The first Investment in Staff survey of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from QBE, the specialist business insurer, shows that only one in six (15%) of those questioned are looking to hire more staff in 2010. A dire outlook for those who have graduated this summer and are looking for work, however there were some interesting findings from the report on how to go about securing a position.

A staggering 72% of those asked placed a great deal of importance on first impressions at the first meeting, with speaking skills and body language following closely behind (69% / 68% respectively). Only 51% placed a great deal of importance on references from current or past employers, 48% on a well presented CV and a mere 14% listed in-service training courses as being of great importance. This suggests that personality and confidence are of most importance in this entrepreneurial sector.

Recruiting talent

Networking was stated as being by far the most effective means of finding new members of staff, with nearly half of respondents citing this as the best method. Interestingly, the second most effective method was advertising in the local paper or trade journals (29%) with only 13% listing recruitment or executive search agencies as the preferred means of finding the right people.

Unpaid internships

In the current marketplace, many have seen working as an unpaid intern as a useful way of gaining experience. However in this survey only 18% of respondents would describe this as a win-win arrangement and over a third (36%) would describe the situation as exploitative.

Staff retention

Once hired, the survey indicated that the most effective way to retain staff is to promote mutually supportive morale and camaraderie amongst colleagues (75%), with 70% citing a flexible attitude to time-off for family as being a key factor. A „work hard, play hard‟ culture was supported by only 15% of respondents.

Terry Whittaker, Managing Director Distribution, QBE European Operations: “In the current climate, small to medium-sized enterprises have a key role to play in the UK‟s economy. As a specialist business insurer, QBE is always looking for ways to support the SME community and to help them develop; recruitment and retention of talent is a vital part of that progression.”