SME news in brief: home offices, tech, skills gap, funding, HR

SME news in brief
SME news in brief

New initiative for home businesses

Business owners operating their companies from home are soon to benefit from a new initiative targeted at this sector. Home Business 100 will provide a hub for home businesses to share advice, insight and best practice, and to voice the ambitions, hopes and fears shared by many businesses operating from home.

The initiative comes from cloud phone services provider Vonage. Vonage UK MD Simon Burckhardt says that the new scheme is “designed to shine an essential spotlight on the importance of home-based businesses across the country.”

Business owners are invited to submit entries via the online registration form:

UK teens more tech-savvy than Europeans

UK teenagers are ahead of their European counterparts in using workplace technologies such as email, PowerPoint and Word with 58% receiving training for these applications in school.

New research from business communications company Fuze has revealed that compared to other nations in Europe, UK schools are making significant efforts to ready teens for the workplace. The findings show 69% of UK teenagers have been offered work experience opportunities, compared to a European average of 51%. Meanwhile, 78% given access to careers advisers, compared to an average of 65%.

However, the research among more than 2,500 teenagers and 5,000 adult workers across Europe, highlights a potential challenge for businesses with a clear disconnect between how teenagers choose to communicate and the communication methods used in businesses today. Just 1% of teenagers prefer to use a landline telephone to communicate with friends, yet 63% of UK office workers see the desk phone as an essential item for work. A majority of 57% of teenagers use video calling apps, but under half (47%) of adults use video calls in work.

SMEs have developed a ‘non-borrowing’ culture

Over three quarters (78%) of UK SME owners admit that risk of debt prevents them from seeking external funds.

This ‘non-borrowing culture’ among small businesses could be thwarting the market’s return to a pre-financial crisis state, according to mutual financial services provider Wesleyan Bank. More SMEs would prefer to turn to Google as a source of financial advice compared to 39% who would consult their bank. With business owners more likely to use unregulated sources for business advice, many may be unaware of the options on offer or be getting sound financial advice.

On average, three quarters of SME owners feel uncertain about the external funding options available to them. A mere 2% of those surveyed borrow money on a regular basis. SME owners generally have a better understanding of traditional funding options such as bank loans and overdrafts over alternative options such as asset finance.

SMEs must to more to engage staff

Around 40% of people in the UK don’t believe their employer does enough to engage them in the workplace. This means employee engagement is increasingly important for SMEs finding it difficult to attract and retain talent.

The research, carried out by business energy price comparison specialists, Love Energy Savings, suggests that the key things for SMEs to do are to: communicate openly and honestly, celebrate staff achievements, and provide benefits that matter.

Too many admin tasks make employees less productive

UK employees are overburdened with unnecessary administration tasks, leading to a lost productivity cost.

This is according to new research from the Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and Coleman Parkes Research, which reveals a UK workforce hindered by complexity, low productivity, and poor performing technology. To resolve these issues, organisations need to boost employee engagement by treating their people as valued assets rather than commodities.

Key findings from the research:

• The report reveals that 82 percent of respondents are struggling to complete their daily tasks due to workplace complexity.

• The factors creating this complexity include lack of staff availability, poor technology support, internal politics, and unrealistic workloads. These issues make it difficult to maintain customer service levels in today’s 24/7 business environment.

• Respondents claim the answer to simplifying the working day lies in reducing administration and paperwork and providing the technology to automate tasks.

• 59 percent of respondents think the CEO is only focused on the numbers, rather than the people who deliver the work.