How small businesses can use work experience to tap into top talent

21st November 2017

The quality of any business is reliant on the pedigree of its workforce, and the creativity and dedication it’s staff bring to the organisation. This is especially true for small businesses where every single employee plays a pivotal part in the business’s success.

Most SMEs consist of up to 20 members of staff, meaning it is of upmost importance to recruit the right talent and right skills, first time round. The SME Future Attitudes report found that one of the top three priorities for SMEs in 2017 was investing in the right staff. Similarly, 72% of millennials currently say they would prefer to work in an SME.

At Placer, we know the value of using working experience in recruiting top millennial talent. So, how can SMEs use work experience to recruit access this pool of bright, young students?

Connect with your employees of the future

Quality work experience placements are an effective way for SMEs to connect with students who want to develop their skills in a small business, and as such, attract and source potential future members of staff. Work experience opportunities of any length - a day, a week or a year - allow SMEs to test-drive individuals, review their ability and train them in the skills and attributes that the company needs, without any long-term commitment.

SMEs can build relationships through quality work experience placements and as a result, when graduate roles arise, SMEs can access a pool of talent to cherry pick possible candidates from, who are able get going from day one.

Reduce recruitment costs and resource

Recruitment can be costly and time consuming, which is particularly detrimental to time-poor SMEs. Therefore, making the most of work experience as a recruitment tool can save SMEs both time and money.

SMEs need the right skills in place but finding these can be expensive, however by using work experience to develop business critical expertise with talented undergraduates, future recruitment costs can be reduced in the mid-term.

Using platforms such as Placer that are structured and scalable, SMEs can access a larger pool of students seeking work experience, and can save cost and vital resource that can be dedicated to delivering success in the business.

Find the perfect team to scale your business

SMEs need to carefully balance their talent mix to keep the business nimble, innovative and to achieve scale. Work experience can be used to access a diverse range of minds who can bring fresh ideas to the table.

Businesses with a diverse team can benefit from a greater variety of ideas and approaches to problem-solving and in turn, improved results for the business. With a smaller workforce, diversity is a vital way to capitalise on the potential improvements to crucial business areas. A 2015 McKinsey report found companies with a diverse mix of employees are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors and have financial returns above the national industry average.

Prepare quality tasks to offer a first-class work experience

Far too often students on work experience placements aren’t given the chance to work on actual projects that show-off and develop their skillsets.

The size and agility of SMEs means it is far easier to give students actual projects to do, as opposed to making tea and fetching lunch. Not only will this help to create a positive image as an employer, it can allow employers to gauge the way students approach their work. The student will feel their knowledge and input is valued and employers can see how students apply themselves to any given task.

Prevent recruitment biases with innovative technology

At Placer, our innovative matchmaking technology aims to reduce unconscious bias but also to match students with employers based on their interests and skills alone. This has benefits in two ways; firstly, it levels the playing field for the student as employers’ shortlist candidates based on their skills and interests alone. Secondly, it enables students to look beyond familiar big brand names, and learn where their skills and interests fit with a wide range of employers and SMEs they may not have previously considered.

To access a faster, cheaper route to recruiting quality entry-level talent: offer work experience. SMEs can use work experience to help young people to develop necessary skills while still in education. As a result once students have graduated they’re ready to make the transition into the workplace to bring knowledge and work-ready ideas into your organisation.

If you’re an employer looking to offer work experience, or you already do, sign-up to Placer

David Docherty is CEO of the National Centre for Universities and Businesses (NCUB) and Chairman of Placer.

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