Why fast-growing firms should connect with future hires all year round

Forget the 30-day job ad: let young jobseekers know what you need long before you need them, says serial entrepreneur Duncan Cheatle.

After 15 years working with owners of fast-growth businesses and five years helping young people boost their employability, I’m convinced we can do more to connect these two groups more effectively.

The top employable asset I hear about from CEOs of fast-growth businesses is the ‘right attitude’. In discussion at The Supper Club roundtables, business founders say regularly that above all, they want (in the young people they hire) resilience, analytical and problem-solving skills, an ability to communicate clearly and to work efficiently with others.

So how can they unearth potential recruits with these qualities? Well, it probably won’t come from the results of posting a 30-day job ad when business gets busy.   Fast-growing firms need to think beyond a transactional approach. Ideally they’d build an attractive, accessible, visible year-round employer brand, online and offline, because speedy, short term hiring bouts simply don’t build rapport.

And building rapport is the key.  If it’s Millennials you’re after, you need to find places to build a community and keep them engaged with meaningful advice and skills-guidance. Create a lasting presence in interactive places that showcase your company culture as much as the roles.

A new breed of interactive learning and recruitment platforms like rise-to.com and U-explore.com are guiding jobseekers towards skill-gathering courses and character-building experiences that reflect exactly what fast-growing entrepreneurial firms will want from them. So in effect, those same firms are preparing young talent ahead of time. Through such sites, they’re creating visual profiles that showcase what their business is like to work for. They’re offering open days, shadowing, mentoring and work-placement opportunities, short and long.  That way they see evidence of ‘intangible assets’ before a permanent hire, and school and college leavers develop a better sense of what’s required of them as they seek their first or second job. For roles that require specific skills or qualifications, they can filter applications based on those requirements.

In 2015, only a fifth of employers were involved in inspiration programmes (in-school talks, mock interviews, open days, challenges).   Yet there are 7.5m UK-based 16-24 year olds. They rarely emerge from school with all the employability skills they need, so it’s vital to find innovative ways of steering them to what you’re likely need before you get short-staffed.

In a way, we’re doing a disservice to our aspiring youth if we don’t help them take control of how they prepare and equip themselves for work and connect meaningfully with businesses. We must encourage them in practical ways to boost their grasp of enterprise, whether at school-leaver, graduate or second-job stage.  (It also prevents the costly risk of hiring the under-prepared).  Academic ability is, as many of the largest employers have worked out and have publicly stated, an unreliable measure of business capability.  The Supper Club members I mentioned earlier are testament to this: they range from having Firsts from Oxbridge to school-leavers with no qualifications, yet all of them now run multi-million pound businesses.

So how else can we help enterprising young contenders not only gather the right skills but know how to communicate them, to articulate their unique ‘story’?  One way is to guide them to build the ultimate digital, 3D CV and character profile, complete with values assessment, video clips and making it easy to provide immediate pre-hire references. After all, personality traits and belief systems can be as important to workplace productivity as practical nous. We need to encourage greater self-awareness in our applicants before they apply. How have they tackled adversity, how have they shown resilience, how have they taken responsibility or solved problems? How can they prove it?

I want to ensure that SMEs don’t miss out on the best talent because of limitations in their recruitment process or budget. Some jobs aren’t invented yet, but we’ll need the ‘right’ people FAST when they are, and without paying the earth. Whole-person online matching that considers people’s values, softer skills and intangible assets (as well as hard skills) is a good place to start. A year-round relationship with proactive, enterprising right-fit young individuals is a great route to unearthing potential candidates whose attitude and aspirations are a genuine match for purpose-driven entrepreneurial firms. Think online dating, but for jobs….

Duncan Cheatle is founder of The Supper Club (Prelude Group) home to over 400 founder/CEOs of Britain’s fastest growing businesses, and is co-founder of StartUp Britain. He recently launched rise-to.com, a ‘career accelerator’ that connects firms with enterprising millennials.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.