More than ever, SME owners need to step up their recruiting efforts, with recent studies suggesting more employers are looking to take on new hires, while more employees are looking to leave their current jobs.
Indeed, nearly a third (31.7 per cent) of employers are planning to increase their staff numbers before the end of 2016.
“Employers are getting on with the job at hand and investing in the people they need to grow their business,” says Dean Davidson, the executive general manager of Australia and New Zealand for recruitment firm Hudson.
However, this stands in stark contrast to the 44 per cent of employees who are actively looking for new jobs, an increase from 26 per cent in 2015.
Furthermore, 32 per cent are open to the idea of a new job, with less than one in four workers (24 per cent) actually content with their current role.
“The number of employees with their eyes on the exit has jumped significantly since last year. More professionals are convinced that the buoyant job market is here to stay, and are considering how they can build their career in this environment. This should sound alarm bells for employers, who will need to redouble their retention efforts and be ready to manage an uptick in staff departures,” Dean says.
Where to go from here? If you’re thinking of a job board on some website that asks candidates to blindly submit a CV, experts in the recruiting business would disagree with your methods, labelling them ‘old- school’.
There are more effective ways to ensure your business appeals to the best talent and stands out from the rest.
Job listings became popular at the turn of the millennium as everything moved online. However, some people on both sides of the recruiting spectrum view traditional job listings as becoming obsolete – at least, if they are not used as part of a broader strategy – and as such, they may attract more traditionally minded job seekers.
Job aggregators are one of the newer recruitment methods, providing job hunters with a greater range of positions to apply for and the ability to compare them in one place.
“We aggregate all jobs from all sources, and that being from job boards, recruitment agencies and corporates,” says Raife Watson, Adzuna Australia CEO.
According to Raife, bigger businesses tend to get more value out of job boards than SMEs due to their deeper pockets.
“As more advertisers put ads on there, [SME] ads start disappearing, but a lot of these big companies ... a week later, they’ll repost [their ad] or refresh it so it goes up to the top of the rankings,” says Raife.
Reposting an ad typically incurs a fee. However, this extra spending tends not to be in the budget for small businesses, which increases the appeal of aggregators more appealing to them.
“There’s been a dominance in the market by an effective monopoly [of job board websites],” suggests Raife.
Now, however, this dominance is “starting to move”, he says.
“If you look abroad, you’ll see that what’s created the most waves in evolution are aggregators, and not just in jobs. Whether it be jobs, cars, properties, hotels – whatever it is, it’s all about an aggregation model.”
Another disruptor in the job listing industry is job referrals. While something as simple as talking to your contacts can be taken for granted, word of mouth should not be ignored. Reffind is one business using just that.
Reffind has its roots in disrupting the job application process, creating a mobile app that allows employees to refer their own contacts for openings with their employer.
“You never know who you could reach through your connections and, in turn, their own connections.”
“[The current HR system] requires a lot of effort from the employee to really look at what open jobs are there, and then to take action,” according to Rob van Es, acting CEO of Reffind.
“We’re chief believers [in the idea] that you should make it as easy as possible for employees to view those open jobs, as well as make them relevant for them.”
Like Raife, Rob sees job boards being gradually phased out.
“It’s still old-school. It’s emails being sent at them, and ... with companies that are a little bigger, they probably have a job board of some sort and applicant tracking systems, and those jobs are posted in there, but [it is still a case of] HR posting this in the organisation, and it’s really up to the employee to take action and seek where they can actually help.
“[Going] the other way around, leveraging to people that you think would be your best hope to actually bring in the right people for your organisation, that would obviously come with all the benefits associated with that.”
Social media is, of course, a great opportunity to connect with customers. But how many SMEs have thought about using their social media connections as a recruitment tool?
“You never know who you could reach through your connections and, in turn, their own connections. If one of your friends or followers likes or shares the role you post, you will reach a much bigger crowd,” notes Sharon Davies, founding director of recruitment solutions provider Talent Propeller.
While any social media platform could connect you with thousands of people, LinkedIn, in particular, presents an opportunity to attract talent and actively headhunt, even on a very limited budget.
“LinkedIn, as a professional network, is a huge database of talent just waiting to be plundered. It has a handy job board where you can post your ads, and is a great platform for your employer brand presence,” Sharon says.
“The best way to use the platform is to hunt for people who match your criteria, then personally contact them. If you’re looking for your next business development guru, for example, use those key words to search.”
However, she does have a word of caution for using LinkedIn – or indeed any other method – specifically to headhunt talent.
“Some candidates expect a higher salary when they’re headhunted. But if they’re the right candidate for you, it might be worth taking the hit.”
The shift from big to small
Right now, the job market has a lot to offer smaller businesses, says Raife.
“People are more comfortable working for smaller companies now, due to technology challenges and just more awareness,” he says.
“There’s certainly excitement working for some of these smaller, more agile companies that are at the cutting edge of particular industries.”
This concept of smaller businesses making more attractive employers is not just a local phenomenon.
“My research used to be about larger corporates, but has shifted to smaller, particularly family, enterprises [because] I think that’s what the world currently looks like,” says Professor Boris Groysberg, of Harvard Business School in the USA.
He agrees that technology and innovation are key to this attractiveness.
“Disruptive technology more commonly comes from small companies. Many small businesses and start-ups look [at problems] differently – and not just products and services, but also [issues like] talent management.
“Some of my biggest learnings come from smaller companies. They have a very fresh perspective. They are innovating how we organise ourselves – teams, engagement, hiring processes, performance management and technology.”
According to Raife, experimentation is the new norm, and those not participating in it will be left behind.
“We’re in 2016: it should be the year of digital experimentation, so I would say [to] SME companies: don’t do what you’ve always done,” he says.
“Do something a bit different and see if it works for you. Don’t just follow the pack.”
Appealing to young and old
A one-size-fits-all approach to recruitment is also unwise, given that some methods and employment benefits lend themselves towards some age groups more than others.
“The younger generation [is] driven not so much by money, but by the work/ life balance or the career flexibility they can have, and the opportunities for advancement and for learning within the job,” says Raife.
“Everyone knows it’s not a job for life any more. People are generally thinking, ‘If I’m going to go somewhere maybe just for a few years … [I want to] get the greatest learning and understanding I can from that organisation’.
“I think [younger employees] ... certainly are willing to change jobs more. They don’t feel beholden to the employer.”
"Do something a bit different and see if it works for you. Don’t just follow the pack.”
Rob agrees with Raife, and adds that presenting some form of employee engagement up front is important to retaining new recruits.
“I think there’s a lot of research done in that area … it’s a trend in the world that more and more people are actively engaged in [looking for] a new job. They don’t see it, per se, as a lifelong career choice,” he says.
“Years ago, it was all about hard cash and later became about long-term incentives like equity. More recently it was all about people who work, stayed [with the company], and that social aspect of it.
“The next generation is really looking for more ... and will be involved in the organisation that they work with, feeling that they need to be connected with the direction and the goals of the organisation.”
Older employees carry something of a stigma that makes them less attractive to potential employers, which may result in SMEs missing out on a wealth of knowledge and experience.
“The definition of a mature-aged worker’ is 46, which for me is pretty young, [but] that’s the official definition,” according to Raife.
“You cannot have an ageism policy, but is there one around? Well, yeah – the stats [indicate] that once you get to that type of age ... it is much more difficult to find a job. There’s definitely bias in the market, the hidden ... or even sometimes overt bias somewhere in the market,” he says.
“I think it’s an absolute tragedy ... because mature-aged workers have a hell of a lot to offer. Now that being experience ... but sometimes a more even temper, or calmness over the younger generation. Some would argue [they are] more reliable as well.”
Raife says older workers also have the potential for flexibility, as they may want to take a “step back” from their current role and work fewer hours.
“You shouldn’t look at their CV and wonder why they’re doing that, because they just want to take a bit of a step back. They have this huge wealth of experience at high levels that can make a big difference to a company,” he says.