Younger employees could benefit SMEs – but caution is needed

A massive 80% of businesses in the UK now employ at least one young person (aged 18-24 years) but SMEs could be falling behind.


According to a new report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the overall uptake of young employees has risen from 73% for 80% over the past year but this is driven primarily by larger organisations.


Just 53% of SMEs employ someone under the age of 24 years, a figure which rises to 93% when you look at bigger firms included in CIPD’s survey of more than 850 HR professionals, while the number of businesses offering apprenticeships stands at 47% for SMEs and 62% for larger companies.


Additionally, only 39% of SMEs offer work experience to youngsters in comparison to 64% of big companies and just 11% of smaller outfits provide graduate employment schools.


The report also found that SMEs are far less likely (38%) to communicate with local schools and colleges in comparison to their larger counterparts.


While the overall increase in career opportunities for youngsters is great news for jobseekers, experts say SMEs must increase their uptake of younger staff to support the growth.


Doing so could also benefit the SMEs by providing them with valuable perks: such as higher staff retention and better customisation of products based on younger trends.


However, it is still not a decision that should be taken lightly and SMEs must consider whether they have sufficient funds to increase their workforce first.


Any candidates hired by an SME should have skills and qualifications which match the business’ needs but as working for a small business often equates to a steeper learning curve employers must also do their part and provide sufficient training.


Considerations over salaries and benefits also need to be taken into account – failure to do so could leave SMEs in financial difficulty and even lead them to seek insolvency advice.


Ultimately, while a younger workforce can bring many benefits to a business it is important that those at the head of an SME or smaller outfit consider the risks carefully and keep recruitment streamlined so as not to pay for superfluous positions that don’t add any real value to their operations.


By Phil Smith  


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