Hiring and interviewingFinding new, quality staff has never been easier in the digital age. Employers can use services from Linkedin to Gumtree, as well as a raft of specialised apps for finding specific skillsets. Mark Lilley is founder of Abokado, a health food chain with around 250 employees that is currently opening a new store every six to eight weeks. He believes in hiring on recommendation of present staff – that is, their friends, family and flatmates. “Generally it means that people understand what they are getting themselves into – friends will be pretty honest about our working life and work culture, and we find that actually recommended people stay on board longer.” Daniel Gilbert, founder of Brain Labs, agrees that “the best people usually know the best people for the job… we find a lot of our staff through internal referral”. Clearly though, it’s almost impossible to source staff based on recommendation alone, and both businesses have a careers page on their website, where anyone can apply. Even when recommended by “the best people”, businesses must still ensure their prospective hires are up to scratch. “We have a robust recruitment process with multiple interview stages and the same aptitude test for everyone”, says Gilbert. “We score them, bring them in front of an interview committee and determine their independent result.” Once you’ve found your staff, ensuring they stay with you is just as important, says Felix Mitchell, founder of Instant Impact, a graduate recruitment agency. “With a generation that no longer believes in a ‘career for life’, retention has become almost as important as the hire itself. Businesses that are honest and transparent about job responsibilities from posting a job spec until final interview do much better.”
Hiring staff is seemingly the easy part. There are several new requirements businesses must comply with. One is automatic enrolment of staff into a pension scheme, which employers must make a minimum contribution towards, based on individual earnings. Organisations with fewer than 30 staff have been rolling out workplace pensions since the summer of 2015, but now all employers, regardless of size, are required to do so by April 2017. Some 83 per cent of SMEs have never offered a company pension before, and according to research from Smart Pension, more than half feel auto-enrolment will be a burden, and two fifths say it’s unfair. Smart Pension co-founder Will Wynne says that “auto enrolment was always going to be a challenge for smaller business founders. They are busy people, they don’t have the time to spend hours researching and implementing a pension scheme for their small workforce.” Kiki McDonough, founder of the eponymous jewellery designer, shares the experience of many, reflecting that “anything that the government sets up is a minefield of admin – masses and masses of paperwork in language that nobody understands. These things take an incredible investment of time to implement, but of course they are very important. I do believe it could have been made so much more simple.” For SMEs struggling with auto-enrolment, there are plenty of services around to relieve the burden. The Pensions Regulator offers wide-ranging support in helping businesses pick the right scheme. A host of other organisations, such as the Money Advice Service, can put you in touch with financial advisers in your local area.