L’Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers – Napolean Bonaparte spoke those words during the late eighteenth century. But do you remember what the short-on-stature French military man was talking about?
He was actually talking about British business, commenting, with some relish, that we were “a nation of shopkeepers”. This was intended as an insult.
But who’s having the last laugh here? Well, it’s certainly not the deceased dictator. These days, the UK business economy is underpinned by the strength and endurance of small and medium enterprises.
SMEs matter to Britain
This is backed up by statistics compiled by the Federation of Small Businesses. Where in 2017, those employed by SMEs made up a whopping 60% of all private-sector employment in the UK and provided a combined annual turnover of £1.9 trillion – meaning that British SMEs accounted for over half of all private sector turnover in the UK.
Statistics in focus
Breaking this down into numbers provided by a ‘House of Commons’ briefing paper from last year, there were 5.7 million businesses in the UK, and over 99% of these businesses were SMEs.
SME employment numbers were similarly impressive and stood at an estimated 16.1 million people, a number that’s increased by 3% since 2016.
So what do all these statistics mean for SMEs looking to attract first-time employees today?
SME employment levels and interest
According to research released this week by Santander bank, small and mid-sized businesses have hired three times more people than larger businesses over the past five years.
‘The best’ UK employer:
Additionally to this, SMEs continue to be the main driver of soaring UK employment levels, and could well overtake large companies by 2030.
However, there’s a disconnect here, as according to the research, only a third (35%) of Generation Z and young Millennials leaving full-time education say they want to work for an SME…
Gen Z and why they’re important to SMEs
A survey undertaken by Prospects, a UK graduate careers organisation, asked over 9,000 students about their work intentions over the next 12 months, 37% said they wanted to work for an SME, whilst only 29% said they wanted to start their first job with a larger employer.
What are they looking for?
SMEs need to make sure they understand what Gen Z graduates are looking for in a company. This commonly includes their desire for a supportive company culture.
However, their unique experiences and demands (that will be explored later) mean that SMEs have to work a little harder to recruit Gen Zs. However, SMEs can make use of their smaller sizes that give them the flexibility to be able to change their internal processes to attract them.
SMEs in the UK have unique and attractive characteristics
Firstly, it’s easier for smaller companies to change their internal processes than it is for bigger corporates. This means that with less time and effort, they can make themselves more relevant, and more attractive to Gen Zs, who will soon be flooding the job market.
Wellbeing matters to Gen Zs
And luckily, the most popular demands for Gen Zs in the workplace revolve around establishing open communications and a wellbeing culture, and these are aspects that are not as costly to the company purse strings as you might initially think.
SMEs can capitalise on their smaller sizes, and closer intimacy between managers and junior staff to foster an open, more informal and warmer work culture, and that’s something that appeals greatly to Gen Z employees.
Let’s find out how they can do it:
1. Make clear what extras you offer
Gen Z were born between 1995-2004, and they have witnessed some major financial events in the UK, including the worldwide recession and the rise of university fees.
As this generation is entering the job market with higher levels of student debt, chances are they’ll be looking for competitively paid jobs that offer additional extras. In other words, they want ‘more bang for their buck’.
Don’t scrimp on ‘the extras’
These ‘extras’ can vary from healthcare cover (for businesses with a little more dollar to spend) to discounts on gym memberships and lower-cost perks such as monthly work drinks and free lunches on a Friday.
Depending on your company budget, your team can work out what additional incentives you are able to offer, and, most importantly, how to make these perks clear when you advertise the job roles.
2. Make your employee benefits digital
As this generation has grown up with the internet, ensure your employee incentive schemes are easily accessible via desktop and especially remote devices such as mobiles.
At a time when there is an ever-increasing importance placed on employee wellbeing and a work-life balance, make sure your business communicates your wellbeing schemes in a clear way that fosters engagement.
Get device ready!
For Gen Z employees, this will be through a portal system that’s easily accessible through their mobile devices whilst they’re on-the-go to and from work.
Whether they’re checking in to see what discounts on cinema tickets they’ve got, or how many miles they have cycled to work that week, make this process as digitally savvy as Gen Zs themselves.
Conclusion: Why should SMEs bother?
We must remember that employee culture changes as quickly as the business landscape does.
Instead of seeing the need to make these internal changes as part of appeasing the ‘demanding’ ‘snowflake generation’, we should instead see it as part of a business evolution.
If making these changes will help SMEs employ even MORE people in the future, and will help them to continue to take the reigns of economic domination away from big corporates, what’s not to like?
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