How technology can help SMEs connect with talent
Nearly half of all people employed in the UK work for an SME, and yet for businesses of this size hiring can often be a stressful and time consuming task. With so much of the economic recovery likely to be driven by small, growing, dynamic companies it will be crucial that they are able to source and hire the right talent.
At the CIPD's last HR Software Show Andrew Summer, managing director of monster.co.uk, gave a presentation on HR Technology for SMEs. Our research shows that the favoured routes to market for businesses of this size are through word of mouth, referrals from existing employees and advertising on job boards. Job seekers however use a quite broad range of tools to find their next position.
Roles in most SMEs will tend to be filled by owner-managers or directors, and rarely will there be a recruiter or HR specialist dedicated to attracting talent. This inevitably leads to several challenges:
• They don't have much time
• Recruitment will be just one of many jobs they are juggling at the time
• Knowledge of the wider talent market may be weak
• No system for dealing with unsuccessful applications and giving feedback
• Little capacity to invest in a structured interview/assessment process
• Need for cost effective solutions
• Lack of budget for marketing an employer brand
So how can technology help SMEs?
There are 5 key touchpoints when technology (in one form or another) connects an SME with a job seeker. Are they leveraging they possibilities as best they can?
Most businesses advertise their roles on a job board like Monster, but how many fully maximise the opportunity? Think like a job seeker - what will they be searching for, and what will arouse their interest. Keep job titles to industry standard (which may not be the same as the terms you use in the business) whilst a specific indication of salary and location can each lead to at least 3 times more applications. Put the key points about the role in the opening paragraph, and keep an eye on word limits - make it long enough to spark their interest but not too long as it could lose their interest. Use the apply online too, it will help you keep track of everyone.
And remember to check your spelling - if you're advertising for a 'sales manger' you're unlikely to get any responses!
Whether a job seeker finds your role through an online search, referral from someone they know or by following a link from your job advertisement, their first interaction with the business will be through your website - quite possibly your careers page. This is your shop window, the place where people want to check you out. They will look for something that gives them insight into what your business does, your values and purpose, and what working there may be like. So it was quite surprising to see research from Hibu that showed 45% of SMEs without a website! If your business is one of those then it's time to change that straight away - talent may be looking elsewhere.
Our research shows that nearly 40% of job seekers now search from a mobile device. Are you ready to accept mobile applications? In the Hibu research only 6% had mobile optimised websites, leading to a poor experience for candidates looking to work for you.. Do you know what your site looks like from a mobile device? Don't just focus on mobile but think mobility too. Where will they be when they come to your site? Most job searching on mobile happens during the morning commute (when there may be no wifi and poor connectivity) and around 10pm, so make any navigation simple without too many steps.
Job applicants expect businesses to have a social media presence - 34% of them engage with potential employers through the platforms whilst 1 in 4 say they have a negative opinion of companies who do not use social channels. Social media provides a great way to connect and engage with customers and potential partners as well as job seekers. Use the platforms for dialogue and conversation, not to broadcast messages. Personalise the interactions. The way you use social media can also help give potential candidates an insight to the company culture.
Use of email is so second nature that we may no longer think of it as technology in this situation, but for most businesses it is the main way that they communicate with potential employees. How you go about acknowledging applications, keeping applicants informed, arranging interviews, giving feedback and communicating offers is crucial to a successful outcome and the tone, regularity and content of emails you send will be a major part of that. Keep it friendly, informative and helpful, and always be ready to invite phone contact if someone wants more information. And try to steer clear of using business jargon!
In a competitive market, with limited time and budget, the people you want to hire may well make judgments on your business based on how you interact with them. Technology is a great enabler so make sure you use it effectively to get the best results.
Mervyn Dinnen is an award winning blogger and a content & social engagement strategist. He specialises in the Recruitment and HR sectors and is a regular speaker and panellist at industry conferences.
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