New research from the world’s leading jobsite Indeed shows that 84% of UK SMEs depend on flexible workers, including freelancers, part-time and project staff, to overcome national shortages in skilled workers. The study found that 44% of those that hire freelance and flexible workers claim that this supports them to effectively scale their business.
As competition for highly skilled workers heats up, flexible working is becoming an important avenue for SMEs looking to attract talent from larger rivals. More than half of UK SMEs claimed they struggle to find the right people to fill vacant roles, while over a third (39%) of SMEs said that offering the option to work flexibly helped them to attract the most talented employees.
SMEs impacted by National Living Wage
Alongside growing skills shortages, the study uncovered the impending introduction of the National Living Wage in April 2016, as a key challenge for SMEs who are looking to hire.
Over two thirds of SMEs claim that the new ruling will negatively impact their ability to make hires and grow, while over a quarter already cite costs as the biggest challenge they face when hiring. The industries struggling most to hire the right employees were found to be Legal services (68%), Manufacturing (50%) and Travel and Transport (52%).
Commenting on these findings, Bill Richards, Managing Director UK at Indeed said: “SMEs have less time and resources to devote to recruiting, making it increasingly difficult for them to compete with larger and more established companies for the best candidates. With staff costs rising, SMEs will need to find new efficiencies to maintain profit margins and ensure that they are still able to appeal to the most talented recruits.
“It is promising to see that so many small companies are already embracing a flexible workforce as an effective way to overcome the challenges of hiring in today’s market. Thanks to their nimble structure, SMEs are in many ways better placed than larger companies to take advantage of this new breed of jobseeker, which could help them to counteract the impact of the National Living Wage.”
Despite the benefits of a flexible workforce, the survey revealed that only a quarter of London-based SMEs currently seek support from flexible staff, one of the lowest portions across all regions of the UK. This is despite nearly 20% of London-based SMEs expecting to hire more than five new staff within the next three months – above the UK average.
In contrast, 93% of UK SMEs in the North West rely on flexible workers – suggesting London businesses could learn from their Northern counterparts.
SMEs failing to embrace mobile
Furthermore, the survey revealed that UK SMEs’ failure to embrace mobile recruitment could be further limiting their ability to fill talent gaps. A mere 9% of SMEs currently optimise mobile for recruitment, putting them at a disadvantage when trying to fill crucial positions. While Indeed data shows that over half of jobseekers rely on mobile to search for jobs, many UK SMEs still rely on newspapers and personal contacts as their main means of hiring.
Richards explains the significance of mobile to today’s recruitment process: “Listing jobs online and accepting mobile applications is crucial to reaching the best candidates. As this is where today’s job seekers are looking, this is where small businesses need to promote their roles. In order to attract the right talent and access the best pool of candidates, SMEs should embrace free online tools that offer mobile optimisation for recruitment.”