UK small businesses plan to hire

They provide jobs for more than 15.6 million British workers, and one in three small and medium-sized companies are planning to take on more in the months ahead.

However, new research from eBay also shows that the men and women at the helm of Britain’s thriving small businesses are defying convention when it comes to what makes a good employee.

The company’s Employee Skills Index, released today in partnership with YouGov, suggests that practical skills gained through hands-on experience are valued more highly by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) than traditional accomplishments such as academic achievement.

The Index reveals that the majority (56 per cent) of SME employers are agnostic about age, placing value on experience above all else.

That is good news for older workers, with 900,000 more 50-64 year olds now in work than in 2010.

Seven in ten SME recruiters describe an applicant having a degree as ‘unimportant,’ favouring soft skills instead.

Some 61 per cent of small business bosses favour candidates with a strong grasp of marketing and advertising, and half (51 per cent) of SMEs place importance on a candidate’s ability to use social media highlighting its increasingly important role in the marketing mix.

Nielsen research reports that 50 per cent of shoppers make purchases based on the recommendations on social media websites.

Digital skills are favoured by 56 per cent of recruiters, and specialist digital capabilities like coding is appealing for 41 per cent. Small businesses are seeking to bring this expertise in-house to optimise their online shop window.

Tanya Lawler, vice president at eBay UK says, ‘The nature of business, especially online retail, is changing rapidly. Our business-savvy SME community is on the look-out for versatile talent, regardless of age, background or gender, with the personable skills and life experience to help them develop and grow.

‘It’s good news for the online retail space and for new hires as recruitment picks up in 2016.’

Karl Baxter, founder of Dorset-based firm Wholesale Clearance UK Ltd, which employs 15 members of staff, spent 11 years as a boat builder, where on any given day he had to be an electrician, plumber and engineer in order to have competencies across all aspects of the boat.

‘That set my mind straight that no single day should be the same, and is why we train everyone to have capabilities across all aspects of the business, from marketing, sales and front-of-house activity to admin and packaging,’ he says.

‘Being social media savvy is now intrinsic to all of this because the entire nature of word-of-mouth has been changed by new media. Even a packer in the warehouse has to understand that the presentation in the box they are packing could have an ongoing social media impact with pictures being taken and shared with the world.’

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Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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