Swain – Silver Surfer